Monday, 24 April 2017

Charles Lloyd - Forest Flower: At Monterey, 1966 (rel. 1967)

Speaking of Keith Jarrett... nearly thirty years prior to that trio date in Tokyo, he appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival in his early sideman role to the great Charles Lloyd.  Showing great promise even then, Jarrett fills out the clipped, Latin rhythm (Jack DeJohnette's here too) of the 'Forest Flower' suite as the perfect foil to Lloyd's warm, mellifluous tenor sax.

Jarrett ups the groove whenever Lloyd takes a more free flight and takes an assured solo early in the 'Sunset' section, and even plucking the piano strings towards the end.  The fact that I've mostly made this writeup all about Jarrett clearly shows I need to listen more widely to Charles Lloyd (his flute playing on the Jarrett composition Sorcery is also superb), so consider that my homework.

zippy / mega

Friday, 21 April 2017

Keith Jarrett Trio - Tokyo '96 (rel. 1998)

From the intermittent SGTG tradition known as Jazz Piano Friday, some more Jarrett, Peacock & DeJohnette on rollicking form at the Orchard Hall, Tokyo on 30 March 1996.  By the time ECM released it two years later, Jarrett was laid low with ME/CFS, but would fortunately recover in time to take the Standards Trio into the 21st century for more transformed songbook classics and extended improvs.  Highlights on this particular release include the turbo-charged It Could Happen To You and Billie's Bounce in the first half, and the two Jarrett originals - Caribbean Sky and Song - that are effortlessly segued from standards at the end.

zippy / mega

Previously posted at SGTG: Changeless / Blue Note June 4, 1994

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Nurse With Wound & others - Angry Eelectric Finger (Spitch'cock One) (2004)

Sampler for a series of collaborative albums, spawned by Steven Stapleton giving chunks of NWW raw material to a select group of acquaintances.  Review, written by me for Head Heritage shortly after the release of this CD, can be found here (published 13 years ago today!).  Needs a bit of editing if I'm honest, being about five times as long as the average SGTG writeup... and despite saying I couldn't wait to hear the rest of the project, I've still to get around to it, for shame.  Anyone heard the other installments? Worth picking up?

zippy / mega

Monday, 17 April 2017

Tangerine Dream - Encore (1977)

Been rediscovering Tangerine Dream lately, so here's the first of a couple of live albums that number among my favourites (Logos coming up next week).  Forty years ago this month, Froese, Franke and Baumann were touring the US recording the material that would be used for Encore, with their great washes of mellotron and rhythmic sequencer work at its height on these four side-long tracks.

Coldwater Canyon is possibly the best of the best for me here, especially with Froese letting rip on lead guitar, and the mellow, meditative finale of Desert Dream is a classic too for highlighting the more atmospheric side of TD, with only a short sequencer section at the very end.

alt. link (zippy)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Friday, 14 April 2017

Vyacheslav Artyomov - Requiem (rec. 1989)

Quite fancied posting more Artyomov after mentioning him the other day, so this'll do as an Easter-weekend post.  Artyomov's Requiem was written between 1985 and 1988, and recorded in 1989.  Opening with a dramatic organ blast, like a more rough-around-the-edges version of Fauré's Requiem, the various sections of the work show Artyomov's orchestral forces and use of organ and bells at their most fully realized.

The choral parts are at times stately, unsettling and mournful, as centuries of Russian Orthodoxy and other liturgical traditions are woven into something timeless.  As Artyomov himself preferred, this is "eternal music" rather than just contempoary classical.  This CD was a bit hard to digest when I first got it - all one track! - so I split it up using timings that I found, which made it more accessible.  Definitely one worth sticking with.

alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dimitri Yanov-Yanovski (1998 compilation of works '91-'97)

Uzbek composer Dimitri Yanov-Yanovski was born in Tashkent in 1963.  These 1997 recordings of his works from that decade were recorded by the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, and make for a really interesting and worthwhile listen.  The definite highlight for me was Pressentiment (premonition), for chamber ensemble and the voice of a muezzin on tape; the eerie buildup of the droning strings and distant gongs gives the perfect backdrop to eventually introduce the voice.

Elsewhere, there's two different works for soprano and string quartet, which really caught my attention just from being a combination I haven't heard much at all.  One of these, the album opener Lacrymosa, gave Yanov-Yanovsky wider exposure in 1993 when it appeared on a Kronos Quartet album with Dawn Upshaw taking the vocal part.  The ensemble work Lux Aeterna is another highlight here, with its ominous piano and gongs and a mournful violin solo; it reminded me a bit of Vyacheslav Artyomov.

Dimitri Yanov-Yanovski
alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 10 April 2017

AMM - The Crypt, 12th June 1968 - The Complete Session (rel. 1992)

There's nothing like blowing the cobwebs away at the start of a new week with nearly two hours' worth of fearsome, ear-blasting free improvisation, so enjoy.  A decade before Throbbing Gristle were terrifying London audiences (including at The Crypt), and three years before Kluster recorded Eruption, there was AMM at their most unhinged.

Wishing to stake out territory far beyond free jazz, Eddie Prévost, Keith Rowe and Lou Gare hooked up with pianist/composer Cornelius Cardew and percussionist Christopher Hobbs to make this glorious racket.  Prévost continues with versions of the group to this day.  First released as a an extract on one side of a shared LP, more of the Crypt performance was given a double-LP release in 1981 before the complete recording came out in 1992 on this 2-CD edition.

Fades where they occur are when tapes ran out; other than that, all 109 minutes of the show are here for your, erm, enjoyment, and actually it's not all quite as extreme as it starts out.  Long passages of meditative, near-ambient formlessness crop up at intervals; often I just pick a random 20 minute section of The Crypt to listen to, and always find something new to focus on.

Disc 1
Disc 2
alt. link (zippy) CD1
alt. link (zippy) CD2 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Luigi Nono - La Lontananza..... / Hay que caminar (rel. 1992)

Luigi Nono's final works before his death in 1990, these two epic violin workouts certainly aren't easy listening, but they're a uniquely rewarding experience to get lost in - ideally on headphones in a dark room.  Roughly translating as 'Nostalgia for a future utopia, viewed at a distance' (one of many renderings out there!), the 40-minute main work here was constructed by Nono, Gidon Kremer and Sofia Gubaidulina onto eight tapes in 1988 with the live solo part written the following year.  In performance, the soloist is instructed to walk between several different music stands in the performance space, playing against the tapes.

On an album, we obviously lose that theatrical element, but Lontananza is still a striking listening experience.  Waves of howling violin overdubs drift around like ghost trains passing in some vast abandoned station. Periodically a mournful or shrieking solo part will tell it's story centre stage, like a passenger emerging from the train.  Ambient sounds from the recording process were added to the tapes, enhancing the otherwordly atmosphere with occasional creaks, clicks and fragments of conversation.

Straight afterwards on this disc, there's a 20-minute epilogue-dialogue for the final two ghosts left on the platform - may as well extend the metaphor as "Hay que caminar" Soñando inhabits a similar sonic space.  Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko frequently play extremely high frequenices as if the two voices are crying out to each other, and at other times having a spirited, bruising conversation as they navigate their way through the piece.  The title of this work came from a motto that Nono had seen on the walls of a Spanish monastery: "there is no way to travel, there is only the journey" - ideal words to have in mind when digesting a great, unique album like this.

La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura

alt. link (zippy)
Previously posted at SGTG: Tape works

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Moebius - Tonspuren (1983)

In a career full of interesting collaborative records, which seems to have been his preferred modus operandi, Moebius still found the time to fit in some solo albums proper.  This one, his first, sits between two great collaborations already posted here, Zero Set and Double Cut (all links below).

In the post-Curiosum break, Roedelius and Moebius both seemed to retain a little of each other's influence - if Offene Türen sounds a bit like 'Roedelius does Moebius', Tonspuren definitely has its moments of 'Moebius does Roedelius'.  This is most notable in the melodic/harmonic content of the first three tracks, not to mention the waltz-time of Hasenheide, but the chugging drum machine tracks and slightly ill-sounding synths are pure Moebius.

The second half of Tonspuren shows the clearest links to the aforementioned albums that came before and after it.  Furbo, and especially Nervos, look back to Zero Set with their use of garbled voice; what's missing of course is the loose Neumeier funkiness.  B36 and Sinister are indications of what was to come with Double Cut and its static, narcotic pulse, but nowhere near as minimalist.  All in all, it's hard to pick a favourite on Tonspuren amongst such a consistently great little set of tracks.  Compare it against Curiosum and Offene Türen; somewhere between those three records lies the perfect early 80s Cluster album.

alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 3 April 2017

Gary Burton Quintet - Dreams So Real: Music of Carla Bley (1976)

A definite Spring favourite this one, with a clean, fresh sound like a homemade lemonade.  The great four-malletted vibesman was accompanied for one of his most legendary recordings by drums, electric bass, and two guitarists, a lineup that really lets the strength of the composer's writing shine through.

Recorded in the same month as Pat Metheny's ageless debut album, Dreams So Real is from the dead-centre of ECM's purple patch when classic after classic were being seemingly effortlessly turned out, and needless to say is a gorgeous listen.  Burton is highlighted solo on the beautifully tender Jesus Maria, and the larger part of the rest of the album is in a mellow vein too.

One notable exception is the three-song medley of the second track, in which Metheny and Goodrick (the latter too often underrated, in the shadow of the former who'd become a superstar) bop along with a funky, rock-solid underpinning from Steve Swallow, who himself had the most direct connection to Carla Bley.  Bley herself of course would remain just ECM-adjacent until much more recently, so this flawless record would be key to highlighting her music on the main label.

Wrong Key Donkey
alt. link (zippy)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Iancu Dumitrescu / Ana-Maria Avram - In Tokyo (2003)

Let's have another Avram/Dumitrescu, shall we?  This one, as the title suggests, is centred around two live recordings from an October 2002 concert in Hamarikyu Asahi Hall in Tokyo, the first of which is Iancu's Abysses Latents.  Dark percussive clouds, mostly ominous gongs a la early NWW combine with rock-boring sax and a wordless, free vocal from Japanese avant-garde singer Keiko Hatanaka.  Yoko Ono is a lazy comparison to make, but hey, I'm on a holiday week and engaging my brain as little as possible.

On either side of this piece, Dumitrescu offers some of his trademark "computer-assisted" studio work, in the opener Implosive Eternity and the multi-part Bolids & Contemplations.  Sounding a bit like 90s Whitehouse played underwater in the latter piece and a bit like a less-clinical Autechre on the former, this stuff is the most engaging on the disc for me.

Avram contributes the most substantive work, certainly in numbers of players, with La Légende D'icaire for the full Hyperion Ensemble.  Tim Hodgkinson takes the lead with a nice honking, skronking bass clarinet solo, up against various string and percussion clatter - some of it electronically treated, increasingly so as the track goes on.  And how better to close out this fascinating release than with 11 minutes of solo saxophone?  Dedicated to its player, Turkey-based musicologist Robert Reigle, Penumbra is another great rumble 'n' screech through registers of its instrument that only composers with this strength of vision can go to.

alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

NorthSound Audio - Frog Talk (1990)

From the Canadian NorthSound Audio label that also brought you Loon Talk, here's the self-explanatory Frog Talk.  From the sleevenotes: "As the frogs begin their gentle night chanting, you may find yourself mesmerized by one of the most elemental of sounds."  I suppose in some ways, some of this might be relaxing, but it frequently sounds to my ears at least more like pretty abrasive electronic music gone haywire.  Which is not a bad thing, of course.  See what you think - whether the spring peepers, wood frogs, green frogs and pickerel frogs of this hour-long release enchant you or rile you, hopefully you may find this as inexplicably addictive as I do.

Pseudacris crucifer
alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 27 March 2017

Komitas - Divine Liturgy (1988 recording, Choir Of St. Gayané Cathedral)

Been listening to Komitas again, so here's the other recording of his most substantive choral opus.  Review here, along with download of the 1989 Melodiya recording that I previously posted, to compare & contrast.  Will post other Komitas works in due course, as soon as I get around to getting hold of them!

Divine Liturgy (New Albion release)
alt. link (zippy)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Tamia / Pierre Favre - De la nuit... le jour (1988)

Second collaboration, and first for ECM, between French avant-garde vocalist Tamia Valmont and Pierre Favre, a Swiss percussionist who already had a history with the label.  This gorgeous little record doesn't need too much of a description; simply six tracks of Favre's subtle wood and metal percussion, overlaid with Tamia's wordless, ululating voice.  Occasionally, as in the opening minutes of Maroua, her unique vocal tones are featured unaccompanied and overdubbed in layers, as they were in her first two (very hard-to-find) solo records. 

The overall effect I get from this is similar to some early Popol Vuh, in that it's like getting to eavesdrop on some lost ancient civilisation making ritual music of otherworldly beauty - not least in the long, shimmering tones (from both participants) in the stunning title track.

Wood Song
alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dumitrescu / Avram / Cutler / Hodgkinson - Musique Action 98 (1999)

Still making my way gradually through the Avram/Dumitrescu Edition Modern catalogue - up to No. 19 now, with some gaps of unavailability.  Here's an interesting one in that two of their key musical collaborators are also featured as composers.  The fact that almost everyone involved plays on each others works gives a nice album-length homogeneity and listenability to this release.

Rock In Opposition stalwart Chris Cutler contributes Life On Earth for ensemble with the focus on strings, alongside his own percussion featuring sparingly, and English avant-garde reedsman Tim Hodgkinson (who had been in RiO agitators Henry Cow with Cutler) gives us Black Death And Errors In Construction.  The shortest piece of the four, it packs in plenty of thunder and some great piano work from Avram before a midway solo for Hodgkinson's bass clarinet.

Avram's piece Nouvelle Axe is characteristically scratchy-spectral, fusing her string-torturing talents into a striking ensemble work, and Dumitrescu's New Meteors And Pulsars is arguably the highlight, a stunning account of (according to his endearingly pretentious sleevenote) of witnessing a meteor.  Assisted by Cutler on percussion, the underwater-sounding sonic manipulation characteristic to much late-90s Dumitrescu is very much in evidence.

Recorded at Nancy - Vandoeuvre Festival 'Musique Action' May 17, 1998
alt. link (zippy)

Previously posted at SGTG:

Monday, 20 March 2017

Dieter Moebius / Asmus Tietchens - Moebius + Tietchens (2012)

 According to Liliental lore, Dieter Moebius suggested a future duo collaboration to Asmus Tietchens as that six-day supergroup went their separate ways.  Only took them 35 years to get round to doing it.

Recorded in 2011 and released the following year, Moebius + Tietchens is the wonderful combination of two unique pioneers in electronica simply plugging in and coming up with something fresh and bang up to date.  Sounding like it's emenating from the laptop of a circuit-bending envelope pusher half their age, the warped electronics of Moebius + Tietchens sometimes result in the formless, industrial ambience of Vincent, Fontenay, Windkanal, sometimes in the grinding rhythms of Thorax, Yes Yes and Grimm, and are always engaging without any filler.

Highlights for me are the two longest tracks, Kattrepel and Lange Reihe, each subjecting a seemingly static idea to around ten minutes of infinite tweaks to ensure the track never gets boring.  Essential stuff from two masters in their field.

Mach Auf!
alt. link (zippy)

Friday, 17 March 2017

Yoshihiro Kanno - The Four Seasons In Resonance (1983)

Picked this up for cheap recently when reading about the Japanese audiophile label Denon (who also made hi-fi equipment, and blank tapes that I remember owning).  By 1983 when this release came out on vinyl and CD, they were already old hands at digital recording - so needless to say it sounds great, and the music itself is charming, impressionistic and highly listenable in its variety of sounds.

Yoshihiro Kanno was born in Tokyo in 1953, and has composed film soundtracks as well as a neat body of standalone work.  Out of the latter, this suite for percussion is conspicuous in its absence from the lists of works/releases on Kanno's official website, but it definitely deserves attention. 

Starting with a softly twinkling track for December, followed by the even more entrancing gossamer shimmer of January: Silver Storm Illusion, these Four Seasons (nothing to do with Vivaldi) go through several different percussive shadings courtesy of the Tomoyuki Okada Percussion Ensemble.  Arrangements are mostly subtle but cook up a storm when necessary, most notably in September: Typhoon Sphere.  And don't miss the imitation frog noises on May: Dream of the Frog in the Well!

The Four Seasons In Resonance
alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Qluster - Fragen (2011)

A year after Qua, Roedelius and Moebius announced that Cluster had come to an end; that same year, Qluster was announced as the next Roedelius project, described as "the extraordinary shedding of skin of one of the most important German electronic groups".  This album, the first of six and counting, was the first under the new name.

Joining Roedelius was sound artist, producer and musician Onnen Bock, who had barely been born back when Cluster made Zuckerzeit, and first met the living legend in 1991.  Fragen wasn't their first recording together, but as the first Qluster release it was the ideal introduction to this great project.  On this initial evidence at least (I've only heard half of the Qluster catalogue so far and it's quite diverse - they later become a trio), Bock brought out the more free-form, kosmiche ambient side of Roedelius that stretched all the way back to the Cluster II album and beyond, whilst updating the sonic palate perfectly.

Only one of the seven tracks on Fragen stretches out quite as much as Cluster of old, though - the 13-minute Wurzelwelt even brings to mind latter-day Coil in its extended dark ambience.  The rest average about four minutes, and pulse away in gentle, exploratory space, occasionally bursting into a more melodic light (the end of Auf der Alm), and more often stark and austere with a subtle rhythmic pulse when needed.  All in all a fantastic album that bode well for this latest chapter in the Roedelius story.

alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 13 March 2017

Philip Glass - Glassworks (composed 1981; new live recording 2017)

I am terrible at Photoshop - feel free to substitute your own artwork, or use original below.
A bit remiss of me to overlook the legendary 'music with repetitive structures' composer on this blog when his 80th birthday celebrations came around in January, but better late than never.  Here's a highlight from the 'Glass at 80: Total Immersion Weekend' that the BBC put on; a fresh performance of one of Glass' most deliberately accessible works that he composed in 1981 to reach a wider audience, even releasing a special 'Walkman mix' for the cassette edition.

Glassworks, performed live at Milton Court, London on 28th January 2017 by the Guildhall New Music Ensemble, remains an ideal entry point to the composer's vast catalogue, and just sounds absolutely gorgeous - much of it mellow and evocative, turning away from the more harsh minimalism of his early works towards something lush and romantic.  The two odd ones out, of course, are the frenetic second and fourth movements, Floe and Rubric, ensuring that Glassworks doesn't get too laid back.  You can hear exactly where Glass was about to go with his next major project (and first big soundtrack), especially in Rubric, which was actually slated for Koyaanisqatsi but didn't make the cut.
original album cover, 1982
Glassworks (Live 2017)
alt. link (zippy)

Previously posted at SGTG: 
Music In Twelve Parts
Early works performed by Steffen Schleiermacher

Friday, 10 March 2017

Norma Winstone - Somewhere Called Home (rec. 1986, rel. 1987)

One of ECM's finest releases of the 80s, and a jewel in the crown among its entire vocal jazz canon, this album was justifiably included in the label's 'Touchstone' series of essentials that were reissued about ten years ago.  English vocalist Norma Winstone had previously appeared on ECM from the late 70s onwards as part of Azimuth; for her first solo venture on the label Winstone retained fellow Azimuth traveller John Taylor (1942-2015) on piano, and brought in Tony Coe on clarinet and tenor sax to perfectly colour the sound.

From Winstone's own English-language arrangement of Egberto Gismonti's Café onwards, the repertoire is perfectly chosen, creating an extended meditation on nostalgia, love and belonging.  A further two ECM legends feature among the writers - the late Kenny Wheeler on the beautifully impressionistic Sea Lady, and Ralph Towner on Celeste, both given a new dimension by Winstone's lyrics.  Her words for Bill Evans' Prologue are another memorable high point on an album full of them; perfect mellow vocal jazz for a spring weekend. Enjoy.

Curtains floating through an open window, in a café's warmth that draws us closer
alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Kaija Saariaho - Du Cristal...À la Fumée, Nymphéa (1993)

Two sumptuous orchestral works by Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952, Helsinki) here for your delectation, from her most textural and spectral era in the late 80's.  Du Cristal and ...À la Fumée (1989-90) are regarded as sequential to each other, and usually performed together, making the full title 'From crystal... into smoke', inspired by the writings of French philosophere Henri Atlan, and a teasing description of how this brilliant diptych sounds.  Ligeti is often cited as an obvious influence, but the huge banks of subtly shifting orchestral sound and underlying percussive thunder of Du Cristal very much has Saariaho's own stamp on it, as does ...À la Fumée where flute and cello take the lead.

The supporting work on this 1993 release is Nymphéa (1987), performed by the legendary Kronos Quartet.  The scratchy, scraping aural landscape is further transformed by electronic manipulation and by the musicians whispering words from Tarkovsky's poem 'Now Summer Is Gone'.  A gorgeous, fascinating release all round, and an ideal entry-point into Saariaho's sound world at this period in her career.

Du Cristal...À la Fumée / Nymphéa
alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 6 March 2017

Maggi Payne - Crystal (expanded edition 1991)

We've previously heard Maggi Payne (b.1945 in Texas) on this blog purely as a flautist, contributing to David Behrman's sublime On The Other Ocean.  Her own work, at least from the 80s as evidenced by this 1991 compilation (the last four tracks were released as a 1986 LP), could go on much more dark ambient journeys of treated flute sounds and pure electronics - and was never less than fascinating, essential listening.

A good case in point are the two opening tracks here.  Ahh-Ahh (ver. 2.1) (1987) was the musical part of a video-art collaboration, and alternates shimmering melodic sections with austere, rhythmic sections of treated flute noise, breathing and pure white-noise hiss.  By contrast, Subterranean Network (1985) ends with a gossamer ambient requiem after varying dynamic sections of pure, unsettling electronics, evoking its inspiration of US soldiers being forced to work as reconnaissance 'tunnel rats' in Vietnam.

On all of these seven tracks, averaging 10 minutes in length, it's clear how adept Maggi Payne is at manipulating different sound sources to come up with something truly memorable.  Phase Transitions (1989) is next up, and takes one of the most ubiquitously 'commercial' synthesisers of the era, the Roland D-50, and teases out its hidden un-commercial potential to great effect.  White Night (1984) consists of a voice speaking names that are digitally manipulated into a paranoid invocation of the restless sleeplessness intended by the title.  Like Subterranean Network, this one ends at full blast after a few deceptive sections in near silence.

I wasn't going to mention every track individually, but hey ho, only three to go.  Solar Wind (1983) manipulates a tape supplied by NASA of bow shock electromagnetic waves created by Saturn and Venus, as observed by Voyager 2.  The second half of this one in particular is stunning, sounding like a digital-era version of kosmiche Tangerine Dream.  From the same year, Scirocco is purely a flute and tape piece, but still sounds virtually all electronic, and lastly Crystal (1982) is another contribution to a video work, composed on Moog III synth.  All in all, these 71 minutes of sound-shiftings get the highest possible recommendation for late-night headphone immersion.  All the above info was taken from this great article.

alt. link (zippy)

Friday, 3 March 2017

Surman / Krog / Rypdal / Storaas - Nordic Quartet (rec. 1994, rel. 1995)

Another of ECM's more daring and slightly strange get-togethers - in other words, a perfect fit for this blog.  In August 1994, legendary Norwegian jazz singer Karin Krog got together with on-and-off collaborator John Surman and Norse colleagues Terje Rypdal and Vigleik Storaas.  I haven't heard pianist Storaas anywhere else as yet, and he's a fine understated presence on this reed and guitar dominated set.

Rypdal's billowing guitar is in fact all over the album like malignant, brooding Scandi-noir oppressive weather.  This led some reviewers to criticise how much he dominates - obviously not a problem if, like me, you can't enough of Rypdal's playing.  You'd never guess this album was a summer recording, as Surman too is in bleak, chilly mode; even without that perfect cover photograph this is a full-on zero-degrees experience.  Over the top of all of this, Krog coos and whispers ominously like the cool-headed Nordic detective who's just about to uncover something atrocious on those snowy docks.

Watching Shadows
alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Harry Partch - The World of Harry Partch (1969)

Something truly unique today.  Californian composer, theorist and musician Harry Partch (1901-1974) not only rejected Western tonal music, but inspired by just intonation (which he considered to be the true and suppressed form in which music was organised since antiquity) he devised a 43-tone scale and an arsenal of bespoke instruments to perform his works.  This was his first major-label release - the original liner notes are worth reading in full to gain more of an insight into Partch's musical worldview, and can be found here.

Three wonderful, life-affirming examples of Partch's music are featured here.  The 17-minute Daphne Of The Dunes, originally the soundtrack to a short film called Windsong (1958), moves through multiple short segments.  Some are highly percussive and gamelan-esque, and others focus on the shimmering, resonating multiple strings of his bespoke zithers, or 'kitharas'.

Partch also believed that music, dance and theatre shouldn't be distinct specialties, and the second track here creates a Beat-era dramatic narrative in 9 minutes.  This piece, its full title Barstow: Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California, introduces each scene with a little marimba melody before each fascinating slice of life is recited and then sung.  Finally, Castor & Pollux is an absorbing 16 minutes of bell-chime melodies and various kithara and marimba workouts, and more of a rhythmic drive overall reflecting its purpose as a theatre/dance piece.  Highly recommended.

I'm going home to Boston, Massachusetts - it's 4pm and I'm hungry and broke, I wish I was dead, but today I am a man.
alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 27 February 2017

Zbigniew Karkowski - UEXKULL (rec. 1988/9, first rel. 1991)

First album by Krakow-born Karkowski (1958-2013), an experimental musician and composer who undertook some compostion courses with Xenakis, Messiaen and Boulez  before striking out as a much more raw-edged sound-shifter.  This hour-long drone piece was recorded in the late 80s using the UPIC composing software that Xenakis had invented a decade previous, and it caught my attention whilst pottering around on discogs last week. 

Intrigued enough to add the out-of-print UEXKULL CD to my wantlist, I had the pleasant surprise shortly afterwards that it has in fact been reissued digitally by the AudioTong label, who are now offering it for free/name your price on their Bandcamp page.  So that's where the download link below leads.  Lossless formats available too!

Musically, then, UEXKULL is based around a circulating bass drone that gathers momentum by various electronic mutations for its first half hour before scaling back again.  It doesn't stay there for long though, filling out into a dizzying, brain-frying electronic wall of sound that brings to mind Merzbow or 90s Whitehouse more than Xenakis.  Karkowski did in fact collaborate with Masami Akita several times, and with many other avant-garde noisemeisters in what looks like a fascinating discography that I'll need to delve into further.  Sadly though, Karkowski's life was cut short at 55 by pancreatic cancer.  Apparently his final weeks were spent canoeing into the Peruvian jungle in search of some shamanic healers for a truly unique throw of the dice.


Friday, 24 February 2017

Roedelius - Offene Türen (rec. 1980, rel. 1982)

Roedelius' eighth album under his name, recorded in 1980 and released two years later.  Among that early 80s prolific purple patch, Offene Türen stands out by being far and away the most minimal and wholly electronic; it compares more easily to Cluster's Curiosum - most notably on Spiegelung, which also features an uncharacteristic vocal hum - than the lush romanticism of Jardin Au Fou.  This is still unmistakably Roedelius though, especially on the two midpoint tracks Auf der Höhe and Allemande; that melodic lightness of touch couldn't be anyone else.

Abenteuerliche Begegnung
alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Octavian Nemescu / Costin Cazaban (1996 compilation)

Nicely strange compilation from the Dumitrescu/Avram label Edition Modern, split between Romanian spectralists Octavian Nemescu, who I haven't posted before but, as mentioned previously, I was introduced to via SpookCityUSA, and Costin Cazaban, whose only other CD release was featured here back in December.

Nemescu's 32 minutes of the album are bookended by the nearly-identical piano pieces Spectacle pour un Instant/Instance (1974) - each only features a few seconds of piano that echoes into nothingness and electronic static over the remainder of the two minutes duration.  Quatre Dimensions en Temps IV (Illuminations) (1967) fades in subtly for eight minutes of psychedelic orchestral soup that suddenly leaves only chiming bells; very haunting and arresting stuff.  The remaining Nemescu piece is 20 minutes of IN PAR (1988) for trombone and tape, which starts with a loud electronic gurgle before proceeding to mutate the trombone sound with increasing amounts of metallic buzzing and other electronic sound.

The remaining 47 minutes of this disc are Cazaban's, and focus on two lengthy, knotty orchestral works, filling out the picture of his ouevre a bit more when taken alongside the mostly chamber works on his other CD release mentioned above.  On Deus ex Machina (1988), a seasick-sounding flute tries to get its bearings in the choppy orchestral waters.  Trellis (1985) is a little more static-sounding, until its last few minutes spiral and churn around.  Sandwiched in between these two is a string quartet, Au-delà de Vienne (1989).  All of it is fascinating stuff on in-depth listens; wish there were more Cazaban recordings available.  There are a few more Nemescu CDs out there, which I'm intending to pick up in due course.

Edition Modern ED.MN.2003
alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 20 February 2017

Popol Vuh - Das Hohelied Salomos (1975)

Haven't posted a Vuh album in a while, so here's one that often gets unfairly maligned compared to some of the stellar heights they were reaching in the 70s on either side of this album.  So is Das Hohelied Salomos (Song of Solomon, and indeed we're back in Biblical territory for the lyrics, all from that particular book) merely... good?  Maybe by this band's impossibly high standards, but just taken as an album in its own right it's stunningly beautiful.

There's much more of Dyong Yun's angelic vocals than on predecessor Einsjäger & Siebenjäger, and Daniel Fichelscher gets in a good balance of acoustic guitar alongside his many liquid layers of lead playing.  In fact, given the mix of the various classic-era Popol Vuh stylings here - some stuff looks forward to the more rocky tone of Letze Tage, other tracks appear to have jumped in straight off Hosianna Mantra - this album is possibly the ideal starting point if you haven't yet dipped a toe in the heavenly Vuh waters.

Der Winter ist Vorbei
alt. link (zippy)

Friday, 17 February 2017

Throbbing Gristle - Journey Through A Body (rec. 1981, first rel. 1982)

The final studio recording from TG's initial existence, Journey Through A Body was recorded in Rome over a week in March 1981 at the invitation of RAI radio studio, and released the following year, by which time of course 'the mission was terminated'.  In retrospect, and especially before the 2004-9 reunion, it became an intriguing what-might've-been had TG stuck around a few more years.

Kicking off with a fascinating 15-minute chunk of medical sound art that swapped the burns unit of Hamburger Lady for the maternity ward, the second track was more intriguing still.  Again with the benefit of hinsight, Catholic Sex (dedicated to the then 18-year-old Paula Brooking, who would become Mrs P-Orridge three months later) sounds like early Chris & Cosey fighting early Psychic TV to a draw and creating a strong, distinctive track in the process, proving that there could've been life yet in the parent band.

Cover from Mute CD reissue, 1993
The second half of Journey Through A Body, though, goes to perhaps the most uncharacteristic sonic plane of all, due to Chris Carter opting for acoustic piano throughout for perhaps the only time in his career (Certainly that I'm aware of; I haven't heard his & Cosey's entire ouput by a long chalk).  Exotic Functions wasn't that big a surprise for those who'd heard 20 Jazz Funk Greats, but what does make a difference is how sincere and fully-realised a Martin Denny tribute these mostly non-musicians managed to pull off this time around.  Violencia (The Bullet) sounds a bit more like traditional TG, but the crashing piano is still an oddity, as is the album's epilogue Oltre La Morte, presumably performed by Carter alone.  Would another album this good have been preferable to Heartbeat and Force The Hand Of Chance?  Who knows.  I'm still glad we have Dreams Less Sweet, though, by which time it might've definitely been time for the TG mission to be terminated.

"This record is dedicated to TG, now a terminated mission. It is also dedicated to the Vatican Gun Club and all 9 mm automatic users everywhere."
alt. link (zippy)

Previously posted at SGTG: In The Shadow Of The Sun

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Robert Turman - Flux (first released 1981)

Multi-instrumentalist Robert Turman, originally from San Diego, began his recording career in a very different vein to this, his solo debut.  He'd been responsible, along with Boyd Rice, for the initial NON release Knife Ladder/Mode Of Infection, one of the first and most fearsome industrial artifacts to come out of the US.  This privately-released cassette appeared two years later, and couldn't have occupied a more strikingly different place on the sonic spectrum, consisting of barely-there, minimal ambient pieces based around kalimba (thumb piano) in its first half, regular piano thereafter.

Early listens to Flux left me a bit underwhelmed by how little was going on for long periods of time, and how uber-lo fi the recording was, but if you get into the right headspace for this it's utterly hypnotic.  Opening with a clunk and a clatter as the tape machines get going, the percussive tappings of the first 15 minutes create a nice, formless zen ambience, with the following track more minimal still, like a homebrew Brian Eno fan of not insignificant talent for melancholy atmosphere.

By the third piece (called Miao on the initial release; most subsequent editions gave no titles), a more rhythmic backdrop has been introduced, and a slow, stately Eastern-sounding melody rises from the massive fog of tape hiss.  The fourth, aka Slow Burning, gives the switch to regular piano, and plinks away for nearly 17 minutes with a knackered-sounding drum machine barely functioning in support.  If this feels a bit too enervating, the final two pieces are significantly shorter.  One to get lost in for sure.  Kudos to the Austrian label Spectrum Spools for this reissue (on CD and vinyl) in 2012.

alt. link (zippy)

Monday, 13 February 2017

Pat Metheny / Ornette Coleman - Song X (1986)

Or, as ECM's Manfred Eicher probably called it - the one that got away.  Imagine how much of a game-changer this phenomenal meeting of minds would've been for the German label that had nurtured Metheny for a decade, with ECM regulars Haden & DeJohnette on board, not to mention the glittering prize of having free jazz legend Ornette Coleman sharing the bill.  The artwork would've been similarly minimal under Sascha Kleis' direction, and it would've deservedly remained an ECM bestseller to this day.

Unfortunately for Eicher, come 1985 Metheny was ready for a new challenge, and parted ways with ECM to land on David Geffen's burgeoning stable.  And what a fresh start Song X was - kicking off with the lightning-speed title track, this was free jazz updated for the amphetamine-yuppie era, and would've blown Huey and Genesis out of the water if introduced to Patrick Bateman's CD collection.  The 13-minute Endangered Species goes even further out, with Metheny exercising judicious use of the guitar synth (and wisely restraining himself from it for the bulk of the album, not unlike Belonging from three years prior, also with Haden).

The second half of the album is more accesible, and mellows out considerably with the gorgeous Kathelin Gray.  The clean production throughout (another ECM similarity!) ensures that you can get the most enjoyment possible out of each contributor, without the knottier passages becoming cluttered.  A stunning high watermark in 80s jazz.

Video Games
alt. link (zippy)

Friday, 10 February 2017

Coil - Musick To Play In The Dark (1999)

Before the evenings start to get light again, let's have some prime music for the darkness, with the nocturnal majesty of Coil at their possible career-best.  This album was my entry-point to the alchemical, liquid world of Balance and Christopherson's sound shiftings, on the strength of rave reviews after its release which hailed it as a game-changer.  In hindsight, this was indeed where Coil's last great chapter began, with Julian Cope/Spiritualized collaborator Tim Lewis aka Thighpaulsandra on board.

Like a fair chunk of the Coil ouevre, we start with Jhonn and Sleazy pursuing a ritualistic altered state, in this case combining MDMA with sleep deprivation to create some shivery, watery 'moon musick' of the highest order.  Thighpaulsandra gets a chance to shine with the instrumental Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris In A Night, channeling Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze with a much more unhinged finale. Subsequent illuminations concern media manipulation (Red Queen), childhood and family as ritual (Broccoli), until the gorgeous finale allows for some sleep at last.  There was a Volume 2 a few months later, which continued the musical and lyrical themes but with not quite as strong an end result as this stunning record.

One day your eggs are going to hatch and some very strange birds are going to emerge
alt. link (zippy)

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Hilliard Ensemble - Codex Speciálník (rec. 1993, rel. 1995)

Been making an effort to be less self-consciously modernist in the classical stuff I listen to this past week, so in a break from the normal '20th century classical' tag, here's something from the 14th and earlier.  The title of this collection refers to the 'special songbook', a manuscript found in a Prague monastery and dated to around 1500, and a rich source of medieval-renaissance polyphonic vocal music.

Singing selections from the mostly anonymous songbook (only 8 of the 25 pieces here have composer credits) are the Hilliard Ensemble, who called time on their four-decade career just over two years ago, and appeared on over 20 ECM releases.  Celebrated specialists in early music, the Hilliards perform here with their customary expertise, authenticity and solemn, austere beauty.

This is a well-sequenced album too - not sure if it follows the order of the book, or was just done this way for the recording, but the 77-minute CD has all the shortest pieces up front, making the actual halfway-point of the album midway through track 17.  But this doesn't really matter much if you just let yourself get lost in the pure sound.

Veni vere illustrator

(I'm trying out Mega as Zippyshare seems to be acting up a bit - hope Mega links work ok for everyone.)
alt link (zippy) 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Asmus Tietchens - In Die Nacht (1982)

In Die Nacht was the third of Asmus Tietchens’ four albums of mutant electro-pop for Sky Records.  I posted the fourth a while back, and this one is every bit as good. Originally planning to release a third collection of two-minute minatures, Tietchens found himself pressed for time to finish and deliver In Die Nacht, resulting in time-stretching on half of these tracks by necessity as much as any wish to experiment with longer pieces.

This, and the new acquisition of a Polymoog to fill out the sound, make for a fascinating record in which bouncy opener Mit Zebras Rennen is followed up by two lengthy, queasy explorations of minor key noir-ish synth and odd little rhythms, and the second half is stranger still.  Spanische Fliege percolates around its descending melody as the cheesy home-organ rhythm track grinds on, and the more gently pulsing Regenwald lives up to its title with some rainforest ambience, if the forest in question were under a biodome on a deep-space outpost.

Kopfüber In Den Gully

Friday, 3 February 2017

Olivier Messiaen - Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum, etc (1988 compi, rec '66-'71)

Been trying to up my Messiaen (1908-1992) game lately, and found this great CD for £2.  Apparently it’s from a box set that was released in the composer’s 80th birthday year – love that digital timing on the cover, from the early heyday of the format! 

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (And I await the resurrection of the dead) from 1964 is the centrepiece here, and it’s one of Messiaen’s most striking and sombre orchestral works, being commissioned in memoriam of the dead of the World Wars.  Whether with ominous tolling bells and rattling percussion, or in the huge monolithic brass lines, approaching something like orchestral doom-metal, this is pure apocalypse and final judgement written large.  It’s paired on CD as it was on the 1966 LP with Couleurs De La Cité Céleste (1963), which is even more percussive, makes much of Messiaen’s concept of colours in sound, and an ideal companion to the main work.  Both were conducted by Pierre Boulez.

Slightly lighter in mood, and dating from 1934 (recorded here in 1971), L’Ascension is one of Messiaen’s earliest orchestral masterpieces to show the mystical, hallucinatory Catholicism at the heart of most of his output.  The final movement is something that’s particularly stuck on me since getting into the work; it truly is otherworldly.

Seigneur, écoute ma voix!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Nurse With Wound - Homotopy To Marie (1982)

In algebraic topology, homotopy is the continuous deformation of one function into another… or something. I don’t think I’ve even summarised that properly from trying to look up a simplified explanation.  Somehow, that seems an ideal lead-in to discussing the fifth Nurse With Wound album, and first one to be created solely by Steven Stapleton, every Friday evening for a year, cementing his place as a true wizard of tape manipulation.

Even the track titles here are in another league.  I Cannot Feel You as the Dogs Are Laughing and I Am Blind starts proceedings with much scraping and groaning, before suddenly going full Damo Suzuki (eg Soup) about a minute before the end.  The title track is next, with those echoing gongs very much an early Stapleton staple, as are the surreal voices used.  A woman intermittently exclaims “Don’t be naïve, darling”, as if chiding the other voice in which a child recounting a hospital stay is presented in fragments.  As the track goes on, ominous creaky springs make you wonder if the child narrator hasn’t perhaps been condemned to a Victorian asylum rather than undergone a brief hospitalisation.

After the adult voice finally says something different (“Philistine!”), a few music-box fragments take us into Astral Dustbin Dirge.  Similar to the opening track, but more varied, this was omitted from the original LP for reasons of space.  Towards the end, you can hear where Stapleton would go with his next album – Astral Dustbin Dirge wasn’t on it either, despite being listed on the cover, presumably in jest at the track’s orphaned status.

Over on the old side 2, The Schmürz (Unsullied by Suckling) starts out with some sort of militaristic marching chant, cut up into incomprehensibility, and proceeds to fill out its 24 minute length with more clanging, shrill electronics, samples of choral music, more voices (including an animated conversation in Spanish), and more.  A wonderfully weird jazzy ending brings the track to a memorable close, before an 80-second epilogue of more groaning and manic cackling brings things full circle.  Beyond-essential sound manipulation.

I didn't know anybody, and there was a funny smell

Monday, 30 January 2017

La! NEU? - Live At Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (rec. 1998, rel. 2001)

Final release from Klaus Dinger's mid-late 90s group, where the "inventor" (his preferred term) of Neu!, La Düsseldorf and Die Engel Des Herrn decided to work with younger musicians, plus his dear old mum, on his most free-form music ever.  Thanks to the deference/indulgence of Japanese label Captain Trip, more La! NEU? releases were made available than for any other Dinger band, with their resulting catalogue being more a series of fast-and-loose documents rather than polished albums - but this remains a key part of their charm.

La! NEU? were effectively defunct after this July 1998 farewell concert, and Dinger's last chapter before his death in 2008 was to team up with a group of Japanese musicians - including Kazuyuki Onouchi, who helped prepare the Kunsthalle recording for release in 2001.  One day I'll post Japandorf, which was a rather sweet posthumous collection, but for today here's a great summary of La! NEU?, concentrating in its first half on Year Of The Tiger, possibly their most satisfying studio album.

Both of Tiger's epic improvisations, Autoportrait Rembrandt and Notre Dame, are here in fine versions that display this group's freewheeling improv aesthetic at its best.  On Disc 2, there's a fair bit of faffing around that could perhaps have been cut, but La! NEU?'s final original piece The Hit, an endearingly odd, perky update of the Notre Dame rhythm track, and a valedictory run through La Düsseldorf's Time are worth waiting for.

Disc 1
Disc 2

Friday, 27 January 2017

Myriam Marbe - Ritual / Serenata / Trommelbass / Requiem (2012 compi of works 1968-1990)

Our first excursion to Romania for this year comes courtesy of Myriam Marbe (1931-1997).  This compilation is a pretty good career overview, covering one work per decade from the 60s to 90s - really striking, memorable stuff that's well worth a listen.  I'm not entirely sure if her music (or at least what's represented here) strictly comes under the 'spectralist' school, so I've just used the Romania tag.

Ritual For The Thirst Of The Earth (1968) is her most internationally-performed piece, as the choir dig into Romanian rain-ritual folklore punctuated by thunderclaps of percussion.  Serenata (1974), cheekily subtitled A Little Sunshine Music, is an endearingly odd chamber work with imitated birdsong, and a final quote from Mozart performed on celeste sounding like a celestial ice cream van.

Less lighter in tone is Trommelbass (1985), with strident, scratchy strings and martial rhythms, reflecting the quest for personal and artistic freedom amidst the repressive Romanian regime of the era.  Lastly, the 36-minute Requiem: Fra Angelico-Chagall-Voronet (1990, here in a 2011 recording) is a thing of wonder, interweaving texts in Latin, German, Greek, Hebrew and Romanian.  Occasionally reminiscent of Ligeti, but more often taking inspiration from Byzantine liturgy and Romanian melodies, it's a great listen.  I wouldn't say it necessarily sounds like Gorecki or Arvo Part, but deserves to be as well known as their work.

Ritual / Serenata / Trommelbass / Requiem

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (1996)

4th album by Richard D. James under his most familiar moniker - presumably why it starts off the quite wonderful '4'.  As well as pushing the limits of his interest in jungle breakbeats skittering all over the place, this is a nice, compact little record bursting with melody, sweetness and freshness - the Pet Sounds of 90s UK electronica perhaps?  Certainly on the gorgeous plucked strings of Goon Gumpas and Girl/Boy Song.  A thoroughly satisfying way to spend 32 minutes - nothing outstays its welcome, and there's always tiny little details that grab you on repeated listens.

My feet, my arms, my ears and your feet

Previously posted on SGTG: Surfing On Sine Waves

Monday, 23 January 2017

Can - Monster Movie (1969)

R.I.P. Jaki Liebezeit, 26 May 1938 – 22 January 2017

Just like last year, all the great legends continue to leave us... I suppose 78 is a good age to get to; even so, this is a sad day for losing one of the greatest drummers of all time, who by all accounts was still active and even planning to work with Malcolm Mooney and Holger Czukay again, I read today.  Both of them first appeared on record with Liebezeit on this groundbreaking record.  

I was  16/17, and had been listening to The Velvet Underground, starting to get into Kraftwerk, Faust and Can... but the opening minutes of this album were like the Velvets upside down and inside out, and sounded like nothing else on earth.  And then there was the first side-long Can epic hypnotic ritual - if you haven't heard Yoo Doo Right, you're in for something special. Download now!

Monster Movie Made In A Castle With Better Equipment

Previously posted at SGTG: Nowhere

Friday, 20 January 2017

Bill Evans Trio - Waltz For Debby (rec. 1961, rel. 1962)

I'm not necessarily going to make "jazz piano Friday" a regular feature of this blog - far too many sonic extremities still to come for that!  But for now, for the second Friday in a row, here's one of the greatest piano trios of all time in a career-best, that would come to a tragic end only days after recording.

Scott LaFaro's death in a car accident at just 25 robbed the jazz world of one of its most promising young bass players, and this album was the second live album to be drawn from these final recordings of the trio, after the more simply descriptive Sunday At The Village Vanguard (released five months previous).  Waltz For Debby has the slight edge for me - not least because of the title track, one of Evans' most beautiful original tunes ever, named for his niece.

Waltz For Debby

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Conrad Schnitzler - Congratulacion (1987)

Must confess I didn't give this one nearly as much attention as all the others that I picked up when getting into Schnitzler - big mistake.  The stark difference in the sound can be initially off-putting if you've just become accustomed to the barely-controlled EMS-Synthi blooping of earlier albums.  But far from being "Schnitzler sells out", Congratulacion should be considered "Schnitzler tries something new" - which he'd keep on doing, right up to his passing in 2011.

In August 1986, when these 16 little minatures (none longer than 3:12) were recorded, the Yamaha CX5M was still fairly new, and notoriously difficult to program (although most of its contemporaries were too, compared to today).  Schnitzler created some great little melodies with this fresh gear, in a mostly mellow mode, letting the clean tones bubble away in an almost baroque manner.  Only the lead-in tracks (on each side of the old vinyl) are more strident, pulsing along like 70s sci-fi series themes.  The overall effect is akin to a cleaner, early-digital-era version of Switched On Bach that swaps out the warmth of the Moog for the relatively clinical (but still charming) Yamaha.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Henryk Górecki ‎- The Essential Górecki (1993 compi of works 1958-69, rec. '67/'69)

Strictly speaking, we had the truly essential Górecki just under a year ago with the premiere recording of his his 3rd symphony, but this early stuff is a different beast entirely, and well worth hearing.  I have wondered since getting this disc if anyone in 1993 was fooled into thinking it would be another nice, melancholy companion to the Nonesuch/Dawn Upshaw Third, and getting a rude awakening with what lay beneath that deceptive album cover above...

This CD, then, is Essential - in giving a neat portrait of the angry young Górecki carving out his early style in the late 50s through to late 60s.  These first four pieces were released on LP in 1967, and include the huge blocks of oddly-scored sounds collapsing into each other of Zderzenia-Scontri (Collisions) (1960), setting the stage for the Polish school of sonorism over the next decade.  Genesis II (1962) is an even more explosive work that brings prime early Xenakis to mind, with its opening air-raid glissando collapsing into scratches and scrapes before the whole ensemble kick in.
Selected Compositions LP, Poland 1967 (tracks 1-4 on Essential CD)
Refren (1965) shows Górecki's style gradually maturing, and starting to point the way towards the 3rd symphony a decade later.  Lastly, to fill out this compilation we get 27 minutes of Muzyka Staropolska (Old Polish Music) (1969), in its premiere recording - fascinating stuff, with its recurring brass fanfare glueing it together and combining old folk melodies in a great modernist whole, not unlike Three Pieces In The Old Style.

Polskie Nagrania Muza

Friday, 13 January 2017

Keith Jarrett Trio - Changeless (rec. 1987, rel. 1989)

By the late 80s, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette had carved out their niche as the great standards trio - but in concert they were also leaving room to stretch out and improvise, whenever a particular groove led them.  Four especially inspired examples of this were collected on this album, from recordings of a US tour in October 1987; the fifteen minute Endless is generally held to be the standout, as it gradually weaves its hypnotic spell, and I'm not going to disagree.  An essential document of pure inspiration.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Iannis Xenakis - Pléiades / Psappha (1990 compi)

Time for some totally metal Xenakis (and wooden/drum skin sounds too), in his 1979 masterpiece for percussion ensemble.  Pléiades' four movements can be performed in any order - this 1990 recording by the Swedish Kroumata Ensemble sticks to the first permutation listed here.

Given some of the sonic extremeties that Xenakis reached, Pléiades is actually quite listenable, even with the bespoke metal bars of the sixxen (six players + Xenakis) going through their paces.  Starting out sounding like Steve Reich's early ensemble practicing in a junkyard, most of the work is highly rhythmic and even has a good melodic sensibility to it.  As a bonus on this benchmark BIS release, there's a 1981 recording of Danish percussionist Gert Mortensen performing Psappha, composed by Xenakis in 1975, and with a truly memorable ending.