jeudi 26 novembre 2009

Briggan Krauss : "300"

(Knitting Factory, 1998)

Immerse head in big bucket of New York downtown saxophone skronk. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. That's kind of what listening to Briggan Krauss' 300 is like. Krauss is a bit of a madman on the alto saxophone, even by the standards of the downtown scene, which — after all — is not populated by a bunch of shrinking violets. Leading this two-session recording with keyboardist Wayne Horvitz and drummer Kenny Wollesen, Krauss is positively unhinged a good deal of the time; most of his work with groups like Babkas, Pigpen, Sex Mob, and even the Andrea Parkins Trio (which also features Wollesen) is comparably restrained. He cuts loose with scalar runs that permute into screams, wails, and gravel-voiced roars — as well as mews, sputters, flutters, and burrs that seem to mimic a variety of fantasy forest creatures (or bizarro aquatic denizens, as in "Sea Monster"). On the DX-7, Horvitz unleashes his own assault of funkified synth distortion, while the always inventive Wollesen contributes everything from wild thrashings to subtle colorations to spot-on delivery of the rhythmic pulse. 300 moves through sometimes wrenching mood shifts from one piece to the next: Horvitz's "Bingo," an understated piano and saxophone duet with a lovely melody, is followed by the sheer hysteria of "Some Woman's Strange Laugh," with its flurry of low-register sax notes followed by a high-pitched downward glissing squeal, over and over again (that's some laugh all right). Most of the tunes are improvised by the band, and a third are composed by either Krauss or Horvitz. Scored or not, many of the pieces are like sonic snapshots rather than extended-form cinematic excursions; Krauss and his bandmates don't usually roam far afield from the beginning to the end of a tune, choosing instead to discover and fool around a while with particular (sometimes lunatic) ideas that will either tickle or drill into your ears, and then abandon them before they've worn out their welcome. Krauss does actually display a sensible streak, at least knowing how long to push his repetitions before they get too bonkers, unless of course getting bonkers is the point. Then after working up a thick lather, Krauss will rinse it all away with a touch of simplicity and beauty — before dumping the crazy stuff all over your head again. And when you step out of his shower of saxophone squeals, your ears will be squeaky clean.

Dave Lynch (All Music)


Andrea Parkins : "Slippage"

(Knitting Factory, 1996)

Multi-Instrumentalist/composer Andrea Parkins plays a significant role within the adventurous, often cutting edge New York City Downtown scene. Here, along with fellow New York Downtown constituents, Kenny Wolleson (d) and Briggan Krauss (saxes), Parkins continues her unique conceptual approaches with the follow up to her previous Knitting Factory release “Cast Iron Fact”.
On “Slippage”, Parkins pays a bit more attention to compositional and thematic development in contrast to “Cast Iron Fact” which dealt more with “free” improvisation and placed more emphasis on abstractions, disparate sounds and unorthodox voicings. An interesting approach, which worked well; however, Parkins and company seem to convey a bit more self-assurance and focus on this new release. “Slippage” does not forgo the exploratory dialogue and improvisational techniques utilized in “Cast Iron Fact”; however, the compositions are slightly more structured and attain a richer balance of continuity and direction. Ultimately, the overall flow fares well on this project.
The opener, “Remarkable Spectacle of a Frozen Cataract” features Ms. Parkins on sampler and piano. The music is fitting for such a bizarre notion of witnessing a frozen cataract and sounds menacing or perhaps even scientific. “Local Cosmography” is at times surrealistic as Parkins utilizes her sampler to invoke circus-like themes. The title cut “Slippage” is a free jazz piece where Parkins’ piano work treads waters that touch on Cecil Taylor and features creative and spunky dialogue with saxophonist Briggan Krauss. Kenny Wolleson’s drumming fills in the gaps and generates off meter tempos to offset the conversational motifs between Parkins and Krauss. “Beautiful Animal” features Krauss’ furious clarinet work as he paints a vivid picture to coincide with Parkins’ brief fragmented statements on the piano. The overall tone of this composition appears to mimic a chamber-esque like environment as the recurring theme provides the foundation for otherworldly forays into meaningful yet rampant dialogue. On “Early TV”, Parkins picks up the accordion as this tune summons imagery of TV pioneer and funnyman Milton Berle’s goofy slapstick routines or the comedic banter of Sid Caesar. “Early TV” is a gas! The playful nature hints at comedic TV in the 1950’s as Parkins explodes with gobs of imagery and clearly engages her innermost thoughts and creative wherewithal. Here, the movements segue into a fantastic ambient-electronic interlude, which could draw some comparisons to some of the well-known Germanic gods of electronica ala Cluster or Peter Namlook. Here, the band deterministically portray the increasing presence of Television in our lives, as Wolleson moves forward with a straight-four style backbeat. The main theme resurfaces and serves as the finale or coda. “Lost Lure” is a hard-edged rocker as Krauss shows commanding presence with his baritone sax. Parkins goes it alone on the solo piano piece titled “Capture” complete with huge block chords, thematic developments that hit you in spurts and an overall inquisitive style of play as detected by the linear voicings in her compositional evolution. The final track, “Story Of An Eye” (you have to love these titles) features more sampler articulations that once again straddle a quasi ambient-electronic feel, complete with firm backbeats and Parkins subtle accordion maneuvers which adds a dash of nuance.
Andrea Parkins hits the mark with Slippage as she mirrors concepts and styles that may seem familiar yet her patented artistic voice serves as the focal point and the results are imminently rewarding. Also, Ms. Parkins reaps numerous benefits from her equally gifted peers, Briggan Krauss and Kenny Wollesen.

Glenn Astarita (All Music)


lundi 23 novembre 2009

"Secular steel"

(Gaff Music, 2004)

In the late '90s Arhoolie Records' Sacred Steel series finally exposed the joyous gospel tradition of steel guitar to a wider audience, proving that country and Hawaiian music were not the exclusive domain of pedal and lap steel guitars. Inspired by that series, Elliott Sharp decided to join in the fun and asked a bunch of steel players to contribute to Secular Steel, a fascinating and freewheeling demonstration of just how far these instruments can be taken. In fact, there are tracks where the listener would be hard-pressed to correctly identify the instrument being played, as on "Leslie the Alien" or "Slow Lights." Eugene Chadbourne plays a traditional (?) tune on what sounds like a prepared lap steel, while Bob Hoffnar summons droning howls, surpassed in terms of menace only by Mark Dagley's powerful and almost frightening "Steel Guitar Moan." "Orion on the Horizon" is also built on a drone and has a slightly Middle Eastern sound, which is more pronounced on Andy Marshall's "East by Southwest," where he adds dumbek, saz, and oud to his lap steel to great effect. Henry Kaiser plays a sly double tribute with "Ahoy Sonny," a tip of the hat to Sonny Sharrock's deranged slide playing where Kaiser uses the same freaky guitar effect as Frank Zappa on "Ship Ahoy." Oddly enough, Lucky Oceans, steel player for Western swing revivalists Asleep at the Wheel, turns in one of the most "out there" pieces, while that of guitar maverick and curator Elliott Sharp is among the most conventional sounding. Despite being dedicated to the undersung bluesman Earl Hooker, David Toop's track is another one of the more avant-garde-sounding pieces, while Joe Goldmark and Stephen Ulrich contribute what one might first expect from a steel guitar compilation. Secular Steel has a little something for everyone interested in steel guitar, from pretty straight-up country to completely avant-garde free improv and a healthy dose of good humor that runs throughout. The pacing of the album is excellent, such that the outer limits never gang up on more timid listeners, but there are more than enough risks taken so that listeners coming at this from the Sharp camp won't be disappointed. Steel guitar fans really ought to check this one out.

Sean Westergaard (All Music)


John Hollenbeck : "The Claudia quintet"

(CRI, 2001)

... In the Claudia Quintet's drum chair, John Hollenbeck often locks into a rhythm and gradually builds the intensity of his attack, taking his own sweet time to reach the dynamic peak in a piece of music. He also propels the music forward with a crisp and clean style that doesn't overwhelm his bandmates, including Chris Speed, the noted N.Y.C. reedman who tends to prefer subtle expressiveness over displays of high-volume bluster. On this debut CD by the band, Claudia pursues a cool after-hours chillout vibe much of the time, and the instrumentation should suggest what Hollenbeck is after: aside from Speed (contributing a bit of tenor sax in addition to clarinet), the quintet features vibraphonist Matt Moran, accordionist Ted Reichman, and ubiquitous upright bassist Drew Gress.
This lineup doesn't require listeners to stuff cotton in their ears to prevent hearing damage. The inclination is rather to pull out the cotton in order to best appreciate the clarity and nuance of this ensemble — the round tones of the clarinet, shimmer of the vibes, earthiness of the accordion, and deep resonance of the bass. All the instruments are afforded room to breath, as unembellished melodic lines and shifting harmonics are drawn out across the sure and steady pulse and gathering rhythmic energy of "Meinetwegen" and the first and third of the album's "Thursday" compositions. Modalism and momentum are traded for spacy atmospherics on the second "Thursday" piece, with its ringing and sustained tones courtesy of Moran's bowed and struck vibes. But don't think The Claudia Quintet is entirely a space cruise, as the album includes the lovely downtempo ballad "Love Song for Kate," the swinging tenor-driven "Burt and Ken," the nearly cacophonous riot of voices during the improvised middle section of "a-b-s-t-i-n-e-n-c-e," and the angular stop-and-start "No D," in which Reichman fires off a solo on accordion that sounds about as wild as one could get without breaking the thing. Auspicious debut, indeed. One senses that a new and important voice has emerged on the New York creative music scene.

Dave Lynch (All Music)


"New York guitars"

(CRI, 1995)

The electric guitar was born into a hostile climate… When the first amplified guitars were put on the market in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the first significant public campaigns against ever-increasing city noise were also taking place. Among the anti-cacophony mottos: “The silence of each assures rest for us all.” Thus, from its inception, the electric guitar was a symbol of noise, imprecision and rebellion. Its weapon: amplification, the enemy of restful sleep. Though the New York composers and improvisers on this record coax everything from dissonance and drones to blues and jazz out of their guitars, they all have one thing in common: they are by nature defiant, undermining so-called serious music by making it on an electric guitar.
Playing avant-garde music on an electric guitar is nothing new. The tradition in New York goes back at least to minimalist composer La Monte Young writing For Guitar in 1958 (which was later transposed to electric guitar) and Sonny Sharrock making a name for himself as a free-jazz guitarist in the 1960s. What sets the composers here apart is that they grew up in an era of rock and roll. Some of them were even playing in rock bands before finding other outlets for their musical experimentation. With all the baggage of rock history now attached to the electric guitar, separating it from the tradition of rock (or blues or jazz) has become not an act of appropriation but subversion. So when Mark Howell flips through sixty-five years of guitar styles and techniques in nine minutes and Judy Dunaway composes with the noise inherent in the technology of amplification, they are not celebrating the history of guitar music and technology but exploring its limits.
Is there a “New York Guitar” school of style? Some would like to think so. After all, New York became a melting pot of influential experimental guitarists in the late 1970s, with guitar symphonists Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham, noise makers Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of the acclaimed underground rock band Sonic Youth, mathematically-based composer and improviser Elliot Sharp, and no-wave cacophonists Arto Lindsay and Pat Place, all circulating in the same scene. But here, you’ll find no discernible line linking John Kings’s blues, David First’s microtonal play and Loren MazzaCane Connor’s abstractions.
If there is anything these New York composer/guitarists have in common it is the environment they live in, not the musical terrain they’re mapping. The noise of the city—which continues unhindered despite the noise-pollution fighters of the 1920s and 1930s—has a significant effect on the psyche of musicians. It raises their threshold for extreme sounds while exacerbating their need to avoid them. The result is that composers either incorporate the cacophony of the city into their pieces or try to escape from it altogether. Examples of the former are Ken Valitsky merging guitar, typewriter, ringing phones, sirens, and other computer-modified sounds in Meaning-Less, Phil Kline evoking the Doppler effect created by passing car horns in A Fantasy on One Note, and Nick Didkovsky building a distorted, pointillist collage in Flykiller. Examples of the latter are Carolyn Master retreating into the colors of the inner world that is En Masse and Brandon Ross meditating on the purity of the jazz saxophone in O, People. As the lyrics to one anonymous blues tune go:

You can take the guitar outside,
You can take the guitar inside
Jes don’t take it no place, young man,
Where there ain’t no ear open wide.

Neil Strauss


Lesli Dalaba : "Core samples"

(Ear-Rational, 1991)

One of the most distinctive trumpet players in improvised music, Lesli Dalaba combines a mastery of unorthodox playing techniques with a delicate, moving lyricism. Lesli began performing in California in the 1970’s with Wayne Horvitz. In 1978 she moved to New York, where she formed her own quartet and performed for 10 years as both a soloist and ensemble player, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. Lesli was a member of Wayne Horvitz’ and Robin Holcomb’s New York Composers Orchestra, Elliott Sharp’s Carbon, and the Balkan brass band Zlatne Ustne, which was twice invited to perform in Yugoslavia. Other musicians Lesli has worked with include Derek Bailey, Eugene Chadbourne, Fred Frith, George Lewis, and LaMonte Young. Lesli’s final New York project was Core Sample, a CD of her own compositions.
Lesli has been living in Seattle since 1989. She has been a steady member of Jeff Greinke’s LAND since its inception in 1994. LAND’s tour of China in 1996 inspired the formation of Radio Chongching, her other current project is a looping, electronic trio with Greg Gilmore and Fred Chalenor. Lesli is also a member of Fred Frith’s quintet, Tense Serenity, which toured Europe in ’98 and ’99. In addition to her musical activities, Lesli works as an acupunturist and practitioner of Chinese Medicine.


David Moss Dense band : "Live in Europe"

(Ear-Rational, 1988)

In 1985, David Moss released ''Dense Band,'' an album that distilled downtown noise improvisation into song-length chunks and added a funk beat now and then. It was a showcase for Mr. Moss's precise, clattery drumming and his peculiar specialty: improvised vocal gibberish that can evoke anything from a newscast in Lithuanian to a soprano wrestling a hyena.
Two years later, he is touring with a group called Dense Band; the group made its American debut Wednesday at the Whitney Annex.
The current Dense Band includes Wayne Horvitz on keyboard, Jean Chaine on electric bass, Christian Marclay on turntables and John King on guitar. It was a showcase for both Mr. Moss and Mr. Chaine, who made an impressive New York debut with ultra-fast funk patterns, whizzing melodies and strummed and plucked chords that took the innovations of the late Jaco Pastorius a step further.
Nearly a dozen concise, varied pieces used stop-start patterns, rock and funk riffs, bursts of loud noise and relative quiet, and Mr. Moss's own sense of timing and timbre -part funk, part slapstick. He uses a drum kit that features bent-up, clanking cymbals as well as conventional ones, so a steady beat can sound like it suddenly collided with a garbage truck.
Mr. Horvitz's bell-like keyboard sounds, Mr. King's guitar twangs and Mr. Marclay's selections from records - mostly swelling orchestral chords and operatic voices, rendered silly by their context - also contributed to the poised, cheerful cacophony. The only problem was the Whitney Annex's acoustics; the echoing concrete-and-glass room muddied the music.

Jon Pareles (New York Times, 1987)


Frigg : "Dust diary"

(99 records, 1997)


note : other great Frigg albums on Lucky blog : HERE

"The tapes"

(Katahdin, 1998)

the story :

In 1995, I had just moved to East 3rd Street and was thrilled by the East Village’s then vital music scene, but I was still spending a great deal of time working with Anthony Braxton and various other people from his community. I loved working with Braxton, but I also was on the lookout for some people who were closer to me in age (21) and in aesthetic.
The first time I played with Reuben Radding and John Hollenbeck at John’s rehearsal space near Times Square I was utterly unprepared to meet two musicians who fit the bill so perfectly. Reuben, who I met at my first and only concert at the old Knitting Factory (a duo with Anthony Coleman in the Knot Room), shared my musical obsessions, which at the time were free jazz, field recordings of traditional world musics, and post-punk of the Minutemen/Hüsker Dü type. I had never even heard Hollenbeck before. Of course, he was and is a unique virtuoso, and before he discovered yoga, meditation, and Meredith Monk, he was rather intimidating as a player and as a person. His fiery, unpredictable playing combined with his implacable demeanor gave a mysterious first impression. I wanted to work with them, and Reuben seemed amenable to the concept, but John’s reaction was unreadable. As Reuben and I headed to the F train, I asked him, “Do you think John liked it?” Reuben seemed confident that he did.
So we had a band, but we needed a gig. I also had recently met a couple of young go-getters named John Scott and Melissa Caruso. John was exploring an amazing new technology called “the internet.” He was convinced that it was going to be big. Melissa, a native Lower East Sider (I have often thought of the Fugs song “Slum Goddess” when around her), observed that the rapidly gentrifying East Village needed a low-key, comfortable space where students, drifters, writers, musicians and stray celebrities could lounge for hours on flea market sofas. So they rented a vacant dentist’s office on Avenue A between 9th Street and St. Mark’s Place, installed some T1 lines and an espresso machine and created Defying logic, John and Melissa decided that what they really needed to attract a sexy young clientele was some avant-garde accordion music. They asked me if I’d be interested in playing there once a week.
It is not hard to get gigs in New York. There are plenty of venues that book unknown musicians who are willing play for the door, for tips, or for no money at all. In the hardscrabble New York jazz world, many artists struggle for years to develop a musical concept playing random one-off gigs with ad-hoc groups of freelance musicians. While this can be a rewarding experience on some (mostly non-monetary) levels, the only way to coalesce a band’s musical identity, start to develop a devoted audience, and maybe even generate some much-needed buzz in one fell swoop is a regular gig with the same people in the same place for an extended period of time. Many of the artists and groups who dominate creative music started with the assistance of regular gigs (Medeski Martin & Wood = Village Gate, Masada = Mission Café & Mogador, Dave Douglas Tiny Bell Trio = Bell Caffe). Having only been in town for a few months, I didn’t realize what a rare and special opportunity John and Melissa were offering me, but Reuben and John, crusty veterans that they were, knew all too well. When I called and pitched them the idea, they jumped at it.
Soon enough, one fine Monday night I was rousing people in varying degrees of stupor from their thrift store sofas, a process which was to be dubbed “harshing mellows.” After pushing aside the larger pieces of furniture and setting up the drums right in front of the window, we looked out onto Tompkins Square Park and Avenue A’s endless stream of humanity. It was clear that this would not be a normal gig. Unlike most jazz clubs where the band is snugly ensconced in the most isolated, cloistered area of the building, so that the pristine listening environment will not be disturbed by ambient noise, we were pushed right up against the street. Our mise-en-scene was permeable to both outside noise and outside people. Everyone passing by heard us, and thanks to free admission, our audience often included random passers-by who would not normally be encountered in the sheltered environment of the jazz club. As one elder musician commented after a particularly disturbing encounter with the outside world (a pair of East Village lunatics came in to provide some thoroughly whacked-out criticism), “I’ve played for the door, but I’ve never played near the door.”
Then, a truly remarkable thing happened. Week by week, more and more people started coming to the gigs- and not just random street maniacs. By the winter of 1996, Monday night at felt… happening! It must have been rather shocking to stumble into a slightly grungy café where three nerdy-looking guys were playing spunky versions of Sun Ra grooves and Turkish folk songs to a rapt (or maybe just nodded-out) crowd of East-Villagers, plus a bunch of oblivious ‘net surfers. Some press coverage followed, and Monday night at became an institution. Even a few uptowners began showing up: clarinetist David Krakauer started sitting in, becoming a regular featured guest and drawing in many more people with his pied-piper-like Klezmer wail.
But as all “Behind the Music” viewers know, success in the music business, even on our stratospheric level, is always accompanied by crushing interpersonal strains leading to an inevitable implosion, after which some band members carry on, in a pathetic attempt to salvage their careers. For Reuben, the stress of leading his Sun Ra tribute band Myth-Science through its rather problematic Knitting Factory-booked tour of European jazz festivals, combined with his crushing schedule of free jazz gigs and his budding career as a freelance porn scribe, led him to a logical and understandable decision: move to Montana. John, knowing that the situation at was too good to lose, formed the Claudia Quintet with Drew Gress, Matt Moran, Chris Speed and me. Since the members of the CQ were too busy to perform every Monday, I transformed Monday night at into a normal concerts series. Our friends like Matt and Theo Bleckmann started playing, as did elder statesmen of the East Village like Tim Berne, Anthony Coleman and Eugene Chadbourne.
As the cachet of a gig at altdot increased, so did the traffic on my answering machine. I became burned out from an endless stream of phone calls from my fellow musicians seeking gigs. John and Melissa started to work on new ventures and spend less time at altdot, and the new staff was less sympathetic to our music. I have a vivid memory of the night when one of the greatest improv performances I have ever witnessed (by John, Matt, Theo, and Skuli Sverrisson), was given the hook by a clueless counterperson. The band seamlessly continued its performance while breaking down its gear, maintaining the same level of intensity until the last drumstick was put away. In some ways I feel like that music never really ended...
Of course, the “new ventures” John and Melissa were working on proved to be more important than we could have imagined. Inspired by’s success, John and Melissa rented the former Kedem kosher winery on then desolate Norfolk street and opened Tonic. In the beginning, Tonic featured a beauty salon in front and a rotating schedule of entertainment including a Wednesday night music series curated by yours truly, an expansion of the booking policy. The first gig at Tonic was Mark Stewart of the Bang on a Can All Stars, Polygraph Lounge, and Paul Simon’s band, playing the daxophone to the horror of a chihuahua. But the Tonic story is one for another day.
Thankfully, the music of survives on this CD, which I produced in an optimistic moment in 1998. Flush with cash from a part-time job at an Internet company (are you feeling the waves of nostalgia yet?), I printed up these CD’s, which sold approximately… bupkis. But now, thanks to the world-wide blockbuster success of my record “Emigré” and those of the Claudia Quintet, maybe the world finally is ready for the music we made on those Monday nights.

Ted Reichman


dimanche 22 novembre 2009

Wayne Horvitz-Butch Morris-Bobby Previte : "Nine below zero"

(Sound Aspects, 1987)

Nine Below Zero is a relatively early recorded example of all three of the players involved and, interestingly, one of their freest and most rewarding. Horvitz and Previte, in particular, would go on to much more thematic music, drawing heavily from rock, jazz, and fusion, though hints of those borrowings certainly show up here. These pieces are somewhat closer, in miniature form, to the "conductions" which Butch Morris would champion in oncoming years, striking a delicate balance between composition and free improvisation. The general mood is subdued and introspective, Horvitz' signature keyboard sound playing very nicely off Morris' lovely, melancholy cornet. The pieces, with the exception of two typically gorgeous numbers by Robin Holcomb, are all by Horvitz and, when the melody eventually surfaces, have his sense of off-kilter, slightly poppy feel to them, as though rescuing the lone delicious kernels from an otherwise forgettable Top 40 ditty. A couple of tracks feature the unfortunate sound of mid-'80s drum machines, prevalent at the time among with a number of musicians experimenting with new technology, but sounding shallow and trite 15 years hence. Still, as Horvitz and Previte especially have garnered larger followings in the ensuing years, Nine Below Zero is a very worthwhile picture of one aspect of the roots and a fine recording in general.

Brian Olewnick (All Music)


Jim Staley : "Northern dancer"

(Einstein, 1996)

Jim Staley occupies a unique position among trombonists, crossing genres freely between post-modern classical music and avant-garde jazz. He boasts spectacular technique, including the ability to spit forth clusters of notes at rapid speed. Usually concentrating in the mid-to-lower registers of the trombone, his big, gruff tone hearkens to an earlier era, though his wondrous abilities and style plant him firmly in the free music world. Raised in Illinois, Staley served in the armed forces as a member of a U.S. Army Band in Berlin, before receiving Bachelor and Masters degrees in music from the University of Illinois in the late 1970s. Since 1978, Staley has lived in lower Manhattan, where he has actively performed and recorded with many cutting edge innovators.

Recorded nearly a decade after the epochal Mumbo Jumbo, and using some of the same musicians, Jim Staley continues to effectively utilize the trio format, although he adds an effective duo piece with John Zorn (again on alto sax) and a deliberative solo statement on trombone. Every one of the nine tracks has its moments, but the emphasis on longer pieces and greater atmosphere mitigates the edge that made the earlier release so compelling. Still, admirers of Staley's gorgeously subversive trombone will not be disappointed, as he continues to impress with knotty runs, fat, globular splats, and riveting, muted jabs. The two tracks with electric harpist Zeena Parkins take awhile to get moving, but the attractive work of Ikue Mori on drum machines and Davey Williams on guitar adds nicely to the mix.

Steve Loewy (All Music)


Zeena Parkins : "The opium war"


This fascinating radio play about the opium trade in New York at the turn of the 20th century is such a confounding, brilliant assortment of fragmented narrative — that tracks wonderfully for those who pay attention — and instrumental prowess it's a wonder of the soundscape form. Zeena Parkins has enlisted the aid of some of Downtown's finest to help realize Ana Maria Simò's text, produced the record, and turned over the entire project to Linda Chapman to direct. Centering on one family in transition in New York, the Parkins/Simò collaboration uses seven cast members to tell a conflicting tale of love, race relations, commerce, and the shifting perception of the narcotics trade in early-20th century New York. Parkins scripted sections for each of the instrumentalists here to play in tandem with one another or solo as an accompaniment to the narrative. DJ Olive, Margaret Parkins, Ikue Mori, Tenko, Chris Cochrane, David Shea, Jo Trump, D.D. Dorveillier, and Jonathan Bepler all lend hands toward creating a non-instructive, yet instrumentally and sonically compelling, musical narrative that suggests the narrative forward. Different sounds become associated with different characters; they appear whenever the character speaks. The play itself is a study in narrative brokenness, with the entire tale being revealed without a narrator. Tensions become nearly unbearable as they reflect the separation and brokenness in human relationships when economics becomes an equation for power within a household, within a neighborhood, within a city. This is arresting stuff. It may not be for everybody, but for those who are patient enough to take it in, it offers great rewards.

Thom Jurek (All Music)


NB : one fabulous (out of print) album by Zeena Parkins (with Christian Marclay, Tom Cora, Samm Bennett, Iku Mori, Wayne Horvitz...) on LAFOLIEDUJOUR blog : HERE

Aki Onda : "Beautiful contradiction"

(All Access, 1998)

... If anyone who deserves to inherit Ryuichi Sakamoto's role as rootless cosmopolitan, it's Onda. 1998's Beautiful Contradiction CD shares Sakamoto's aesthetic delicacy and networking capacity, with a cast list that includes Brixa Bargeld, French Improv guitarist Noël Akchoté, soundtrack composer Simon Fisher Turner, and on the extraordinary "Do You Remember?", singer Linda Sharrock, wife of the late electric jazz guitarist Sonny. "I was inspired by her voice for a long time," rhapsodies Onda. "It consists of strength and weakness, a fever and ice cold sadness - I thought her voice was a 'beautiful contradiction' in itself. Perfect voice for me. Normally it's not difficult to find someone to work with. If I listen to their sound carefully, I can know them immediately. I just follow my intuition. I saw Noël Akchoté in 1996 or 97, his music was so brilliant and I assumed this guy has a sense that is very close to mine. He knows how to reflect himself in music - he's not just a guitarist."
Onda's project sure clock up the air miles: he records in London, Tokyo, Paris, New York. Does he need be on the move to make music? "My imagination is developed in an imaginary space," he muses, "not in a physically existing city such as Tokyo, London, or Paris. Somewhere between two cities. A place maybe existing in a film. Milan Kundera, a Czech writer who now lives in France, his books gave me a good suggestion on this."
Escaping into an aesthetic universe revealed to him by his painter mother, and mindful of the hardships he witnessed in Nara's Buraku ghetto of displaced ethnic folk, he bypassed the plasticity 80s New Wave by taking refuge in the free jazz of Albert Ayler, Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Don Cherry. After a few years in London he moved to Osaka, had his mind blown by seeing Otomo Yoshihide's Ground Zero ("The furious sound was so desperate!"), and fell in with screaming singer Yamatsuka Eye (whose group, Boredoms, Onda had once photographed as a teenager) and electronics expert Nobukazu Takemura, forming Audio Sports in 1990. "The mood in Osaka was completely different from Tokyo's: more lively and crazy," he says. "It was a small society and everyone knew each other."
Audio Sports grew from the skewed HipHop of their 1992 debut Era Of Glittering Gas, to the psychotropic brew on 1996's mini-album Strange Emotion, which featured Otomo, rapper D-zine, saxophonist Greg Osby and gender-bending synth player Hoppy Kamiyama. By 1998 onda was ready to strike out on his own; his solo work opens out a space where musicians can spool their contributions into a sound pool. "When I work with musicians in the studio," he says, "I always bring a master plan and try to fix it with them. But sometimes the others have a better idea. And if it's better than mine, I definitely take it. i don't have an interest in a world where everyone has the same idea. I'm not an egoistic tyrant."
"The most important thing in my music," he continues, "[is that] I'm always describing 'personal politics' between individuals. My music exists where their gaze and my gaze cross. When it happens in a studio, I catch it quickly and record it onto a tape. I collect such fragments that really connect to our experience. I try to create a space where voices mingle and overlap. So I think I'm just describing our daily life. I'm always watching for something 'behind the sound'".
If the content of so much electronica refers back only to the tools that constructed it, Onda's poetic sensibility suggests a new expressive range. "I've been questioning whether music evolves from music itself. I stopped thinking about this possibility in 1996. That's why I stopped using the project name Audio Sports. I was playing musical experience and eclectic styles anonymously: a sound game, I think. But what I'm doing now is a mind game."

Rob Young (excerpts from an article in The Wire, September 1999)


samedi 14 novembre 2009

Michael Shrieve : "Fascination" + "Flying Polly"

(Cmp, 1994)

Progressing with guitarist Carlos Santana from his early Afro-Cuban rock and pop-based successes to his experimentation with jazz fusion, drummer Michael Shrieve subsequently released a string of fine solo recordings of his own. These two features guitar hero Bill Frisell and the ever-inventive organist Wayne Horvitz for a rather divergent set featuring ethereal soundscapes, loose grooves, and crunching opuses. Here, Shrieve provides sturdy backbeats to coincide with some nicely placed fills and his acute implementations of the dynamic. This effort highlights Frisell's wily and rather slithery guitar work, enhanced by the glowing sonic characteristics of the production, when viewed upon as a whole. The band is apt to soar skyward via climactic overtures in concert with a crash-and-burn methodology. Needless to say, this affair represents a potent concoction of jazz fusion melded with folksy themes and an avant-garde-type swing vamp, evidenced on "The Glass Tent." Yet, after a string of enterprising solo outings, Shrieve's solo career quieted down to a near whisper during the late '90s and into the new millennium.

Glenn Astarita (All Music)

disc 1 : HERE

disc 2 : HERE