Friday, 20 October 2017

Meredith Monk - Turtle Dreams (1983)

Meredith Monk's second release for ECM again selected pieces from theatrical and film works to produce a great album experience.  The sonic palate is more varied than on Dolmen Music, so even though this album is ten minutes shorter than its predecessor, you actually get a broader snapshot of Monk's sound-world of the period.

The first half of Turtle Dreams is taken up by its title track.  In its original conception, the four performers shown on the album cover above provided the focal points of sound and movement, while the backdrop was intermittently superimposed with images of a turtle crawling across cityscape footage.  A made-for-video reduction has survived, and remains one of the most wonderfully weird YouTube experiences I've ever had.  Musically, Glass/Reich-esque organs provide a sedate backing to Monk's voice, just on the edge of comprehensibility, before the rest of voices join in and the singing switches to the much more primal vocalese that Monk excelled at.

The four pieces on the album's second half are ran together in a varied and fascinating patchwork.  View 1 is first and longest, and starts with rippling piano arpeggios before settling down.  This isn't just a straightforward voice-and-piano ballad like on the first side of Dolmen Music though - the voice parts are more treated, mostly with echo, and little bits overdubbed.  Sped-up overdubs of the opening piano riff are also dropped in at times, along with a low growl of didgeridoo in the background.  After a loud synth fanfare closes this amazing piece, we're next offered two minutes of mechanical, industrial sound in Engine Steps, then Ester's Song, a minute of keyboard and voice.  The closing track on the album, View 2, was also taken from the original Turtle Dreams production, and winds this album up in style as Monk's amazing voice coos and soars over a flutey synth backing.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Régis Renouard Larivière - Futaie / Tchernoziom (2000 compi of works from '96 and '98)

Nice little EP by electroacoustic composer Régis Renouard Larivière (b. 1959, Paris), which appears to be the only release under his name.  One track, Futaie, won an Ars Electronica prize for computer music in 1996, and the other, Tchernoziom, takes one aspect of Futaie and plays around with it, totaling 32 minutes of sound manipulation that are well worth getting immersed in.

The short liner note is a bit on the academic side in a pretentious kind of way - or perhaps its just come out like that in the English translation - but the opening sentence about Futaie is nicely evocative, saying that it "unfolds like a long, slow sentence of which only the punctuation remains".  This describes pretty well the spare, stop-start sound of the first few minutes, which are based around chunky percussion and wind instrument sounds.  These slowly reverberate around in space as the track starts to mutate over its 14 minutes.

Tchernoziom, apparently named after the fertile black soil of the Ukraine, is even more interesting.  It's more rhythmical, in the computer pulses that run through it, and creates a sustained, eerie atmosphere.  If it weren't for the occasional presence of (albeit still heavily treated) acoustic instruments, presumably the source material taken from Futaie, I might think I was listening to latter-day Autechre or something.  A really striking and engrossing alien soundworld that makes me wish there were more releases available by Larivière.

mega / zippy

Monday, 16 October 2017

Daniel Kientzy / various orchestras - The Romanian Saxophone (1990 compi, rec '84/'86)

French avant-garde saxophone player Daniel Kientzy has been featured on these pages once before - and here's another phenomenal disc highlighting his close ties to some of Romania's most out-there composers of the 20th century.

Ștefan Niculescu, who was featured last on the Kluj disc, comes first this time, with his enjoyably mind-bending Cantos symphony, which also has variants for clarinet and orchestra, and for oboe, horn and clarinets.  Naturally, this is the sax one, giving Kientzy plenty of room to drone and skronk over the hallucinatory backdrop.  In the opening moments, which brought Vangelis to mind, I genuinely wondered if there were synthesisers involved, but nope, it's all orchestral.  A highly memorable and wonderfully weird trip through Byzantine-inspired melodies and musical forms.

We've also heard from Myriam Marbe before on SGTG, and her half-hour Concerto For Daniel Kientzy And Saxophones here is a good counterpoint to the brilliantly oddball works on that collection.  Kientzy starts solo, giving a great display of the range of his genius, before the ominous, fractured orchestral writing starts to fill out.  Plenty of long sax drones here too, intended to imitate bagpipes at one point and featuring Kientzy on two saxes simultaneously (eat your heart out, Beefheart/VDGG!).
The disc is rounded off by Anatol Vieru's Narration II, another nicely bonkers piece of orchestral surrealism that subjects "Frère Jacques", of all things, to a series of chromatic mutations.  Meanwhile, what sounds like a sozzled surf guitarist starts to stagger through the orchestra.  The remainder of the work is nicely trippy and off-beam - Vieru sounds like he's mildly spiked the whole ensemble.  Unique stuff, even in 20th century classical music, and really enjoyable.

mega / zippy

Friday, 13 October 2017

League Unlimited Orchestra - Love And Dancing (1982)

I've had a genuine affection for The Human League most of my life, from taping their singles off the radio as soon as I was old enough to operate a tape recorder, to discovering the much darker wonders of their first album in my teens.  Later on, Reproduction lost my interest a bit on discovering that Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle et al were what I was really looking for in that direction, but getting into Dare as a complete album made me realise what a true classic it was from start to finish.

Love And Dancing, though, is in a different league altogether (pun very much intended) and has become my absolute favourite thing associated with the band.  Taking on a different guise - one whose name was apparently in homage to Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra - Oakey and crew pulled together nearly-instrumental versions of seven Dare tracks and one B-side into two continuously mixed sides that made their electronic pop genius shine all the brighter, burnished by Martin Rushent's immaculate mixing & production.

The result on the perfect first side sounded like Kraftwerk circa Man Machine taking time out of a UK tour to stumble into a Northern Soul club and feeding the sheer euphoria into three new songs.  The Human League had of course been influenced by Kraftwerk from day one, but this is almost like a full-on homage (is that a cheeky little Europe Endless tribute at the start of Love Action?).  I've almost no words to describe the 7-minute version of Don't You Want Me - just sheer perfection in every second, turning a nowadays over-exposed pop evergreen into peerlesss dancefloor magnificence.

On Love And Dancing's second half, the darker tones of Dare mostly hold sway - the tracks that were most obviously a progression from their first two albums.  The JFK-assassination inspired Seconds and The Things That Dreams Are Made Of sound particularly ominous here, although the latter does drop in some of Oakey's most humourous lyrics ("Norman Wisdom, Norman Wisdom" dub-style almost makes me crack a smile).  Following up Seconds with the bright, chirpy melody of Open Your Heart was yet another stroke of genius.  I haven't used the 'favourite albums of all time' tag for a while now, but Love And Dancing sure as hell deserves it.

mega / zippy

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Missing Post

If you've been following the events of this blog over the last day or so, you'll be aware that I deleted a whole post in a bit of a late-night panic when some Mega takedown notices hit my inbox.  After trying to work the [artist redacted] Zippy links back into the NWW post, not only did they all get zapped by Zippy but the NWW link went down too.

This is all getting slightly worrying, so I've decided to delete all references to [artist redacted] from the NWW post.  Unfortunately (and perhaps I'm just being overly paranoid) I've also deleted a really nice comment from that post, as it mentioned [artist redacted] by name.  Apologies for that, futurepyramid - I really appreciated your comment.

Oh well... to cheer myself up, I've worked up a post of one of my favourite 80s electronic records for Friday.  Won't be using Mega for the foreseeable future - apologies to anyone who preferred downloading from the Mega links.  If the Zippy link gets zapped from Friday's post, I don't really know where to go from there - maybe just take a break for a bit.

Thanks again for all your downloads, comments & follows - makes it all worthwhile.


Nurse With Wound - Merzbild Schwet (1980)

Back into NWW formative history today, to June 1980.  With the friendships of the inaugural trio of Steven Stapleton, John Fothergill and Heman Pathak starting to drift apart, Merzbild Schwet was the first occasion on which Stapleton went into the studio alone.  With a growing confidence in finding his way around a mixing desk, and a singular vision that would establish NWW as Staplteton's project (plus whoever else he wanted to work with), Merzbild Schwet is really the start of the Nurse With Wound story proper (even if Stapleton prefers to start it with Homotopy To Marie, as the first one he was fully satisfied with).

Released later that year, Merzbild Schwet offered two 24-minute tracks, their titles (Futurismo and Dadaˣ) reflecting Stapleton's artistic interests, and one of his most wonderfully macabre album covers.  My CD, from a reissue box set, has this as the back cover - apparently a printer error.  The track titles seem to switch order between various editions too, confusing many a listener - to this day there's stuff on about liking 'the post-apocalyptic story on Futurismo' - nope, that's Dadaˣ, but easy mistake to make... you start to wonder if Mr S did these sorts of things deliberately...

Futurismo, then, is the one that starts with the inspired gag of recording a record scratch into the piece, making buyers of the original vinyl think they had a defective copy - until it speeds up and becomes obvious it's part of the track.  The background for most of Futurismo is a mangled tape of a jazz band slowed down and slurred into a sort of tipsy queasiness, whilst various sounds gradually pile on.  Electronic noises, spoken voices, unraveling sticky tape, a smear of organ that eventually becomes quite pleasant when it radiates a full major chord... etc etc.  The last four minutes change tack entirely to choppy piano and humming static.

All great stuff, but Dadaˣ is arguably NWW's first dark drifting masterwork.  Eerie echoes of backwards percussion and assorted honks and creaks provide the backdrop for the main spoken monologue, performed by Eve Libertine of Crass.  This short, surreal piece about non-communication gets further reduced into fragments in between another voice speaking in French, stabs of piano, more skronking and howling, and periods of ominous silence before Libertine's full monologue repeats near the end.  A kind of ghostly accordion shanty finishes off a track of absolutely essential dark-room weirdness to be creeped out by.


Monday, 9 October 2017

Morton Feldman - Durations I-V / Coptic Light (1992/4 recordings, rel. '97)

More Morton, for those who enjoyed Rothko Chapel the other week.  This collection pairs Ensemble Avantgarde's 1994 rendition of Feldman's 1960/1 chamber suite Durations I-V with one of his most striking late works for orchestra, Coptic Light (1986), performed here by the German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin.  It was actually the latter that I originally got this CD for, after listening to a different version online and being captivated by the mysterious, flowing sounds of this 24-minute piece of music that sounded like it was emanating from the depths of an ocean, with distant glimmers of light piercing the murky depths.  Feldman's inspiration for Coptic Light was actually the pattern of an ancient carpet, but its subaquatic qualities often get mentioned.

The Durations suite was completely new to me, and took a while to get in to, but I love it now.  The performers (on various combinations of piano, harp, violin, cello, horn, tuba, vibraphone, celesta and flute) follow a score with no duration indications on the notes, leaving this up to the performers and always resulting in a unique performance.  Durations sounds to me like music from another world with an alien conception of time - much like that other late Feldman work that I love, for piano and string quartet (link below) - and perhaps a heavier gravitational pull, especially on the four sections of Durations III, which do have overall tempo indications, mostly 'slow' and 'very slow'.  Take time out of time to enjoy this album - it's a perfect wind-down.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Rothko Chapel | Piano & String Quartet

Friday, 6 October 2017

Meredith Monk - Dolmen Music (1981)

Been enjoying this album a lot on these past few autumnal weekends - gorgeous, unique music, much of it just piano and (one hell of a!) voice, and just enough magnificent weirdness, from a singular musician and composer.  Meredith Monk (b. 1942 in NYC) stands alongside Yoko Ono for me as one of the most fearless and boundary-pushing explorers of the potential of the human voice in music, and Monk's singular craft as a composer and performer continues to this day.

Dolmen Music marked the beginning of her ongoing relationship with ECM, and presented five examples of her work from the 70s.  After the beautiful opener Gotham Lullaby, which was composed for a 1975 theatre piece by frequent early collaborator Ping Chong, the next three pieces were taken from Monk's 'solo opera' Education Of The Girlchild (1972-3).  Performed as the stages of a woman's life in reverse, the selections here are by turns joyously euphoric (Travelling), comical (The Tale) and melancholic (Biography).

The second half of the album is taken up by its title track, a six-section choral suite from 1979.  After a ghostly cello introduction, Monk's lone voice is soon joined by the male voices, giving the impression of a sombre ritual from some long-lost culture.  The full vocal ensemble broadens this out, its full flight interspersed with smaller pairings and solos, and the return of the cello.  Eventually that instrument gets a dramatic, rattling solo, before the voices gradually gather again for the stunning finale.  A brilliant work of breathtaking dynamics, topping off an essential album.  More Meredith Monk to come in due course.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Tod Dockstader - Quatermass / Water Music (1992 compi of works from 1963-64)

Great introduction to Minnesota-born Tod Dockstader (1932-2015), who called his early electronic music 'organised sound' in homage to Edgard Varèse and his inspirational Poème Électronique.  No synthesisers here (or available!) in Dockstader's early-mid 1960s works - everything the erstwhile sound engineer put on to hours and hours of tape to distill down to his finished pieces came from sine wave generators, plus mutated recordings of gongs, children's toys, radio static, running water, air escaping from balloons, and so on.

Shunned by the avant-garde establishment of the day, Dockstader was completely self-taught, and recognised that at its most basic, all music, whatever the source, was just tension and release - and these works certainly have that in spades.  The 18-minute Water Music (1963) is up first on this compilation, with Dockstader using water ('in a metal garbage can', according to the wonderfully detailed liner notes) to create music that he felt reflected the various qualities of water.  It's a great work, and highly listenable, but by the following year his craft had taken a noticeable leap in complexity (helped in part by now using three-track recording and more sophisticated mixing) to produce the epic 46-minute Quatermass suite.

Quatermass, its name chosen just because Dockstader thought it suitably evocative (he hadn't seen the famously creepy British TV serials/movies from the 50s) is simply a masterpiece of early electronics.  Dockstader had intended Quatermass from its inception to be a complete contrast to Water Music, that it would be 'a very dense, massive, even threatening, work of high levels and high energy'.  This certainly comes through in the work's semi-classical five movements, with recurring themes and primitive sine-wave rhythms leading the way through the many electronic sounds, creating a dark, foreboding atmosphere throughout.  The disc is rounded out by two out-takes from the Quatermass sessions (which precede the main work in the tracklist).  Don't miss this one - simply stunning, pioneering and accessible tape 'n' scissors mastercrafting.
Original LP cover for 'Quatermass', 1966
mega / zippy

Monday, 2 October 2017

Hirsche Nichts Aufs Sofa - Melchior (Aufmarsch Der Schlampen) (1986)

Zipping backwards again to the 80s Nurse With Wound universe, with an album that Steven Stapleton participated in, helped to produce, and released on United Dairies.  Having discovered kindred spirits in the moose-banning-from-sofas German surrealists who were releasing dada-esque, next-generation-Faust sounding cassettes and recording records in sewers, Stapleton invited the duo of Christoph Heeman and Achim Flaam and their entourage over to London to record an album for his label.

With a subtitle that now feels oddly prescient of 2010s sexual politics - but who knows what it meant to HNAS in 1986, if anything - Melchior was the result.  The first side of the album featured four tracks that mostly ran into each other, so can effectively be taken as one suite (albeit one of mind-boggling variety) much the same way as the 22-minute piece that filled side two.  The English translations of the track titles, respectively Roast me on an open fire, In summer there's no food, Without hesitation the goose won the cigarette, Cattle without socks and Heavyweight in evening dress, give an indication of the HNAS bizarre humour, and their music.

Starting with a jerky, echoey campfire singalong (Brate Mich auf offenem Feuer), a stomping, single-chord rock groove with a nice little keyboard figure is up next (Im Sommer gibt's nix zu Essen), and irresistible chaos ensues.  Whenever something resembling an actual song gets going, HNAS can be relied on to pull it apart at the first opportunity, descending into jokey hollerings of the track title, tape-manipulated electronic smears and out-of-focus clanks, rattles and piano plinking.  Even a drum-machine track complete with 'handclap' function gets chucked in, before being derailed with more gleeful taunting, brass-instrument samples and synth buzzes.

The aforementioned side-long Tonnenschwer im Abendkleid saves the best for last, IMO.  A queasy, echoing loop (perhaps a bell or suchlike) establishes itself, filled out by foggy smears of brass a la Cosey Fanni Tutti circa 1980.  Eventually this is blown away by a chaotic, very NWW-like middle section, until the entry of the distorted bass note and drums that take us towards the end.  A phenomenal epic track to cap off a fascinating, memorable record.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Im Schatten Der Möhre

Friday, 29 September 2017

Nurse With Wound - The Surveillance Lounge (2009)

Jumping forward 28 years from last week's chaotic snapshot of young NWW at its most unfocused, we arrive at the laser-precision night terror that is The Surveillance Lounge.  Almost a distillation of all of Stapleton's greatest devices of creeping unease - disembodied voices, sinister drones, crackly record surface noise and other sounds best left unidentified - everything that made the likes of Homotopy To Marie, Colder Still from Thunder Perfect Mind and Salt Marie Celeste so memorable are deftly woven into what can only be described as quintessential Nurse With Wound.

This hour-plus modern masterpiece was divided into four tracks of roughly equal length, but sustains the same sepia-tinged house of horrors atmosphere throughout, so may as well be regarded as one long work in four movements.  It's not all formless, fearful drone though, with diversions aplenty: the fast section of The Golden Age Of Telekenesis, with its deranged horse-racing commentator (or bingo caller?) and immediate aftermath is a memorable highlight that reassures the listener that this isn't an album devoid of Stapleton's playful, absurdist sense of humour.

Other noisy onslaughts arrive at various odd moments, making The Surveillance Lounge recommendable as a headphones-in-dark-room experience only if you're game for the occasional jump-scare.  A gentle easy-listening sample offers only brief respite most times it appears, before the album blindfolds you and spins you around once more.  Don't miss the ultimate in dramatic sonic extremes which has been saved for last - Yon Assassin Is My Equal truly is a NWW classic.  The aforementioned lounge-music sample is developed a little more around the halfway mark to give a little oasis of calm after noisy chaos, before more creepy voices and ambient whirring takes us to the end.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG:
Insect & Individual Silenced (1981)
Homotopy To Marie (1982)
Sylvie & Babs (1985)
Spiral Insana (1986)
Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)
Salt Marie Celeste (2003)
Spitch'cock One (2004)

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Metropole Orkest - Beneath The Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited (BBC Proms 2017)

This tribute concert to the legendary composer-bassist-pianist took place on 24th August as part of the Proms, and as I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the broadcast of it, here it is.  The Dutch Metropole Orkest were conducted by Jules Buckley, with great soloists (L-R at front of picture above are Leo Pellegrino, Bart van Lier and Christian Scott) making a more-than-decent fist of 15 Mingus classics in just under two hours.  Boogie Stop Shuffle, IX Love, Gunslinging Bird, Fables Of Faubus, Moanin' to name just a few all sparkle with the invention, wit and irresistible swing that they require, and that's even before mentioning the four vocal pieces.
27 year old Kandace Springs was IMO the star of the show - she released her own debut album last year, which I'm now keen to check out.  Her renditions here of Weird Nightmare, Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love and a pair of songs from Joni Mitchell's Mingus collaboration,The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines and God Must Be A Boogie Man are all superb.  The audience were even asked to join in on the chorus of the latter - slightly corny, but it works in the overall celebratory atmosphere.  On that note, apologies for having to fade out the applause and between-song banter all the time - slightly over-enthusiastic radio announcer (see P.S. note below) - but hey, the great music here is what matters.  And as the inevitable and Albert Hall-roof-raising finale suggests, you'd Better Git It In Your Soul.

mega / zippy pt.1, zippy pt.2

P.S. I've decided to also offer a download of the complete, unedited broadcast, if anyone would prefer that - one mp3 file, 340MB, 2hrs 28mins, available here.

Previously posted at SGTG: Oh Yeah

Monday, 25 September 2017

Kim Kashkashian, Sarah Rothenberg, Houston Chamber Choir - Rothko Chapel (2015)

This album came up in the comments a short while back, so as promised, here it is.  Asked to curate a programme of music for a 40th anniversary concert at Rothko Chapel in 2011, Sarah Rothenberg, pianist and leader of the Da Camera organisation for chamber music in Houston, TX, chose to frame Morton Feldman's unique Rothko-inspired work with pieces by John Cage and Erik Satie.

The connection, Rothenberg explains in her lengthy liner note to this collection of 2012-13 recordings of the pieces in the programme, was that the three composers 'form a triumvirate of original creators who were each closely tied to the visual art of their time'.  And besides that, on this ECM New Series CD the programme just sounds great as a flowing, 70-minute immersion in some unique, inspired music.
Feldman's Rothko Chapel, written in tribute to the painter's great work just after his death, is the obvious opener to this collection.  Its sombre, eerie choral drift, piano backdrop and viola lead remain the perfect musical expression of Rothko's diffuse hints of colour on black backgrounds that graced the inner walls of the Houston chapel.

The remainder of the programme alternates between Rothenberg on solo piano playing inspired choices from Satie's Gnossiennes and Ogives, and the Houston Chamber Choir performing works by John Cage.  I hadn't heard any choral work by Cage prior to this disc, and the pieces here, Four², ear for EAR and Five, sit really well with the main Feldman work.  The programme closes with one of Cage's finest piano pieces, In A Landscape.

mega / zippy

Friday, 22 September 2017

Phil Keaggy - The Master & The Musician (1978)

Thought this might make a good follow-up to the Hackett post - I've been listening to it a lot recently as a companion-piece to both Voyage Of The Acolyte and Please Don't Touch.  Phil Keaggy was (and I gather still is) a Christian-Contemporary singer-songwriter, but took a break from that after his first couple of albums to make this all-instrumental masterpiece that fully showcased his writing and playing skills.

From a couple of videos I've watched (unrelated to this album), Keaggy didn't frequently get nicknamed 'the greatest nine-fingered guitarist in the world' and suchlike for nothing, and although The Master & The Musician only hits cooking temperature at a few well-chosen moments (mostly toward the end of the two long suites, Reflections and Medley), the subtlety of a lot of these tracks makes the material shine all the brighter.  The album opens with a synth sequence overlaid with a nifty E-bow display (Keaggy was an early adopter of the device) before settling into an acoustic pattern that gets gradually overlaid with chiming electric lines.  Following that, the mellow jazz-fusion of Agora (The Marketplace), along with Follow Me Up later on, offers the most upbeat material and memorable, masterful-but-unpretentious lead lines.

For the most part though, it was the acoustic tracks on this album that brought Hackett to mind for me, especially in the choice of flute and other wind instruments to accompany the guitar.  The Castle's Call, Wedding In The Country Manor and Deep Calls Unto Deep all offer memorable melodies and gorgeous technique throughout, and could've sat proudly on a Steve Hackett album (or indeed, an album by that other ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips - whose back catalogue I've yet to take a proper stab at) of the era.  And although there's no lyrics on Master & Musician, that doesn't mean no vocals - Keaggy and his wife Bernadette can both be heard on the cute little beatboxing experiment Mouthpiece, and harmonising sweetly and wordlessly on the penultimate medley.  All in all, an absolute gem of an album for anyone wanting to hear an underrated (in the secular music world, at least) guitarist/composer at his most inspired.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Steve Hackett - Voyage Of The Acolyte (1975)

Three years prior to Please Don't Touch, Steve Hackett was making the most of the downtime whilst Genesis were between vocalists by recording and releasing this, his debut solo album. A masterpiece of composition and playing technique, Voyage Of The Acolyte is sophisticated, punchy progressive rock of the highest calibre, and couldn't have been a better calling card to kick off a solo career that continues to this day.

Straight out of the gate, Ace Of Wands cracks into a offbeat groove and manages to pack about 15 minutes of ideas into five, ably assisted by Phil Collins' jazz fusion influence.  With Collins on drums and Mike Rutherford on bass throughout, Voyage is often thought of as a lost Genesis album - more of that to come in the album's second half, but first Hackett shows off his acoustic skills on Hands Of The Priestess and The Hermit, with the former establishing the long-term pairing with his brother John's gorgeous flautistry.  Halfway through, though, Steve drops in the King Crimson-like crunch of A Tower Struck Down, filling it out with an ominous synth sequence, odd little tape cuts of studio noise and even what sounds like a sample of a Nuremberg rally, before a bomb blast leads into a quiet outro and the remainder of Priestess.

The final two major tracks on the album are the ones that really lay claim to Voyage Of The Acolyte being the greatest album Genesis never made.  Star Of Sirius even has a Phil Collins lead vocal, making it effectively a Banks-less trailer for Trick Of The Tail.  The very best gets saved for last though, in the 12 minutes of Shadow Of The Hierophant, co-credited to Rutherford and apparently rehearsed circa Foxtrot.  A grand mellotron and guitar swell gives way to an acoustic section and Sally Oldfield's vocal.  Eventually, a hammering/tapping solo from Hackett leads into another short instrumental, before fading away to a glockenspiel theme, which will gradually fade back into one of the most stunning finales I've ever heard on a record like this.  Simply, truly magnificent progressive music in the truest sense, with not a note wasted - don't miss this album if it's new to you, prog really doesn't get much better than this.

mega / zippy

Monday, 18 September 2017

Nurse With Wound - Insect & Individual Silenced (1981)

Been listening to a ton of Nurse With Wound this past week or two, and there hasn't been any posted here for ages, so here goes - with the one that Steven Stapleton famously hated so much that he burned the master tapes.  Finally relenting in 2007 on hearing a near-flawless vinyl rip, Stapleton decided that the album, although still a failure by his standards, wasn't half as bad as he remembered, and allowed the vinyl rip (by Kevin Spencer of Robot Records) to become this official reissue.

Listening to it now, especially in context with the three earliest NWW albums that preceded it, and Homotopy To Marie that came after, I certainly don't see a dip in quality with Insect - if anything, it's just a blip on the trajectory by which Stapleton's surrealist editing & mixing craft had been steadily increasing from album to album, which would lead to Homotopy being the first full-on masterpiece that he remains justifiably proud of.  The much freer, anarchic sound of Insect lies in the recording circumstances, as recalled in Stapleton's detailed reminisce in the CD sleevenotes - reproduced here, about halfway down the page, headed "1980: A Year Of Change".  TL;DR: Stapleton, and mates Trevor Reidy and Jim 'Foetus' Thirlwell go into a studio for two days to "see what would happen".  Record ensues; Stapleton mortified - until latter-day reappraisal.  So let's listen...

Kicking off with a roar of reverberating feedback, which will reappear sporadically throughout the track's 27 minutes, Alvin's Funeral (The Milk Was Delivered In Black Bottles) is heady, classic early NWW.  Plenty of noise and tape mutilation, voices in different languages, and other barely identifiable clankings and howlings.  Anyone familiar with Part 2 of Bradford Red Light District, Stapleton and William Bennett's experiment in cranking up every reverb setting in the studio to 11, will recognise the source that those roars of feedback have been 'borrowed' from...

The second track, Absent Old Queen Underfoot, was the first to be recorded when the three participants rocked up in the studio to let loose on a reduced drumkit (Reidy), bass amp and jack plugs (Thirlwell) and a crappy guitar (Stapleton).  The result sounds almost like industrial jazz of the most wonderfully inept variety - something to tap your foot to in a jazz club, if you happened to be Jack Nance in Eraserhead.  Lastly, there's the shorter, slightly more recognisably Nurselike Mutilés du Guerre, with more tape-bent squeaking, screaming and the looped voice of Brigitte Fontaine, and the most magnificently surreal ending possible, an arrangement of Ode To Joy for voice and... banjo.  Essential weirdness that deserves full recognition in Stapleton's long, surreal career.
CD reissue cover, 2007
mega / zippy

Friday, 15 September 2017

Hugues Dufourt - Saturne / Surgir (1993 compi, rec. '80 and '85)

As the Cassini spacecraft makes its final descent into Saturn's atmosphere, what better music to celebrate its voyage with?  Well, maybe Holst's Saturn, a classic seven minutes of grand old melancholy in its own right; but I'm going to go for 43 minutes of epic, electronically-inflected orchestral atmospherics courtesy of Dufourt (b. 1943 in Lyon).

One of the co-founders (who included Murail and Grisey) of the French-spectralism-focused Ensemble l’Itinéraire, Dufourt wrote Saturne for them in 1978-9.  It was also the time of the launch of his own Instrumental Research and Sound Synthesis Group (CRISS), which gives a clue to the content of this masterpiece.  Eerie orchestral swells and bell-like percussion are swathed in gaseous synthesiser swishes from the beginning, evoking the descent through Saturn's outer atmosphere to the unknown world below.  The percussion gets periodically more thunderous, there's judicious use of a staccato electric guitar, and the developing synth tones blend in perfectly with the rising and falling orchestral swells.  This sustained atmosphere is wonderfully evocative on headphones in a dark room - highly recommended.

Saturne is supported on this CD by Surgir (1985), a half-hour orchestral work in a similar vein, but without the synthesisers and guitar.  It's worth a listen, but it's the main work that I keep going back to with all its great swirling electronics.
Original LP cover for Saturne, 1980
 mega / zippy

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Egborto Gismonti & Academia De Danças - Sanfona (1981)

Fancy a concept album about a travelogue through the festivals and folk dances of Brazil?   How about two, one with a full band, and one completely solo, both exquisitely performed and achingly melodic in their bittersweet evocations of life and celebration?  Stop right here then - Sanfona, named for a Brazilian relative of the accordion and also intended to metaphorically symbolise the sheer breadth of Brazilian popular culture down the ages, sits high up in Egberto Gismonti's back catalogue as a stunning example of a master craftsman at the peak of his evocative powers.

The first disc of Sanfona, featuring Gismonti supported by a three-piece version of his Academia De Danças band, takes us through the birth and refinement of the samba, forró and seresta musical and rhythmic forms, whilst giving the musicians plenty of space to stretch out and make Gismonti's wonderful compositions sparkle with life.

The second disc is Gismonti entirely alone and recorded live, inevitably spotlighting his stunning guitar technique, especially on the 16-minute De Repente.  After this comes Vale de Eco, an atmospheric performance on Indian organ, before the last of the album's original four sides turns inward for some truly gorgeous music.  12 de Fevereiro was written to commemorate the birth of Gismonti's first daughter, and Carta de Amor a few weeks later - both feature achingly beautiful, keening vocals and close the album on a perfectly intimate high note.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
Disc 2 mega / Disc 2 zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Circense

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tristan Murail - Gondwana, Désintégrations, Time and Again (1989 compi, rec. '80/'86'/87)

Tristan Murail (b. 1947 in Le Havre) occupies the same upper echelons of French spectralism as Gérard Grisey, meaning that these three works from the 80s are all built on the microscopic properties of sound, subsequently blown back up into unexpected shapes to create otherwordly, spectacular pieces of music.

In the purely orchestral Gondwana (1980), the gradual drift of the ancient supercontinent is represented by small textural elements of the music being reconfigured and arranged into new, more striking layers.  If this wasn't spectacular enough, the other two works were even more fascinating for me.  Time And Again (1986) adds a Yamaha DX7 synth to the orchestra, and again the musical textures and themes are transformed and mutated all over the place.

Désingtégrations (1982-3) is the definite highlight of this disc IMO, with a smaller ensemble playing against tapes generated by computer at IRCAM.  Original tones and timbres from the instruments were fed into the computer and analysed to the smallest detail, with the resultant tapes meshing eerily with the ensemble and painting the tone colours with a wonderfully weird, alien luminosity.  I'm reminded occasionally of Vangelis circa Invisible Connections.  Download this one to enjoy the two orchestral works of course, but Désingtégrations is utterly unmissable.

mega / zippy

Friday, 8 September 2017

Rune Lindblad - Objekt 2: Electronic & Concrete Music 1962-1988 (1998 compi)

As promised, more Rune Lindblad - covering a wider timespan this time, making for an even more varied and interesting collection.  We pick up just after the Death Of The Moon compilation left off, with Objekt 2 (the title track) offering some lo-fi string-sawing from 1962, then there's only one further piece from that decade, the choppy, echoing voice experiments of Plasibenpius (1968-9).

Four pieces from the 70s follow, where Lindblad appears to have taken a darker, more unsettling turn.  The burbling and whirring electronics of Hälften Av Någonting are periodically interrupted by a disturbing tape recording - possibly from a horror film, but who knows?  As the Swedish title seems to suggest, it's like we're only getting 'half of something'.  Frage, from 1972, and Maskinlandskap, 1975, both suggest early Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle - the latter title in English is, appropriately, Machine Landscape; and Tora (1972-3), given Wednesday's sad news, is now sounding rather poignant to my ears - it could've jumped in straight from the recording sessions for Can's Aumgn.

We then jump forward a decade for the last three tracks, where Lindblad seems to have got more into synths.  The tech might be more modern, but the recording is still slightly on the lo-fi side, making Innan Konsert, the longest piece here at 12 mins, sound like a bedroom synth aritiste of the very highest calibre, taking their Berlin-school influences somewhere unique.  Lagun I Uppror (lagoon in revolt) (1987) is as supremely bizarre as its title.  A sequencer pulse takes on some wild percussion rhythms and synth squeals in ever-escalating combat, before finally calling a truce to the unhinged frenzy right at the end.  Lastly, Dimstrak (1987-88) is perhaps the oddest piece of all - it's practically a sweet little new-agey folk song featuring flute-like synth accompanied by acoustic guitar.  The guitar plays the final melody just after the three-minute mark, wrapping up this fascinating collection in possibly the most weird and wonderful way possible.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Can - Soundtracks (1970)

R.I.P. Holger Czukay, 24 March 1938 - Sept 2017

Danke schoen, Holger, for all your great music; for a full life packed with phenomenal, metronomic bass playing, pioneering short wave radio and tape work, great production, inspired collaborations, and so much more.  Sorry that I spent the second half of the 90s thinking your surname was pronounced Kazooki - I'd just never heard anyone say it, and had much less access to information back then.  Speaking of which, I still remember the first ever webpage I searched for when my high school got its first internet-ready PC: nice to see it's still available 20 years later.

Folks, it's time to celebrate the music of yet another true pioneer who has sadly left us.  For starters, may I recommend turning up Mother Sky as loud as possible.  If you don't have access to it, grab it right here.

mega / zippy

Previously posted at SGTG: Canaxis and Monster Movie

Monday, 4 September 2017

Asmus Tietchens - Biotop (1981)

By request, here's Asmus Tietchens' first album for Sky records - a perfectly timed request, as I'd been pondering the recent lack of classic German electronica on this blog and trying to figure out what would be a good one to go for.  Between '81 and '83, Tietchens would make a quartet of albums to represent what he called his 'Zeitzeichen' (time-signal) phase, of "rhythmic-harmonic set pieces and gaudy records sleeves".  Previously posted at SGTG are the third one, In Die Nacht, and the fourth, Litia, so that just leaves Spät-Europa to post someday.  

Gaahh, bloody Spät-Europa... it was the first of all of the four that I bought, but every time I try to give its gleefully obnoxious 20 tracks an airing it still just ends up annoying the crap out of me.  Which probably means I do actually like it, in much the way that Tietchens may have intended.  But anyway, for now, here's the somewhat more accessible 16 tracks of Biotop.  Tietchens certainly gave his Zeitzeichen project a memorable curtain-raiser with In Die Zukunft, sounding like the theme to a suitably futuristic sci-fi movie, especially in its wonderful, propulsive second half.  

From there in, the electro-weirdness just gets dialed up to the max, sounding like a hyper-caffeinated version of Cluster's largely energy-deficient release from the same year.  The garish album cover couldn't be more perfect for the music it contains, and fluent German speakers (i.e. not me) will probably get the most out of what seems to be an overriding concept of mocking contemporary consumer society, in the punning track titles and the satirical vocals on Moderne Arroganz, the lyrics of which are apparently a list of different types of insurance. 

Biotop does eventually wind down to offer a bit of respite in the gorgeous, melodic penultimate track Träumchen Am Fenster, before ending on the beatless title track.  Biotop, the track, points both backwards to Tietchens' first (pre-Sky) LP Nachtstucke and forwards to the more avant-garde stuff to come.  As he says (in German) in the final moments, which formed a lock-groove on the original LP, "Let's see how things go".

mega / zippy

Friday, 1 September 2017

Nils Frahm - The Bells (2009)

Looking for the ideal wind-down for this first September weekend?  May I suggest 40 minutes of exquisite solo piano, courtesy of pianist/composer/producer Nils Frahm, born 1982 in Hamburg.  In November 2008, Frahm and composer friend Peter Broderick rented a Berlin church for two nights, capturing over five hours of Frahm's improvisations with Broderick providing idiosyncratic musical direction (at one point lying down on the piano strings).  The best of these sessions was then trimmed down to album length.

The end result clearly displays Frahm's talent for melody and harmony, and a Jarrett-esque knack for pulling instant classics out of thin air.  But even more than that, The Bells is primarily an album about exploiting the resonances of the piano and the ambient atmosphere of the church to their fullest extent.  It's certainly no mellow, Harold Budd-like chillout experience, although these moments are evident - but if you were to use this album for relaxation you'll frequently find the mood punctured by several instances of Frahm letting rip at full power, like someone taking a snooze on a churchyard bench only to be jolted awake by pealing bells.

Inspired by the recording venue, Frahm seems to enjoy these bell-like piano tones ringing through the reverberating space as majestically as possible.  I'm reminded more than once of Erik Satie's Ogives, especially a recent ECM New Series rendering by Sarah Rothenberg (the album centered around Feldman's Rothko Chapel; may post it at some point).  Stirring, invigorating stuff.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Rune Lindblad - Death Of The Moon: Electronic & Concrete Music 1953-1960 (1997 compi)

Pioneering electronic/electroacoustic/concrete works from a composer who refused to see any boundaries between these kind of tags - Gothenburg-born Rune Lindblad (1923-1991).  His first concert in 1957 saw audience members demanding refunds and critics panning the event as 'pure torture' - just the sort of thing that gets people like me mashing the 'Buy It Now' button six decades later to get hold of this compilation CD (despite its atrocious cover art - couldn't Pogus Productions have used another of Lindblad's nice woodcuts, or even the same one they had access to for the 1989 LP shown below?).

Far from sounding tortuous though, the recorded evidence on this collection is engaging stuff throughout, starting with the tape cut-ups of a social gathering mashed together with radio broadcasts, short wave noise and tape squelches of Party (1953).  Månens Död (Death Of The Moon) (1954-55) is subtler still, consisting of restrained, mournful-sounding electronics and ritualistic percussion.

Given the vintage of this material, vast cloudbanks of tape hiss are par for the course, but this just enhances the charm and un-academic accessibility.  The 'Fragment' pieces are particularly lo-fi, providing yet another uncanny missing link between '68 AMM, '71 Kluster and '75 Throbbing Gristle - apart from the almost prettily melodic mid-section of Fragment 1, and of course the fact that all three Fragments date back to 1955-56.  Lindblad's style was beginning to mature sonically and texturally by the time of Nocturne (1958), the highlight of this collection for me; and don't miss the closing Optica (1959-1960), created using damaged 16mm film and sounding like computer music way ahead of its time.  Coming soon - the other Lindblad compilation that I have, spanning the years 1962-1988.
Cover art for 'Death Of The Moon and Other Early Works' LP, 1989
mega / zippy

Monday, 28 August 2017

John Abercrombie & Ralph Towner - Sargasso Sea/Five Years Later (1976/1982)

In memoriam John Abercrombie, 16 Dec 1944 - 22 Aug 2017

Oh well, I did say on Friday that normal service would be resumed on Monday for this blog... and if normal service now means bidding sad farewells to artists whose music has meant so much to me, then so be it.  John Laird Abercrombie was born in Port Chester, NY to Scottish immigrants, and after a lifetime crafting an instantly identifiable guitar signature, has passed at age 72.  Having neglected to pick up his latest album at the beginning of this year due to other musical obsessions, I'm definitely going to do so now, but for today here's my two favourites of Abercrombie's career, both in the company of ECM labelmate Ralph Towner.  Previously posted at SGTG: the completely solo Characters, and Jack DeJohnette's Pictures.

Sargasso Sea was recorded in May 1976, and proved a genius pairing of two of ECM's rising stars right from the start.  Ralph Towner's silky 12-string overlaid with Abercrombie's liquid electric lead makes for a stunning album opener, with the eight minutes of Fable scoping out the breadth of their melodic talents and virtuoso skill, as would the title track and the explosive Elbow Room.  Elsewhere, we get the sublime sound of both guitarists going acoustic in a melding of their individual styles, and even some occasional piano from Towner, most notably in the gorgeous closer Parasol.
Deciding to repeat this memorable duo pairing five years later, Abercrombie and Towner already had their album title right there, and produced an even more ambitious effort, with a couple of tracks here hovering around the ten-minute mark.  One of these is the atmospheric, improvisatory opener Late Night Passenger, with Abercrombie's volume swells and percussive echoes contrasting with Towner's prepared-guitar buzzing.  The liquid lead versus shimmering 12-string magic formula returns in Isla and the cavernous reverberations of Microtheme.  The following track, the solemn Caminata, gives further proof that Abercrombie, Towner and Manfred Eicher were turning up the focus on ambience this time around, letting the acoustic fill the space, always in support - never dominating - of these two massive talents.  The other lengthy improv, the exciting race for transcendence that is Bumabia, underlines this too.

RIP John, and thanks for all the wonderful music.

SS mega / SS zippy
5YL mega / 5YL zippy

Friday, 25 August 2017

Ana-Maria Avram / Iancu Dumitrescu - Remote Pulsar, Movemur, Incantatio etc (2003)

One more post for now highlighting the music of Ana-Maria Avram, who passed away on 1 August aged 55.  Incantatio (2003) is 20 minutes of thrilling orchestral chaos, led by viola and percussion.  Influences of Xenakis and Ligeti are detectable, but Ana-Maria's compositional signature was very much her own - having grown up under the Ceaușescu regime, her approach to her art was always that as many rules should be broken as possible.

The other Avram work on this release, Quinconce (2003) continues the viola theme (as does a re-recording of a 1977 Dumitrescu piece for solo viola earlier in the disc), making this album very much a spotlight on Hyperion Ensemble member Cornelia Petroiu.  In Quinconce, Petroiu's performance is set against Avram's computer manipulations of the sounds, with results that took the Avram/Dumitrescu explorations into the boundaries of spectralist music to yet another new level.

Iancu Dumitrescu is represented on this release mainly by the latest progress in his own computer-music, refining this otherworldy avenue of his soundworld with Remote Pulsar and one of my favourite of his works in this vein, Numerologie Secrète.  Sandwiched in between these is the aforementioned solo viola piece Movemur III.

mega / zippy

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ana-Maria Avram / Iancu Dumitrescu - Orbit Of Eternal Grace (1999)

In tribute to the late Ana-Maria Avram, here's a couple of her great orchestral works.  Will probably post another Edition Modern disc on Friday that also highlights her unique style, then resume normal service next week - posting these two composers' unique music as-and-when.  The ones I've already posted are all listed in yesterday's post.

Orbit Of Eternal Grace (1998) is a stunning evocation of the cosmos, with dizzying swirls from the string orchestra and rumbling percussion from Chris Cutler providing the backdrop for Tim Hodgkinson's unearthly solo part on bass clarinet.  Ascent (1999) for chamber orchestra occupies similar terrain on a smaller scale.

Afterwards, there's three pieces by Iancu - two versions of Eon - Dans Un Desordre Absolu, one computer composed, and the other filled out by ensemble and live electronics - and Temps Condenses, again with the mutant, granular electronic sounds being punctuated by percussive thunder and the ensemble soloists.

So grateful to both of these composers right now for all their unique music that I've heard so far, and for the dozen or so albums that I've still to pick up.  So sad that we won't hear any more from Ana-Maria, now that she's gone while still just in her fifties, and gutted for Iancu.  Just wanted to state that I'm sharing these albums so that as many people as possible can discover them, and then hopefully go out and get hold of few of them - this is music that I believe deserves a much bigger audience than it has.  For anyone looking to purchase Edition Modern CDs, I'd recommend buying from ReR Megacorp.

mega / zippy

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Ana-Maria Avram, 1961-2017 - R.I.P.

Only just found out that Romanian composer Ana-Maria Avram passed away at the beginning of this month, aged 55. :(  Information about the cause of her death doesn't seem to have been published as yet.

Piece from The Wire on Ana-Maria's passing here.  Another here.

conducting in 2011
I've only been listening to her music for a couple of years, along with that of her husband Iancu Dumitrescu (both pictured below), but it's been life-changing - new extremes in modern classical music that have really broadened my listening horizons.  RIP Ana-Maria, and condolences to Iancu - I believe they'd been together since the late 80s/early 90s.

More to come soon from Ana-Maria and Iancu on this blog - for now, already posted are:

ED.MN.1001 - Medium/Cogito (just Iancu's music)
ED.MN.1002 - Au Dela De Movemur
ED.MN.1003 - Pierres Sacreés (just Iancu's music)
ED.MN.1004 - Musique de Paroles
ED.MN.1008 - Five Pieces
ED.MN.1011 - Musique Action '98
ED.MN.1019 - In Tokyo

Monday, 21 August 2017

Simeon ten Holt - Canto Ostinato (2005 recording, rel. 2012)

Minimalist piano epic Canto Ostinato is the signature work by Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt (1923-2012), and since its 1979 premiere has become a familiar staple of not just concert halls in the Netherlands, but a variety of public spaces including parks, shopping centres and railway stations.  There's also been several recordings released, of which this was the first one I've picked up as it was touted as a good all-rounder (it's also dirt cheap, as with everything on the Brilliant Classics label, and sounds great - a real rival to Naxos worth exploring. Previously on SGTG - Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel.)

This 2005 recording for four pianos (the most common arrangement; there's also various combinations of pianos, organs, marimbas, harps and synthesizers available) is certainly a good starting point due to its duration - only, yes, only, two and half hours long (although there's even single-CD reductions available) when some recordings can top three or four hours, and live performances can far outstrip that.

So why the variety in length?  Ten Holt wrote the piece in 106 small sections, and intended the players to have as much freedom as they liked to play around with each one before a 'lead player' would indicate an advance to the next.  Most importantly, of course, is how this sounds when you sit down (or indeed, walk, jog, or drive, all of which would also work well) and listen to it.  Philip Glass aficionados will already be familiar with the feeling of when subtly-changing repetitive structures work their hypnotic magic over an extended period, so Canto Ostinato will be right up your street.  Even more than Glass, though, I'd argue that this piece is just so thoroughly accessible and enjoyable that it's likely to become an indispensable part of the musical life of anyone who gives it a go.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
Disc 2 mega / Disc 2 zippy

Download notes:  Links as per the two CDs of this release, for ease of uploading.  What I've done to try and streamline the listening experience is removed the 'Disc 1' and 'Disc 2' from the album names, and renumbered all the tracks from 1-28, so it should all run sequentially (to be extra sure, just chuck everything into one folder before playing).  There was a fade-out and fade-in at the disc break which I've tried to snip out - not entirely successfully, but was as good as I could get it.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Stars Of The Lid - The Tired Sounds Of (2001)

Two hours of modern-classical infused ambient drift at its most magnificent.  Brian McBride & Adam Wiltzie's mature masterwork came out 16 years ago, and had an almost-as-good followup 6 years later; whether they'll record another album together is anyone's guess, but at least they've both been keeping busy since.  Anyway, here's Tired Sounds, arguably the high watermark of both their' careers to date.

With the long, weightless guitar treatments that had become SOTL's stock in trade now fleshed out by judicious strings, Tired Sounds opened up a new and sophisticated landscape straight away with Requiem For Dying Mothers.  Movingly funereal in its first part, defiantly elegiac in its second, this opening piece sets the tone for the rest of the melancholy, sometimes unsettling first hour.  This reaches its darkest depths in the 12-minute middle section of Austin Texas Mental Hospital, with the strings remorselessly sawing away at the patient's psyche, although some respite does seem to come with the gentle organ-like swells of the final part.

The second disc of Tired Sounds is a slightly more relaxing, Eno-esque drift as a whole, but only once you've come through the colder-than-death Mulholland, sounding like its been recorded from within a body chiller in a morgue.  The mellower highlights of this second hour-long trip into inner space definitely include Piano Aquieu, with its Harold Budd-esque piano intro, but the melancholy still persists in huge, endless waves.  For an album that I've previously described to bemused acquaintances as "suffused with death", on digging it out today Tired Sounds does at least still live and breathe (audibly, in its final minutes) with some hopefulness towards its end.  Beyond essential.

Disc 1 mega / Disc 1 zippy
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Luiz Bonfá - Introspection/The New Face Of Bonfa (1970/72)

Handy twofer of most of Bonfa's early 70s output for RCA - the album between these two, Sanctuary, is harder to come by but I'm keeping a lookout.  The New Face Of Bonfa, from 1970, was an attempt to cross over to a US audience with some success; the string arrangements are occasionally laid on a bit too thick, but Bonfa's phenomenal guitar talent is always front and centre (not least in Africana, my favourite track from this album).  In contrast to Braziliana, Maria Toledo only makes two appearances here as one of the backing vocalists on Macumba and Peixe Bom; all the other tracks are instrumental.
Original Introspection cover art. CD cover at top uses same pic as New Face LP.
And speaking of Bonfa's phenomenal guitar talent - that's the sole focus of the 1972 album Introspection, presented first on this CD reissue.  It's small but perfectly formed - eight tracks in under 27 minutes, and not a second wasted in showcasing Bonfa's sheer melodic and harmonic talent and staggering technique (check out the hovering-UFO evocations of Adventure In Space).  The sole concession here to production effects is the phasing on the opener, which kind of works, but other than that, Introspection is an utterly timeless masterpiece.

mega / zippy

Monday, 14 August 2017

Daniel Teruggi - Syrcus/Sphœra (1993)

Couple of ear-tingling sound voyages for you from Argentine-born Teruggi, who has been based in France since the 70s working and teaching at INA-GRM.  In other words, prepare for some top-flight French avant-garde, courtesy of the SYTER digital processor developed by Jean-François Allouis and heavily utilised by Teruggi.

We start off with 20 minutes of subtly-mutated percussion in the five-part Syrcus, before getting to the 42-minute main event.  Sphoera's four elemental movements, corresponding to air, water, fire then earth, also subdividing into smaller unnamed parts, were written throughout the 1980s and drawn together into this '1993 version' of the full suite.  Right from the hissing, shimmering atmospheres of the 'air' pieces (Eterea), you get what Teruggi's trying to do, and the rest of the work is similarly descriptive.  Interesting that there's some heavily manipulated voice sounds in the 'water' section Aquatica - not sure why, but it seems to work.

Imagine, to just use the first vaguely appropriate name that popped into my head, Jean-Michel Jarre embarking some sort of great 'primordial earth' concept epic - then stripping away virtually all the music, as it simply isn't necessary; the pure sound that remains is more than adequate to carry the narrative by itself.  Astonishing headphone-immersion stuff from start to finish.

mega / zippy

Friday, 11 August 2017

Keith Jarrett - Concerts: Bregenz/München (rec. '81, rel. '82; full CD reiss 2013)

Having concentrated on trio concerts up until now, it's high time I posted some solo Keith Jarrett - winging it by the seat of his pants, grunting and groaning aplenty (to a tolerable level in these '81 shows) on his way to absolute transcendence.  Two concerts, a few days apart - one from Bregenz where Jarrett hits his groove early on, then mellows out before an exploratory section, and a twice-as-long one from Munich that takes us on a more epic journey.

In both cases, Jarrett seems determined to extract every possible drop of sound from the piano, getting in some serious percussive thumps and string plucks towards the end, before restoring calm with the gorgeous encores.  Originally released as a 3LP box in 1982, ECM also provided the option to just buy the single-disc Bregenz concert on its own, which ended up being the only CD version until the whole set was finally reissued four years ago.
original box set cover, 1982 (2013 reissue at top)
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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt - A Meeting By The River (1993)

And an inspired and fruitful meeting it was.  Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Rajasthani master of the Mohan Vina - a modified slide guitar of his own creation, with eight sympathetic drone strings added; and Ry Cooder, the eternal journeyman, on regular slide, recorded these four tracks in a Santa Barbara church - shame they didn't record more.  My only minus point for this record is always that I wish it was twice as long, but what was captured, backed up by Bhatt's regular tabla player Sukhvinder Singh, and Cooder's son Joachim, is superb.  A pair of lengthy, exploratory tracks are followed up by a catchy, upbeat jam and then a gorgeous closing ballad, the only non-original, a Fijian folk song.  One for al fresco listening with a long cool drink.

mega / zippy