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.


Monday, 9 January 2017

Van Morrison - Saint Dominic's Preview (1972)

With my trans-Irish Sea parentage, Van Morrison was always going to be part of the musical staple diet growing up - and this album remains a favourite.  Recorded in late '71/early '72 at the height of Morrison's California period, Saint Dominic's Preview is perfectly balanced between short, zippy soul/blues classics (straight off the blocks with the breathless acapella euphoria of Jackie Wilson Said) and two 10 minute+ epics.

Of the latter, Almost Independence Day drifts in a stream of Krause-synth consciousness and two chord 12-string guitar, giving it a striking resemblance to Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here title track from three years later.  But the  definite highlight of this great record is Listen To The Lion - for me, it's simply one of the greatest, most unreserved and fearless vocal performances Morrison ever accomplished.  Gives me chills every time once he really lets rip in the middle section, before things calm down again.

And all my love comes tumbling down

Friday, 6 January 2017

Gérard Grisey - Les Espaces Acoustiques (composed 1974-85; this recording '96-'98)

Been focusing on the Romanian side of spectralism up until now, so here's a back-to-basics.  Grisey (1946-1998) was one of the French pioneers of the technique, and over a period of ten years he developed the six pieces in this suite to show just how mindblowing it could sound.

Starting off with 17 minutes of solo viola being scraped to within an inch of its life, Les Espaces Acoustiques then expands its instrumental palate piece by piece.  The third part, Partiels, is possibly the most famous, and perfectly demonstrates the spectral composition techique as the low note on the trombone is dissected by sonographic analysis, and its harmonic overtones given to the other instruments.  Transitoires, for the full orchestra, is worth waiting for, with some frequencies that could shake the floor of a concert hall (love to hear this live at some point).

Disc 1
Disc 2

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Michael Hedges - Aerial Boundaries (1984)

Second album from acoustic guitar virtuoso Hedges, who died in a road accident aged just 43; a huge loss of a true individualist.  Often filed in 'new age' bins due to his association with the Windham Hill label, there was much more to his technique and melodic sensibility that should've reached a massive audience.

Everything's instrumental here (he'd evetually record some vocal tracks later in the 80s) and perfectly produced, with an ECM-esque swathe of reverb highlighting all the hammering/pulling techniques and making for a timeless record.  Can never quite decide if I like the cover of Neil Young's After The Gold Rush, or if it misses the mark a bit (surely he could've had a stab at...anything more guitar-based from Young's catalogue, and made it shine with his brilliant technique?) - download and decide for yourself, and enjoy the rest of this gorgeous album.

The Magic Farmer

Monday, 2 January 2017

Die Engel Des Herrn - Live! As Hippie-Punks (rec. 1993, rel. 1995)

Can't believe it's been a year already!  Firstly, many thanks to everyone who dropped by to download, leave comments, and follow-back on their blogrolls - you make it all worthwhile.

Here's to this year then.  First order of business - I believe I said I'd post this album eventually, a year ago today in fact when kicking things off with DEDH's studio album.   So what better time for some live Klaus Dinger in all his shambolic glory, with his most underrated band, in what may have actually been their only gig in Dusseldorf at the Malkasten arts centre, on 21 June 1993.

And a nice rough-and-ready recording it is too, with a decent, clear bootleg quality, of Dinger and DEDH revisiting material from their album - most notably transposing Bitte, Bitte into a minor key, which does it a world of good - and making a decent fist of two La Dusseldorf classics.  Viva is the opener, and a good 25 minutes are set aside for a fine, bluesy version of Cha Cha 2000.  Before Dinger's signature song, there's also 20 minutes of fresh DEDH material, proving that there could've been more mileage in this group - The Song in particular develops from a subtle start to a classic Dinger buildup towards the end of its 10 minute duration - but true to their frontman's mercurial form, Die Engel Des Herrn would fall apart shortly afterwards and the remnants would morph into early La! Neu?.

Tanz auf die Zukunft mit mir