Rob SCHWIMMER – Uri CAINE – Mark FELDMAN: “Theremin noir“ *****

schwimmer5

Recorded 1999

 

 

This record is a charming one off.  A collection of romantic musical poems was the brainchild of pianist Rob Schwimmer, who at that time experimented with non-mainstream instruments ranging from theremin to daxophone.  He co-opted to the project two stars of cerebral East Coast jazz of the 1990s. 

 

Theremin never flirted successfully with jazz, but Mark Feldman and Uri Caine were no strangers to classical audience.  In fact, Caine accumulated quite an impressive library of rather pretentious renditions of classics ranging from Mahler to Wagner.  In the process, he confounded his audience and almost squandered his talent in shameless eclecticism. 

 

Feldman fared better.  His trio Arcado was among the very few successful attempts to fuse jazz aesthetic with contemporary classical composition.  He broadened his range with baritone violin, but never went far enough to build compositions around the lower pitch, as did Mat Maneri.  Feldman’s virtuosic ability earned him a regular seat with Zorn’s classicizing formations – Bar Kokhba and Masada String Trio. 

 

Adopting some themes written by Bernard Herrmann (famous for his soundtrack to Welles’ and Hitchcock’s movies), the trio achieved the peak of neo-romantic elegy in what could yet be celebrated as the most poignant tribute to Clara Rockmore, the ultimate diva of theremin.  But, as if overwhelmed by the chromatic wealth of his apparatus, Schwimmer himself, and his theremin, often took the back seat in the production and arrangement of the compositions included on this disc.  He has since returned to recording cerebral piano compositions. 

 

 

schwimmer6Twilight Landscape

This first poem opens with a Mahlerian violin intro, softened further by Schwimmer’s misty contours on the theremin.  The atmosphere is one of unperfumed, honest romanticism.  When the inchoate, sparse piano notes wink at us, Feldman’s violin shifts to a higher range, leading a hesitant dance with the somewhat gawky theremin.  Feldman substitutes his initial brushstrokes for a more confident, almost Seifert-an martelé.  This could be unintentional, but the effect is similar to those unforgettable moments when Seifert transposed Coltrane’s tumultuous explorations into his virtuosic medium.  Feldman’s exposé pushes Caine’s piano into low register, but does not marginalize it into an allegedly predictable ostinato.  Indeed, the poem remains free, also rhythm-free.  It will end caressing the extremes of aural perception (high and low), leaving glaring vacancy in the middle.

 

Waltz for Clara

In this piece, written on the day of Clara Rockmore’s death, Schwimmer opts for the instrument’s ‘haunted’ sound which we associate so easily with the famed ambassador of this unique musical device.  Schwimmer doubles with urban (European) accordion in a most innovative fashion.  Aptly transporting us into Clara’s bygone era, Feldman’s romance adopts a gypsy mantle, distinctly nostalgic for pre-war innocence.  His instrument is pitched below the accordion until it frees itself into a flying solo.  Soon after, the theremin takes over the lead, suffusing it with an elegiac lament, consoled by the harmonic duo of piano and accordion.  A far more articulate violin always apportions a measure of penetrating drama, here further underwritten by the piano’s changing amplitude. 

 

The Neighbors

In this short intermezzo, Caine opens with a much faster routine, followed by Feldman’s bowed non-sequiturs.  The violin briefly mimics Paul Zukofsky’s caesura-ridden attacks so strongly associated with the first act from “Einstein on the Beach”.  Caine seeks a romantic ornament when it is over. 

 

Fireflies in Tainan

I am not sure if Uri Caine, who penned this neo-classical composition, referred in the title to the quiet town in Southern Taiwan (I know for a fact that there are fireflies there).  The track opens with a low-end rumble on the piano.  A solo on violin is alluringly enriched with subtle nuances from both theremin and piano, but soon blazes into a scalding high pitch.  This climactic experience does not prevent Feldman from resuming, mine de rien, in concerto mode, pathétique style.  Only Schwimmer’s eternally formless theremin adds shades of sepia.  This flame of neo-classicism does not last and an increasingly free-form piano phrasing turns the piece back into its heavy rumbling stasis.  Feldman’s violin ferments sweetly before scaling up to a pitch of whistle quality.  Fading ritornellos close the piece. 

 

Marnie

Bernard Herrmann’s theme for “Marnie” is an Apolline song scored for violin lead and an accompanying piano.  A very cinematic (though not quite sci-fi) theremin develops a secondary theme, again interwoven with a delicate, secondary piano line.  The violin brings back a sense of elusive structural predictability, but suddenly (and for the first time on this CD), Uri Caine assumes a more forceful role.  In a post-hard bop, self-organizing venture, Caine improvises delightfully until the theremin pushes airily through an eerie transition.  Caine descends from the plateau, but continues to develop the complex theme.  Towards the end, the high pitched violin solo manages to successfully reconcile the dramatic tension of romantic pathos with parametric syncopation. 

 

Sacrifice

A dynamic about-face startles us with a basaltic, delinquent piano ostinato and daring, visceral violin attack.  Schwimmer’s unlikely, electronic swirl injects a welcome, planispheric element into this aggressive foundry.  Feldman’s portatos are a little over the top here, juxtaposed with intense, grilling noise.  His variations – between classical cleanliness and über-pitched nervousness will carry this piece till the last splashes of grandiose piano ostinato.  

 

Carlotta’s Portrait  / Farewell

Another of Herrmann’s musical poems, this time from “Vertigo”.  Feldman’s violin legatos stick to higher register, eventually yielding the melodic role to the hitherto discrete theremin.  Feldman is never far, circulating, maneuvering and burrowing a faint line.  Schwimmer ditches his theremin for daxophone.  His initial forays are frail and twiddly like a mix between a squealing puppy and liquid whirl.  Too bad – he could have done more with this amazingly versatile piece of wooden lute-making. 

 

The Nightmare / The Tower

As most of the shorter vignettes on this record, this one eschews the poetic tones of the longer pieces and thrusts the listener into a more free-form universe.  Amid nervous violin riffing, the frenetically tight piano arpeggios place Caine beyond Cecil Taylor’s cogent anti-classicism (de facto, rather than de iure).  His honest, agitated eruptions drown out most of the violin part.  Meanwhile, the forlorn daxophone wheezes deep in the background, but one has to be very attentive to notice that. 

 

Scène D’Amour

At nearly 10 minutes, “Scène” scores as the longest composition on this record.  It all begins with serene theremin polygons.  After this intro, a succession of bird-like voices emanates from pointillist exchanges between the piano and the violin.  This (accidental?) nod to Olivier Messiaen eventually sinks into theremin’s wooly, mood shifting blankets.  Feldman is particularly virtuosic here, easily catching up with speedy piano outbursts.  Their climaxes are typical for European composition – violin’s projection wins in higher pitch, the piano forces up the volume.  Feldman’s astounds with the sensitivity of his touch and his fluent shifts in articulation.  His romantic legatos are brought alight by the returning theremin, weeping with melancholy. 

 

Tesla’s Blues

Tesla – the genius engineer of ‘Yugoslav’ origin should be remembered by music fans, at the very least, for the reel tape recorder churned out by the Czechoslovak subsidiaries.  This “blues” starts with an analog-sounding electronic circuitry, then some scraping and occasional, non-figurative piano notes.

 

The Fly

This second intermission is performed by amplified daxophone and violin.  This is the closest we can ever get to revive the spirit of the legendary Cora/Reichel collaborations. 

 

Real Joe

Mark Feldman’s only composition here initially appears rigidly classical, placed in concerto setting, with the piano in a subjugated role.  While velocity changes are sudden, decelerations inevitably bring back the comfy shading by theremin.  Its feminine chorus-like configuration frames perfectly the high notes that suddenly spill from Caine’s piano.  Harmonic shadowing with the violin adds some mordents to the nocturnal pensiveness of the piece. 

 

The Bookstore

Theremin waves in yet another loosely structured, cinematic theme.  Violin repetitions and piano figures correlate perfectly, leading into another fidgety missive from the daxophone.

 

Parade on Mars

The wheezing intro on daxophone seems to be amplified through a digital device (DX7 ?).  The instrument responds to the multi-directional impetus of the brutal attack from violin and piano with its celebrated, fretted innocence.  But the trio format soon falls apart, leaving us with Caine’s deadpan voice and the squiggly mayhem of acoustic live improvisation.

 

Paralysis / Circle Song

Another composition by Schwimmer opens with arpeggiated piano figures that slowly mutate into schizophrenic tremolos.  A rather sedate theremin salvages this tender, brooding psalm, with the piano as the only accompaniment.  This brocade passage eventually unleashes Feldman into the one last exercise in default hierarchy.  A bike horn ends this in an ungainly, but counter-intuitively fitting manner. 

 

***

 

SCHWIMMER-CAINE-FELDMAN: “Theremin noir” (1999)

 

Although deprived of any theremin, and less colorful, the Arcado Trio of Mark Feldman, Hank Roberts and Mark Dresser arguably reached the pinnacle of the 20th century classical cum jazz fusion.  

 

DRESSER-FELDMAN-ROBERTS: “Arcado” (1989)

ARCADO: “Behind the Myth” (1990)

ARCADO: “For Three Strings and Orchestra” (1991)

ARCADO: “Live in Europe” (1994)

 

The trio appeared previously together in a larger setting with Tim Berne, but it was very different music.

 

Published in: on November 16, 2008 at 7:31 am  Comments (4)  
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PIED DE POULE: “Café noir” *****

Recorded 1991

 

 

Chanteuse and lyricist Dominique Fonfrède, accordionist Michèle Buirette and contrabassist Geneviève Cabannes first recorded together in 1986, before adopting the self-deprecatingly ironic name “Pied de poule”.  For about ten years, these three French women knit together cryptocrystalline pearls of sublime avant-garde chanson.  Although their background was in jazz, classical and improvisational music, the sum of the parts turned out to be much more than simple amalgam of their extraordinary talent. 

 

Melancholy reigns in the texts and resounds in the individualistic, reflective tone of this highly sensual, feminine creation.  Whenever their lyrical path invited comedy or irony, the melodic line, or theatrical rendition countered the half-smile with a palinode of pensive mood and reflection.  While they certainly did not invent the genre, their unique mélange of witty lines and quirky melodies was always delivered with panache, tasseled with dolorous observations of mature womanhood.

 

On later recordings, Pied de Poule were often supported by two members of Un Drame Musical Instantané – saxophonist and flutist Youenn Le Berre and percussionist extraordinaire Gérard Siracusa. 

 

 

Café noir

Female voice smooth as enamel opens in a constative mode, prodded by accordion’s precise, short phrases and some rapid quarter notes.  Although this opening was penned by the bassist Geneviève Cabannes, she does not appear until later.  This resolutely jumpy chanson plumps the first cubes of melancholy into our musical café break.  Dominique Fonfrède invites us to her world with pithy verse libre.  Her irregular meter and rhyme would allow the semantic content to glide across the lines, increasing the potential for surprise and multiplying the unexpected pointes.  After a short interruption, acoustic bass joins the fray and multi-voice polyphony resumes this short story of the solitude of a café-going woman, always recognized by the waiter.  When the coda comes, it is delivered with an exquisite accordion line, bowed acoustic bass and a canzona-like singing pitched above the preceding theme.  Only isolated phonemes reach us, though, melismatically wrapping random scraps of the now familiar text. 

 

Le rat

The rat, scurrying about rice and radish baits appears too sly to miss the step imposed by Gérard Siracusa’s extraordinarily nimble drumsticks.  Michèle Buirette’s fast bellow shakes and some rodent calls turn this piece into a pleasing satire.  The dramatic vocal slides could evoke contemporary opera type, but the light stick rattle on hand drums and tambourines distract us by impersonating the shining movement of the adorable, furry animal.  Comic jibes at the rat that refuses to catch the bait bring little result (“Will it, or will it not?”).  The little beast is too astute.  Suspensful accordion and percussive crescendo eventually collapse into a disorderly crowd of rat-like talking heads. 

 

La banlieue

Dominique Fonfrède’s initial declamation is slowly being transformed into proper melody by a swinging, almost bandoneon-sounding Buirette and an appropriately smoky, walking bass line.  Yet the attempts to construe a proper “song” fail and a more directly conversational form resurfaces, with the Sprechstimme monologue occasionally interrupted by insistent commentaries from Buirette and Cabannes.  This is a dubious tribute to “banlieue” – desolate French sleeptowns, described here with uncharacteristically non-metaphoric candor: “no commerce, no factories, no offices, no cows, no fields, no villages”.

 

Cha cha gourmand

A refreshingly epicurean Caribbean step with a ‘gavroche’-type wink-wink accordion accents and bowed bass.  A histrionic guffaw at the end of the track invalidates the lightness of its dance-like structure.

 

Le malfrat

The composition begins with parallel street observations by Dominique Fonfrède and Carlos Zingaro.  When an interrogative chanson commences, Zingaro’s violin introduces a dramatic, focused theme.  Buirette’s accordion appears first in a harmonic role but they part ways when the metric element dissipates and Fonfrède’s performance descends into recitative accompagnato.  Her initially anodyne commentary turns existentialist, harnessing operatic levels energy.  We then hear Youenn Le Berre on flute.  His full, sultry tone softens considerably the lyrical content, but not necessarily the melodic sonorities.  As an aside, one could expect such contrapuntal combination of accordion and flute to be highly promising in the hands of an accomplished arranger.  Joseph Racaille, Frank Pahl, Jean Derome and David Garland each used it with considerable success, but many others tried and failed.  More recently Belgian band Aranis has successfully incorporated such timbral and structural juxtaposition into its orchestrations. 

 

Les sept mains

This is a multi-tracked solo on double bass.  Dr Jekyll Cabannes appears somewhat hesitant, meting out wooly, investigative pizzicatos on E-string.  Mrs Hyde Cabannes is a romantic, handling adroitly detaché bowing with short, yet reflexively autumnal phrases. 

 

Liseron I, matin de juin

A remarkably condensed deconstruction of a very private early morning hustle recounted here in passé simple.  The narrative collapses into three competing voices.  Le Berre’s flute and Buirette’s accordion couple with deep successive strokes on acoustic bass and allow Fonfrède to recite the text with a speed of a machine-gun.  Her diction is impeccable, smooth, free-floating.  A reedy, polyphonic solo on accordion engrosses, holding us warmly between the grooves of its bellows, and cradling our heads into abandon.  All this charm was deployed here to tell us some home truths about… a cold shower and a morning coffee… 

 

Les guêpes

This cantata opens comfortably with a dependable basso continuo and fast, though texturally thick accordion lines.  Fonfrède’s art is to singing what Conlon Nancarrow was to keyboards.  As a result, it is impractical to even attempt to follow the semantic content of the rapid-fire syllables without reading the attached sheet.  It then turns out that her proceeding relies on stammer-like repetition.  The words (hardly about the “wasps” from the title) must have been selected for their phonetic quality and above all for the apparent overabundance of bilabial nasals, ultimately the first consonants we all humans emit with some time after birth.  When the ‘song’ attains its dramatic climax, the tension is soon released through a steady, peaceful decrescendo.  Somewhat superfluously, the trio interjects descriptive elements (vacillating stomps from behind a corner, a decisive accordion-bass dash across the courtyard).  Hyperbolic, coarse moans of devoiced agony side with an arco in audible despair.  In full denial, springtime sentimentality closes the track with inanely banal ‘la-la-la’.

 

La duchesse de Guermantes

Dominique Fonfrède adapted Marcel Proust’s text and interprets it here in a caricatural, stilted, indignant manner.  A Shelley Hirsch-like homophonic doubling ushers in a slow, matter-of-factly presentation of the same lyrical content.  Hysterical, nervous laughter interrupts the uncertain flow. 

 

Liseron II, matin de septembre

The track begins as a trio for accordion, flute and recitative.  The flute flutters blithely around accordion’s reliable harmonic stasis.  In one of the most classical moments, the flute and soprano vocal take off for a feathery flight.  The theme is never developed.  Instead, the accordion shifts into an uptempo mode and Dominique Fonfrède’s vocal salvos become grandiose, further enhanced by Carlos Zingaro’s violin.  The instrumental trio of accordion, flute and violin configures a couple of short notes, while Fonfrède descends from her soprano into ungainly shout and pedantic warble. 

 

Vaguelette

This delicate, elegant tango has its caminada tempo well-defined by a plucked bass.  Buirette and Fonfrède exchange roles, achieving the classic Pied de Poule style.  This is twilight nostalgia at its most poignant, yet with none of Borgesian coraje.  The track’s witty twists and unusual phrasing are as feminine as the beauty of any Porteña’s feline steps.

 

Canicule

Hot and wet.  The midsummer theme expresses ego-doubts of a cat, with a bowed bass, assertive voice and an accordion.  It is the accordion that feels its way diminuendo around the twisted yellow-lit streets of the 5ème arrondissement or maybe la Recoleta, the emblematic neighborhoods of two cities marked forever by the experienced, urban face of this instrument and its close cousins. 

 

Les dinosaures

In a welcome departure from the avant-chanson style, the trio plunges into an improvisation awash with riffy bass bowing, robotic panting, susurrando and Angst-whispering.  The frenetic pace and incandescent interpenetration of contrasting elements recalls Steve Hillage’s equally impromptu intermezzo “Fish”.

 

Destinée I

This most complex composition on the record begins with a Balkan-sounding polyphonic vocal trio.  Slowly the constraints of the French language (the stress on the last syllable) betray the singers’ origins.  When Le Berre intervenes on his unusually highly pitched cornemuse (French bagpipe), the character of the piece suddenly changes.  The French variant of this instrument usually has a small drone and Le Berre always astounded me in his long-winded, spine-chilling contributions to the recordings documented by Un Drame Musical Instantané.  The two bellows-dependent instruments – accordion and bagpipe take us here on a trail with youthful, vivacious, upbeat intentions.  Then the duo steadies for a moment of reflection, extracting unusual harmonies from the air reservoirs (how often do we hear bagpipes and accordion seeking unison?).  Carlos Zingaro’s violin rejoins shortly in one of the more lyrical moments on the record. 

 

Coda ad hoc

The closing statement for voice and accordion. 

 

***

 

PIED DE POULE: “Indiscrétion” (1988)

PIED DE POULE: “Café noir” (1991)

PIED DE POULE: “Jamais tranquille!  Rude journée pour les mouflets” (1993)

PIED DE POULE: “Confection et articles divers” (1997)

 

The trio can also be found on compilations “Douze pour un vol.2” (1986) and “Bunt” (1991).  All of these records are of the highest quality.  The avant-gardish tension of the early recordings mellowed slightly with time, but in a highly praiseworthy manner.

 

One could trace the origin of ideas first developed by the trio to Michèle Buirette’s debut LP, on which all the three artists appeared (although never together on any of the tracks).  It was with great joy that we could rediscover Buirette’s world of intelligent and fresh songs four years ago.

 

Michèle BUIRETTE: “La mise en plis” (1985)

Michèle BUIRETTE: “Le panapé de Caméla” (2004)

 

One song can also be found on compilation “Bad Alchemy Nr 4” (1986).

BOGUS BLIMP: Men-Mic ****

Recorded 1997-98

 

A Norwegian sextet formed near Oslo in 1996 has pursued pointillistic experimental rock collages saturated with electronic illustrations uncomfortably perched between smeared abstraction and documentary realism. 

 

Over and above the dilution provided by the electro-dispersion of ubiquitous samples and glitches, the core instrumentalists typically engage in polynomial exercises ranging from weary pop tunes to black metallic backfill.  Remarkably, it is the electro-sampled glue that has successfully welded the band’s sound.  All their collections, each several years in the making, owe a lot to Ingar Hunskaar’s painstaking engineering work.  

 

Although their output has been housed on a label famous for post-black metal scaremongering, Bogus Blimp are as far away from this hyperformalism as Spitzbergen is from Weddell Sea.  Some of their electro-phantasmagorias stir a nostalgic vein, others finesse the disturbing side of 1980s’ geri reig, yet others stalk perilously close to futuristic ciné noir.  This story is not yet over.

 

 

Jazz/Speech

Against a toy motor burr, a very fast guitar tremolo intermingles with a seemingly prelapsarian, slightly out-of-tune piano recording.  As a mythomaniac politician delivers a public harangue, the piano flips up a carnavalesque groove.  In a grotesque twist, Hilmar Larsen crotchets on his mandolin with wicked abandon.  The initially clownish atmosphere undergoes grotesque, even macabresque mutations.  As the pulpit-thumping tirade harps on, a Zamla-style piano and guitar duo delights everyone, parading to Bjørn Larsen’s phatic signals of glitchy static.

 

Sweets & Love

It is unclear if Kyrre Bjørkås’s rhythmic thud adumbrates a heartbeat or a stomping leviathan.  Christian Mona’s half-whispered, hoarse voice interbreeds with organ, piano and drums.  Soon, the pregnant, vampiric menace explodes.  Mona’s vocal performance is funereal, unnerving and pathological.  Absence of fuzz guitar will forever alienate black metal fanatics, but when the theatrical, life-beaten protagonist spews the “Sugar Daddy” story, his anguish chills the spine.  The band reaches the climax of agonizing, creepy drama and then, unnecessarily, rehashes the entire stanza.  By then, Mona turns into a self-parodic crooner.

 

Hush Now

In windswept desolation, cymbals rummage through mellow guitar notes.  Hushed lyrics of this “lullaby” intensify along sustained ‘mellotron’ samples drawn out by Aslak Larsen, evoking latter-day Cassiber’s phantasms.  “The countdown has begun”, we hear, underlain by a leaden rumble milled by Kyrre Bjørkås’s bass.  Some guitar chords thrown in major scale brighten the entrained mood.  The “wind” sample turns synthetic and flies away, reduced to inconsequential hiss.

 

In/Exhale

A ‘cello’ riff and black metal vocal impersonate the ‘inhale-exhale’ sloganeering.  When the expected upwelling eventually comes, the riff becomes felsic, metallic, yearning for a missing fuzz component and comforted by the grueling, morbid, pathogenic vocal.  Many listeners of experimental music find the ‘black metal’ advances expletive, yet admittedly the cross-pollination of adventurous music and cadaveric sonic horror has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic.  While this misalliance has not quite yet given birth to any self-sustaining musical genre, the bastardly sub-genres have been aplenty – from Stolen Babies to Unexpect, from Dead Raven Choir to Special Defects, from Equimanthorn to Abruptum.  Interestingly enough, this debut was Bogus Blimp’s first and last flirtation with this questionable approach.  The vocal treatment on the later records preferably drew from public speech mockery to arch-drama familiar from STPO’s neo-futuristic ventures.  And “In/Exhale”?  The band’s endeavors to sustain the atmosphere with harmonium-like moan and sputter lead us squeaky Visigothic caravan axles – a theme atavistically familiar and previously exploited on such diverse recordings as Lindsay Cooper’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and Boris Kovac’s “Ritual Nova”.  Finally, the merry-go-round returns, stuck in eternal rotation.

 

Brains

Right after a short intonation on tubas, an entire symphony orchestra is tuning in.  In a lovely moment, the strings impersonate Felliniesque ‘Prova d’orchestra’.  But whispers distract again.  This soon becomes a hymnal song, full of strained vocals, zooming on a swirling Hammond organ, but with a forged sensitivity of 1990s neo-pop.  Sudden key signature changes relativize these data and uneven meters complicate things further.  Henceforth, the track develops on several plans.  There is the mock-vampiric layer (Mona’s vocal), a nostalgic one (Larsen’s organ), an experimental one (Aslak Larsen’s samples), a rock one (Roger Jacobsen’s ever-shifting meters).  A sampled coda brings back the looped electro-haze and a posh accent from the British Isles about some futuristic science program. 

 

Even More

Bass-based figure, bass drum and ungainly lip smacking dominate the faltering organ and pliant hi-hats.  The placing of the bass growl is emotionally draining, and when it eventually explodes, it does so predictably.  The dusky, circus theme is also inconsequential, eventually lost in the samples collected from old English lessons on 33rpm vinyl: “you’re are listening to the record.  When I speak slowly you understand me”, reveals the narrator.  Spooky stuff. 

 

891

AM radio noise, static, Simen Grankel on the saw, distant rhythms, organ pop tunes, much distortion, or are these Soviets trying to buzz Radio Luxembourg out of the range?  The struggling pop tune survives, but barely.

 

Inside Here

Another manège moment, a carnival waltz, led by an apathetic, triste harmonium and a solemn, inconsolable melodica.  In between, the disconsolate voice whispers uncannily: “I don’t really know you”.  Subtextual cymbals finally give way to a more prominent rhythm, before it’s too late. 

 

 

***

 

BOGUS BLIMP: “Men-Mic” (1997-1998)

BOGUS BLIMP: “Cords. Wires” (1999-2000)

BOGUS BLIMP: “Rdtr” (2000-2004)

 

As stated above, the “metal” moments still present on the first recording did not resurface on the next two.  Between the follow-ups, “Rdtr” is probably the mellower of the two. 

 

Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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SEVENTH SEAL: “Seventh Seal” *****

Recorded 1997

 

Seventh Seal were one of Asahito Nanjo’s projects in the 1990s.  Rather than a separate band, Seventh Seal were a mutation of his ongoing project known as Ohkami no jikan (‘time for wolves’, or ‘wolf era’).  This constellation’s variable line-up strayed on the more mystical side of Tokyo’s ‘psychedelic’ scene, an approach which would flourish when in the mid-1990s Makoto Kawabata joined the sessions.  Around that time the two musicians also appeared in (perennially disappointing) organized noise-rock supergroup Musica Transonic. 

 

Having grown up on the Fugs, Godz and European soundtracks, Asahito Nanjo first plunged into the anti-virtuosic punk scene in the late 1970s.  After a stint at Kosoukuya, he co-founded the hyper-fast Psychedelic Speed Freaks, which later gained fame as High Rise.  The heraldic band constituted an important chapter in the multi-linear history of spontaneous speed-noise, and is correlated with the rise of Ikeezumi’s PSF label in Mejiro.  Nanjo continued the format later in Mainliner.

 

But it is his interest in the more spiritual, mantric side of rocking hysteresis that must have led to Seventh Seal’s sessions.  Nanjo’s experience with Keiji Haino in Nijiumu could have been one of the contributing factors.  Using very basic, circular guitar and organ structures, Seventh Seal successfully generated hallucinatory impressions of timelessness and spacelessness.  Transposing the rhythm structures from sufi music onto aural afterimages created ruminative, yet enrapturing rituals.  Nanjo and Kawabata continued the adventure in a more acoustic and admittedly ‘shamanistic’ vein as Toho Sara.

 

Meanwhile, Ohkami no jikan continued to perform, progressively moving towards heavier, darker realms, reminiscent of mid-period Fushitsusha.

 

 

Spiritual Spring’s Slavering with Circling

Anatolian guitar greets us with an update on John Weinzierl’s early Amon Düül II twang, whirling majestically upon a ritualistic Mevlevi dance.  Earthy cymbals pinpoint the full closure of each circle, leaving the full pivot to thundering mallets.  Mineko Itakura vocalizes from deep inside the well of truth.  Her voice resounds ethereally, seeking that perfect Djong Yun moment, but never attempting to emulate that pristine coloratura.  Rather, Mineko’s voice soars like an eagle swooning around with a lot of time on its claws.  In a classic redshift, longer wavelengths ooze when her voice recedes – an auditory version of motion parallax…  Kawabata’s weaving is fluent and appropriate, but never flashy.  Itakura’s bass trots loyally when Nanjo commences his chant from deep inside the tunnel, with a 3-3-3-3 syllable structure – rather non-standard for a Japanese waka.  The effect is mesmerizing nonetheless – as any circulating, hypnotic, homomorphic repetition would be.

Then all of a sudden, the band abandons the mantra and takes off on the back of a stilted, angular bass form almost directly lifted from Amon Düül II’s clumsy time signature transition.  It is as charming as a child’s error in holophrastic stage, but you would politely suppress a chuckle if an adult committed it.  Soon, Kawabata plunges into his pyrotechnic West Coast style, still miles away from his later Acid Mothers Temple exhibitionism.  He guides us through the entire panoply of phrasing modules, allowing bass and drums to pick up speed until the freaking out band crashes against the wall of cymbals.

Undaunted, the caravan sets out again.  In a reprise of the initial intro, the vocalize returns.  Hajime Koizumi’s stately drumming conjures up images of the dervishes’ vertigo-less worship.  Guitar and vocal now circle like two predators in search of a prey.  Against the steady, periodic tempo, Kawabata sizzles and frizzles, splashing dirty overdrive on the way, but always remains melodic and measured.  Finally, slowly, very slowly the band cools off.

 

VAVA

A fast, uplifting track, where fuzz-less guitar (again that John Weinzierl or Conny Veit timbre) sews at ultra-speed a theme that could become a dance from some mountainous corner of the old continent sheltering a forgotten ethnic minority.  It is impossible to tell if Kawabata had pre-cognitive visions of his Occitan experiences, or whether the beat owes more to the classic Munich band’s own borrowings.  In any case, Koizumi and Itakura’s rhythm section barely catches up.  Another transition appears to be, yet again, a dig to those charmingly clumsy, fractured bridges with which Amon Düül II shifted keys and tempos. 

 

The Fifth Substance and Four Elements

Despite the apparent subdivision of this track into four elements (Air, Fire, Earth, Water), there is not much of Third Ear Band relevance here and those who seek a neoclassical (or orientalist) parallel, are better served by resorting to the first two Toho Sara records.  “The Fifth Substance” sounds like a mere excerpt from a longer timbral exploration, opening with a meowing, somnambulant, bowed viola and beaded cymbal work.  Deep echo and agonizing murmur send a salute to the venerable Taj Mahal Travellers school.  Discrete, yet tonally effective organ envelops this intricate, ornamental embroidery of a highly resonant, pensive percussion, courtesy Nobuko Emi.  Somewhere between the immanent shimmer of sarangi, viola and organ, gurgles underlie tensile squeals and groans crater under soggy splatter.  Finally, unexpected plosive effects drag the band from this mind-blinding atmosphere, halfway between vintage Pink Floyd and early Sonde.  But for several minutes at least, the quintet has successfully suspended temporality. 

 

***

 

SEVENTH SEAL: “Live 1995” (1995)

SEVENTH SEAL: “Seventh Seal” (1997)

 

The material on the earlier recording partly overlaps with the LP described above.  Several cassettes have also been issued but I have not heard them. 

 

Many of Nanjo’s bands explored other musical pastures and do not have to be mentioned in the context Seventh Seal.  The positions listed below bear at least some relevance to the sound of Seventh Seal, if not in orchestration and attitude, then certainly in an attempt to generate a mood of spiritual blissout.  Splendor Mystic Solis was a simplified version of Seventh Seal and occasionally included Kawabata.  The most Seventh Seal-like recordings of Ohkami no jikan were made in the early 1990s, as showcased on the compilation “Tokyo Flashback 2”, but could also be expected on some of the earlier cassettes, which I have not heard.  Toho Sara’s third CD was a disappointment.

 

TOHO SARA: “Toho Sara” (1995)

TOHO SARA: “Meijou tansho, part 1-5” (1998)

SPLENDOR MYSTIC SOLIS: “Mystic 1 & 2” (1999)

SPLENDOR MYSTIC SOLIS: “Heavy Acid Blowout Tensions Live” (1999)

OHKAMI NO JIKAN: “Mort nuit” (2001)

TOHO SARA: “Horouurin” (2004)

NANJO, ASAHITO GROUP MUSICA: Contemporary Kagura-Metaphysics (2006)

Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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METABOLISMUS: “Sprießwärtsdrall” ****

Recorded 1995-98

 

 

More of a congregation of like-minded musicians than a ‘band’, Metabolismus is a moniker centered on Stuttgart-based personalities of Thilo Kuhn (guitar, organ), Werner Nötzel (guitar, strings) and Thomas Schätzl (bass, guitar).  They began taping their musical trial and error in early 1990s, occasionally publishing the fruit of their sessions on limited series cassettes, vinyl and, more recently, mini-CDs. 

 

Purposefully or not, their records usually juxtapose sessions realized years apart – in slightly different line-ups and certainly different stages in their musical and non-musical lives.  Their early attempts trod all over the ground – from Kim Fowley to Beefheart to folk, but by late 1990s, Metabolismus found their own voice.  In constant (metabolic) evolution, they successfully transformed the myriad of influences into an appealing, non-schematic eclecticism.  Although experimental in intention, the music proves to be quite relaxing in its impact, not least thanks to intoxicating, syncopated rhythms. 

 

Michael Paukner and Dietmar Köhle regularly show up on Metabolismus’ recordings.  Samara Lubelski appeared on at least two records in the late 1990s. 

 

 

Rabenloch

The record begins with a host of sonic ephemera: hyperreal drumstick gouache, speed-reformulated vitreous effects, equidistant from sprints and molasses.  An energy-transforming modulator looms, exhibiting a range from sizzling to wooly to ghoulish.  This rather detached display of associationist electronics comes packaged with some acoustic guitar strumming. 

 

Schnee von gestern

From this spatiotemporal domain originates a rhythmic pattern.  Twined with a quaintly non-resonant electric guitar it yields to a concatenated metric evolution, mostly aptly assigned to the heritage of Karuna Khyal.  As it snakes surreptitiously, a sarod-like vibration condensates along the metric line.  The dosage of rhythmic subpatterns becomes effortlessly self-looping and quasi-periodic.  Thin veneers are overlaid – an eerie string here (Werner Nötzel), bird chirping-like whistling there.  Gradually, the increased dynamic begins to carry a heavier ballast, but in a controlled fashion.  An overloaded guitar gasps and, finally, the rhythm breaks down into micro-buzz.

 

Blinker

We are treated with wind effects and gnarled ”clavinet“ notes shinning up and down the scale.  Very dovish, discrete distribution of percussive sounds clicks and clocks behind.  We can detect a broader, almost larval rhythm figure here, unconsciously recreating what should be an electric bass line.  Alternatively, we may be falling victim to auditory illusion generated by the highest note that the keyboard obsessively repeats, spawning (usually rewarded) metric expectations.  When it fails to do so, some analog synthesizer deposits a feline complaint.  The woozy synth magnetizes the overall effect with a very 1970s hue, traipsing in and out of audible space. 

 

KU

Temple blocks make a premonitory call.  More elements will disambiguate East Asian memories – summer night crickets and distant ‘Buddhist trumpet’ (probably keyboard-generated).  Not only has the foggy melody a form of an East Asian song, but so does the string tuning.  Glassy overtones submerge everything else, but a stealthy, abiotic entity intones again a vague theme.

 

Walzstrom aus Partikeln (Dies tat er besser nicht getan)

An augurious, Epicurean melody dipped in 1980s geri reig sauce comes all complete with electro-guzzle and hollow, purposefully amateurish drumming (Andreas Pintore).  A text is half-sung – almost murmured, making a mockery out of German Sprechgesang tradition.  Horns, pseudo-cosmic bleepery and celeste tinkle enrich somewhat the texture of this NDW nostalgia.  But the tardy, impassive pace does not make it melancholic enough to evoke Legendary Pink Dots – the ultimate epigones of the era. 

 

Mehr genuß durch Stereo

Here Metabolismus goes buffoonish.  With a sense of humor worth of Tony Tani, Daevid Allen or Fontaine-Areski, they tackle the epiphenomenalism of “stereo”.  After an innocent intro scored for a saxophone, children’s voices, and a circulating Flugzeug, a grown-up girl asks an imperturbable Expert about the difference between stereo and mono.  Her sonic virginity is open to learn, provided the exposé is not too “scientific”.  The “professor” politely thrusts forward, challenging the girl to identify the sounds panning between the left and right channel.  The ‘sounds’ in question are electronic in a way that Luc Marianni’s or Dominique Lawalree’s electronic organ tales were – playful, melodic, downy, viscuous, nostalgic, infantile…

 

Grünenberg

A pleasant nursery tune, performed on keyboards with rhythm box that (surprise!) does not annoy.  The benign, comforting flow is further softened by chirping larks, buzzing swarms, after-sunset amphibians and nocturnal orthopera.  An unassertive, candlelight theme flows from the organ (Thilo Kuhn).  Flat bell cymbals and a singing aviary close this impromptu.

 

Raumdialog

A miniature littered with gurgling rocket lift-offs, gyromagnetic reverbs and stop-go cosmogenetic circuit effects.  A dig to Louis and Bebe Barron, maybe.

 

A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing

Can’s Idealtyp towers high above many German artists.  From snippets sneaked into Wim Wenders’s movies to panegyrics formulated by pop stars (Grönemeyer) – the band from Köln has been engraved on the firmament of the “decade that good taste forgot”.  And yet, Metabolismus’ tribute to the legendary Can-styled propulsion rises above the bastardizing (and very global) competition.  On this track, the familiarity effect stems from Karoli-type guitar phrasing, murmured vocal and understated, iterative pulse.  But the planar keyboard appears more potent than Schmidt’s and there is more chroma added to the appropriately blunted mix.  Acoustic guitar repeats a simple figure and glockenspiel insolates the upbeat atmosphere.  As far as homage to 1974 goes, Metabolismus ranks among the very best – up there with esoteric SYPH and dusky Circle.  

 

Sprießwärtsdrall

A short intro on ‘celeste’ brings on another metric run.  It chugs along like an old, reliable locomotive with its crankshafts lubricated by bass guitar, a very basic drum kit, and guitar hitches.  Intriguingly, the melodic contour is delineated by the bass (Thomas Schätzl).  Keyboards punctuate the engine’s heavy breath and ramp up inorganic sonority.  Then the ‘vibraphone’ notes return, mounting the entire scale until a rather digital sounding Yamaha closes the record. 

 

 

***

 

Literally each of Metabolismus’ records is peppered with output from various sessions.  The recent reincarnation is promising and new Tonträger are apparently in preparation. 

 

METABOLISMUS: “Rauchzeichen anstelle einer Quietschneente” (1991-96)

METABOLISMUS: “Wonderful, Dangerous, Confusing, or What” (1994, 1996)

METABOLISMUS: “Terra incognita” (1996)

METABOLISMUS: “Sprießwärtsdrall” (1995-98)

METABOLISMUS: “Von Anker” (2006)

 

Reportedly, there exist many other positions of questionable availability.  

 

Metabolismus should not be confused with British post-punk avant-garde legend Metabolist. 

 

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 9:59 am  Comments (1)  
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Iva BITTOVÁ & Vladimir VÁCLAVEK: “Bílé inferno” ******

Recorded 1997

 

Iva Bittová stormed into the European avant-garde musical scene in the mid-1980s.  Born into a musical family with mixed Gypsy and Slavic roots, she incorporated elements of central and eastern European cultures into her repertoire without ever falling into the clichés of the so-called world music.  Trained in Brno as a violinist and singer, she developed a unique, conversational style that somehow appealed to the international improvisational scene on the eve of the political changes in Czechoslovakia. 

 

Armed with an arsenal of various vocal, violin and viola techniques, Bittová often betrays her theatrical tendencies.  Her music achieved an artistic peak during the period of collaboration with Vladimir Václavek, a gifted musical narrator whose sensual guitar-based songbooks only recently have attracted acclaim for their earthy authenticity. 

 

In this memorable duet, Bittová and Václavek often draw on influences from folkloristic dances and bucolic balladry.  They achieve astounding, complex textures and organic unity despite a narrowly scoped orchestration.  It is in the simplicity of “Bílé inferno” that lies its immortality. 

 

 

 

Vzpomínka

At the very outset, a disconsolate, Euclidean viola strikes us with its plaintive weeping until acoustic guitar dashes to its succor.  Soon after, Iva Bittová’s muscular vocalizing invites us to a jig lifted from Breughel’s village paintings.  The carnevalesque ambiance is further enhanced by jocular violin pizzicato and Václavek’s wordless accompaniment.  He then begins a lilting recitation, supported by a guitar stripped down to its harmonic and rhythmic role.  Even his congenial vocal, always in key register, carries only scraps of melody.  The refrain relies entirely on Bittová’s intrepid violin playing and her agile voice.  When the duo picks up pace, Ida Kelarová joins the increasingly bold chorus and tambourine.  In a more musing, calmer setting of pizzicato and unadulterated guitar, Václavek recites the final stanza of this “Souvenir”. 

 

Uspávanka

After several guitar chords one can recognize Václavek’s signature style.  Iva Bittová vocalizes here, accompanied by contextual shakers.  A five member-girls’ chorus produces a silvery, luminous echo.  Bittová sings and the girls reciprocate with youthful sparkle.  With its minimal instrumentation, this song evokes European students’ monochord bonfire incantations.  The percussion is restrained to the body of acoustic guitar and shakers, and yet, the isometric progression is vibrant and jumpy.  Some of the stanzas are acknowledged by Bittová and the pre-puberty chorus.  Then Jaromir Honzak appears on acoustic bass and the late Tom Cora on cello.  Their bowless duo will support the acoustic guitar chords till the end.

 

Sirka v louži

The ceramic, humble filigree begins with Bittová on tinkling kalimba and Václavek on bony guitar.  This time her singing reminds us of an apparition from a fairy tale.  Although she eschews Gilli Smyth’s vocal equilibristic, Bittová’s cornucopia of fanciful, theatrical effects is impressive.  Chromatic violin and sparse percussion accompany the torrent of her excited, breathy polysyllabism. 

 

Sto let

To an 8-bar figure on acoustic guitar, Iva Bittová whispers, clicks, and betrays her talents of variegated interpretation.  Her fiddle imitates blackbird calls and her onomatopoeic vocal covers a wider range than in previous songs.  When So Pakju’s text is finished, a frenetic village jitterbug emerges from a crafty, cliché-free interplay of guitar, percussion, fiddle, kazoo, bugle (Frantisek Kucera) and acoustic bass (Jaromir Honzak). 

 

Kdoule

Instead of a chord intro, the highest string plucked delicately.  The pattern is kinetically repetitive, minimalistic, almost autistic.  Frantisek Kucera accentuates the hollow walking line on Indian ghatam and Bittová’s delivers her extensive narrative with hushed, abstemious voice.  This burgeoning structure is overlaid with beige strokes from Turkish saz, but Václavek dodges any temptation to engage in simplistic Anatolian references.  His saz graces the listener with jangly, clipped resonance.  As in most compositions on the record, an eventual turn has to come.  Here it happens courtesy intrusive cello trills from Tom Cora. 

 

Zelený víneček

An exquisite vignette for piano and vocal from Ida Kelarová.  The heartfelt, exuberant melody line is based on a traditional folk song from Slovakia or Western Ukraine.  Kelarová and Bittová sing in unison with some assistance from girls’ chorus.  When Honzak’s joins on oily, metamorphic bass, the airy song is instantly brought down to jazzy (under)ground.  Although Bittová’s vocalizing will append it with a more familiar, vanguard element, the piano and a male vocalist (is it Honzak?) add an unexpectedly Karnatic hue to this oddity.  In the end, Kelarová and Bittová will repeat the entire folk song, solving the transitory puzzle in the process.

 

Moucha

The lyrics of this song (“the Fly”) lent the title to the entire CD.  It begins with obsessive mandolin tremolos and a viola mistreated by some terrorist who decided to saw the miserable instrument, instead of bowing it.  Still, the mandolin relentlessly advances, unaffected by the grim vocal and viola tortures in the background.  This out-of-tune intro will be closed by a scat worthy of an old Urszula Dudziak record.  Having changed the decorum, Bittová’s excellent diction will deliver the stanzas.  Her pitch ratio is well controlled and her voice is occasionally multitracked, with some polyphonic humming buttressed by the viola.  Her story-telling sanguine and elegant, supported by Václavek’s guitar which provides a reliable, comfortable backbone. 

 

Moře

After a short, classical sounding violin, the ambiance is warmed by westerlies from a slide guitar.  Tom Cora’s ascetic cello is dramatic, almost redemptive.  So is Bittová’s vocal manner, punctuated by frightening whiplashes from castanets.  Frantisek Kucera sustains some lines with an eerie conch shell before the band collapses into a sonic exploration of tone colorings, using deep echo, and tiny percussive effects.  When the theme returns, Bittová’s vocal again plunges into pain and agony.  Castanets fly around an aura of tragedy which contrasts with the metaphoric text.  “The sea is a beautiful face”, we hear.  It all ends with conch shell.

 

Starý mlýn

One of Václavek’s solo classics with instantly recognizable acoustic guitar phrasing.  His sober, approachable baritone tells us a story of an old windmill.  It is striking how much emotion he can extract from an unsophisticated chord progression and such minimal instrumental code.  Contrite shakers and cryptic finger rattling on the guitar are the only sources of diversification here. 

 

Je tma

In a more exotic setting, Iva Bittová’s magical whispers are met by sonorous tingling from listless African bow harp.  The tar-shaded, wooden atmosphere is mysterious and occult.  Impenetrable doors crackle nightmarishly.  This is not world music.  It is spine-chilling underworld music.

 

Churý churúj

The longest composition on this record begins as duo of acoustic guitar and viola.  The novelty here is in Bittová’s spiccato – allowing for the bow to bounce naturally of the strings.  But the effect is muted and void as if this was a ping pong ball bouncing (a technique known from flat guitar explorations).  Either way, this fragment is masterfully arranged – rustling, breezy, good-humored.  Václavek murmurs as Bittová hesitates between wordless singing and whispering.  After this lengthy introduction, Václavek’s warm guitar finally intones the song proper.  “Get Up Johanka” alerts Bittová.  Kucera joins with his flugelhorn watercolors, softening somewhat the violin’s edge.  When the text ends, the “spiccato” strokes recur… 

 

Zvon

“The Bell” begins slowly as if to illustrate ponderous movements of the clapper.  The guitar’s notes emulate the sequence of a handbell group, with individual sounds allowed to die out, rather than damped.  Bittová appears with her sour viola and her opening vowels evoke again Indian, nasal singing style.  As she recounts the bell’s daily chore, Václavek and the choir girls echo back a heart-warming “bim-bam”.  When Kucera’s granulated trumpet joins, the texture becomes more condensed in a fascinating show of mutually stimulating harmonies.

 

Hujlet

Mordechaj Gebirtig’s classic text is reproduced here by Bittová in original Yiddish.  The unsettling text reminds the young to enjoy the youth as the winter will soon set in…  Although Bittová and Václavek’s music evades klezmer touches, it fits perfectly the long lost world of crowded central European streets.  A thunderous drum and assorted percussion provide a pivotal build up for unstable violin and predatory vocalizing. 

 

 

***

 

“Bile inferno” has remained a one-off.  No other position in either artist’s discography has quite lived up to the intensity achieved there.  Still, Václavek’s poetic canticles should not be missed.  In particular RALE’s “Twilight/Soumrak” is an absolute must for those who enjoyed “Bílé inferno”. 

 

RICHARD-FUKUSHIMA-VÁCLAVEK-BIELER WENDT: “Arminius“ (1993)

RALE: “Ah zahrmi“ (1997)

RALE: “Twilight/Soumrak“ (2000)

Vladimir VÁCLAVEK: “Pisne nepisne“ (2003)

Vladimir VÁCLAVEK: “Jsem hlina, jsem strom, jsem stroj“ (1991, 1993, 2005)

Vladimir VÁCLAVEK: “Ingwe“ (2005)

Vladimir VÁCLAVEK & Milos DVORACEK: “Zivot je pulsujice pisen“ (2007)

 

Iva Bittová’s unquestionable talent did not always find the appropriate format.  Her first duet with Pavel Fajt was a revelation, but the harsh remix of most of the same songs on the second LP lost some of the charm of the debut.  From her later output, I particularly recommend “Ne nehledej” – a more lyrical chronicle performed in a style often bordering on Indian vocalizing.  In the recent years, she returned to film acting and her recording career in the US has been less prolific.

 

The discography below is limited to the records I know. 

 

Iva BITTOVÁ & Pavel FAJT: “Bittová & Fajt” (1987)

Iva BITTOVÁ & Pavel FAJT: “Svatba” (1987)

Iva BITTOVÁ & DUNAJ: “Dunaj” (1988)

Iva BITTOVÁ: “Iva Bittová” (1990, 1994)

Iva BITTOVÁ: “Ne nehledej” (1994)

Iva BITTOVÁ – DUNAJ – Pavel FAJT: “Pustit musis” (1995)

Iva BITTOVÁ & Vladimir VÁCLAVEK: “Bílé inferno” (1997)

Iva BITTOVÁ: “Classic” (1998)

Iva BITTOVÁ & NEDERLANDS BLAZERS ENSEMBLE: “Ples upiru” (2000)

Iva BITTOVÁ: “Cikori” (2001)

Iva BITTOVÁ & BANG ON ALL CAN STARS: “Elida” (2005)

 

Bittová appeared on many other compilations, not least on Fred FRITH’s famed “Step Across the Border” LP and the documentary film under the same title.  Some other performances have been captured on “Haikus urbains”, with Pavel FAJT on “Ré Records Quarterly Vol.2 No.1” and “Festival MIMI 88”, with Tom CORA on “Hallelujah Anyway”, with TARAF DE HAIDOUKS on “The Man Who Cried”.  In 1989, Frith dedicated his first String Quartet (entitled “Lelekovice”) to Iva Bittová.  It can be found on his “Quartets” (1992). 

 

Vladimir Václavek’s DUNAJ mostly performed and recorded without Bittová.  These documents, often supported by Pavel Fajt, are taut, aggressive affairs for post-punk ears.  The bands E and KLAR propose an update on this format.

 

DUNAJ: “Rosol” (1990)

E: “Live” (1990)

DUNAJ: “Dudlay”  (1993)

DUNAJ: “IV” (1994)

E: “I Adore Nothing” (1994)

KLAR: “Motten” (1995)

DUNAJ: “La La Lai” (1996)

KLAR: “Live CZ 97” (1997)

KLAR: “Between Coma and Consciousness” (2002)

TREMBLING STRAIN: “Tower” ***

Recorded 1996-1997.

 

In the mid-1990s, electronic and new age music composer Pneuma (Satoru Takazawa) unexpectedly shifted gears, leaving a series of tasteful recordings drenched in funereal mysticism, astrology, medievalism and pictorial symbolism.  Supported by Akira, Shin Yamazaki (ex-Lacrymosa) and Yuko Suzuki, the formation adopted the unlikely name: Trembling Strain.  With the help from other like-minded musicians, Pneuma & Co indulged in exotic exercises of color and space.  Their appetite for trans-cultural combinations collated luscious mirages with Asian, Middle Eastern, African, medieval and Brazilian instruments.  The results of this concoction are usually more than the sum of the parts and occasionally Trembling Strain added to the shortlist of the most accomplished ethnic atmospherics.  At its worst, the band did not avoid the traps of new age noodling. 

 

Falling short of creating a pseudo belief system, the band paid attention to the visual side of its productions.  The cover art was peppered with collages made up from slices of Max Ernst, Ingres, Breughel, Melanesian art and naïve fantasism. 

 

 

Farewell Song at Waterside

The most unusual timbral combination opens the record with Pneuma on bowed psaltery, Daiki Tojima on darabukke andYuko Suzuki on Celtic harp.  Pneuma had perfected his arco technique on psaltery reaching eerie resonance with legato bowing.  I can recall only one precedent – Fisher fidola employed by Orchestra of the Eight Day in the early 1980s.  Darabukke attracts dry, short, swatting echo of a closed space.  From this array emerge purgatorial voices and girlish giggles.  The spectral glissando quality evokes the most memorable moments of Stephan Micus – another explorer of unique timbral juxtapositions.  When acoustic guitar finally etches a pattern, it flows lazily, with little development.  Short arpeggios on hammer dulcimer will not change the overall impression. 

 

Towers of Silence

There is nothing to see, or indeed hear in Mumbai’s Towers of Silence.  This 17-minute piece does begin with silence.  Akira’s hand drums, Tojima’s upright bass and Akira Kawaguchi’s jembe introduce a densely repetitive, mantric rhythm pattern.  Against this slap-tone-bass motif, Shin Yamazaki improvises on oud, as if lost in the darkened corner of an empty mosque.  Soon, the contour will be affected by reverberating growls, space whisper and ominous howling.  The flow is occasionally stripped down to mere hand drums, chimes and saz, strummed uncomfortably by Pneuma.  Resurgent shakers are immersed in a heavy echo, but otherwise little happens.  It is as if the band was in mid-flight, in a reluctantly improvised mood, waiting for someone to assume leadership – a tin whistle here, a Tibetan gong there.  Pneuma saws his low-key morin khuur – a form of Mongolian erhu, but pitched lower than its Chinese counterpart.  When the acoustic guitar rhythm swings back, a Syrian flute responds.  The track ebbs slowly, back into the silence. 

 

Moon-Shadow Play

Berimbau, scraped sul tasto gives off a buzzed tone – plated by a thin coating of percussive hypersurface.  Then, a highly inadequate call and response begins between an interrogating, mythological symphonium (mouth organ) and bowed psaltery.  This is Pneuma’s signature tale, explored on Trembling Strain’s earlier records.  For a moment, Pneuma plucks the saz, to bestow on this track a more melodious edge.  When the theme matures, additional inputs come from Egyptian tambourine’s blunt jangle and from Tojima’s acoustic bass guitar.  Before they exit, the heavy growling returns. 

 

Heaven in a Doze

This is a longer composition in 6 parts.  Its first movement (“Stargazer”) opens with a lonesome, sparse hammer dulcimer theme.  The Fisher fidola – like texture is back, but some fake bird chirping is thrown into the mix, overcooking the imagery already crowded with summertime wind blowing, percolating water and a cuckoo.  Then Tibetan bells begin to tinkle, pre-announcing a wailing mass counterpointed against darabukke’s deftly hand-made echo.  Akira’s vocal chords are breathy, guttural, fibrous.  Multi-element whistles and slothful Celtic harp ripple into the cavernous interior that envelops the listener.  In the next movement, we are thrown into the boundless panorama of heavenly auras, so reminiscent of Popol Vuh’s early records.  Between the celestial layers of immobile, sustained chords, the glissandos of various string instruments compete in high pitch and concentration.  This is the most static moment of this generally contemplative record.  Damned, Dantesque voices plead for our attention from the abyss.  Tojima’s dystopic Tibetan horns finally break the mood and Pneuma’s dull cymbals add splashes of overtones.  After a less seamless transition, Tomoko Katabami brings along an African metal ballaphone.  A simple, mellow figure is synchronous with Javanese angklung, played by Tojima.  The unusual interplay of these timbres is magical.  Pneuma’s singing bowls join with long, ringing delay.  Chimes and tiny bells are counterpoised for detail.  This is a scale-invariant piece that unfolds endlessly.  Finally, the last movement returns to the hammer dulcimer cum birds “solo”.  When it disappears, we are left alone, with crackling twigs. 

 

***

 

“Tower” was recorded at the crepuscule of Trembling Strain’s inventiveness.  However, I do recommend their earlier recordings.  They are often saturnine and bleak, but at the same time refined and magnetic. 

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS: “Lost in Labirynth II” (1994)

TREMBLING STRAIN: “Anthem to Raise the Dead“ (1994)

TREMBLING STRAIN: “Four Pictures“ (1994-1995)

TREMBLING STRAIN: “Bottom of Empty“ (1995-1996)

TREMBLING STRAIN: “Tower“ (1996-1997)

AKIRA & TREMBLING STRAIN: “Dwelling of Telescopefish“ (1997-1999)

 

Pneuma has appeared on many other recordings, also in duo with his partners from Trembling Strain.  Prior to the formation of this band, he had recorded under the moniker Takami.  Although Takami’s LPs had their moments, they are better left to the fans of 1970s’ Berlin synthesizer scene.  Conversely, Pneuma’s return in trio with Furudate and Arima marked the high-point in contemporary tortured, apocalyptic electronics. 

 

TAKAMI: “Tenshi-kou” (1983)

TAKAMI: “Yume no kirigishi” (1985)

Tetsuo FURUDATE – Sumihisa ARIMA – PNEUMA: “Autrement qu’être“ (1994-1995)

Tetsuo FURUDATE – Sumihisa ARIMA – PNEUMA: “Autrement qu’être, vol.2“(1996-1998)

 

 

Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 8:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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DDAA: “Nouveaux bouinages sonores (dans la période)” ******

 

 

Recorded 1990-1992

 

The legendary French trio of Jean-Luc André, Jean-Philippe Fée and Sylvie Martineau made their debut in the late 1970s and quickly established a dominant position on the then vibrant international cassette scene.  Their label Illusion Productions and their studio Souterrain Scientifique became the marks of defiant creativity.  DDAA – Déficit des Années Antérieures – specialized in neo-modernist collages, drowned in obsessive, organically mixed rhythmic patterns of both human and looped origin.  It is in the instantly recognizable character of these loops – soluble, ductile and reversible – that DDAA made a lasting contribution to 20th century avant-garde rock.

 

At the beginning of their career, DDAA exhibited fascination with early-stage mechanization and with 20th century Japonisme.  Both motifs interacted gracefully in short, ironic songs and in more extended compositions.  Although the band was on the cutting edge of post-punk avant-garde and frequently appeared on compilations next to such luminaries as Nurse with Wound, Merzbow, Organum, Smegma or P16D4, the trio’s style was always more melodic and eschewed caustic aggression of post-industrial mannerism. 

 

DDAA remains virtually unknown outside France and little known inside the ‘Hexagone’.  Nevertheless, its historic importance can hardly be overestimated.  The band’s copious heritage deserves a book rather than a mere article.  This is just a timid beginning.

 

(The titles reproduced here may not correspond exactly to the subdivisions of the single track on this CD)

 

Chants et tambours Maracayace d’Ankazoabo à Morafénobé

The vacillating intro ushers us into the space filled with scraped strings and various haptic modules tampering with oblong metallic fiber.  Behind us, a distorted voice explodes into spasmodic sneeze.  It will return every 14 seconds as our senses struggle to distinguish a distant factory siren from a ritualistic Tibetan trumpet.  The deadpan sneeze and the siren recur in a mid-tempo loop, while the scraping and fumbling of guitar strings continues its abstract ruminations.

 

Chant de guerre

Subterranean, volumetric bass figure will carry here a mutilated voice uttering unrecognizable phrases.  Emergent howling confuses us again – are these passionate soccer fans or a South-East Asia’s professional mourners?  These unrelated vocal elements will synchronously fall into a looped pathway.  Uninvited, a buzzing harmonica squeezes itself into this organic whole, but dissolves before a disaffected recitation in English reminds us of 1980s British new wave vocal mannerisms.  Fully immersed in the loops, the lyrics are not audible.  Meanwhile regular waves of French phrases approach us with a bombastically scientific, eggheady attitude.  Acoustic guitar accentuates the polygonal rhythmic engine.  Then, for a moment, a very argumentative female voice flickers. 

 

La chute de Miandrivazo

It turns out that the self-important “scientific voice” was about wedding preparations.  To the squeaks of a cheap organ and children’s calls, a Francophone robot proclaims “I hear a noise”.  The observation is correct.  The mechanistic rhythm is now more terrestrial, interspersed with industrial noises.  A friend once remarked that 1980s’ DDAA sometimes sounded like a more avant-gardish Cabaret Voltaire would have if it had continued to develop artistically, rather than imploded commercially.  This could be one of these moments.  The aural fabric is embroidered with the multiplicity of voices – anguished commentaries, admonishments, collective doubts and arguments – their contrasted prosody enriches the texture of this fragment.  Martial drums briefly compress the invariant flux, echoing classic Test Dept., but lacking the UK band’s intensity.  Various percussive divagations intervene and occasionally it seems that the porous guitar would become more prominent, but it is all too soon eroded by the transgressive tape overdrive. 

 

Halte au feu

The next section opens with scuttling percussives, both acoustic and electronically processed.  The form gradually coagulates until the familiar, gritty baritone looms.  His conceited lines are among DDAA’s most directly recognizable trademarks (unfortunately, I never know if this is Jean-Luc or Jean-Philippe). 

 

Passage de Makay

It takes several minutes before the improvised patting is displaced by a female vocalise, overlaid over and above an old patriotic invocation reproduced from an old 78rpm record.  Various other tapes descend on us.  Sylvie Martineau intones a fragile melody with her petite voice.  Loose metal sheets and unidentified mechanical objects tamper with her efforts to reach our auditory system.  Dull sheets of flailing noise periodically distract us from the overall repetitive format of this section. 

 

De Mauja à Mahabo

An entirely unexpected recorder (Bernard C.?) announces a change of scene.  A bubbly, high-pitched rhythm box and a mandolin will lead us onto other, spectral pastures.  In the record’s strongest passage, a kaleidoscopic revue of distant memories will pop up, lubricated by an elastic, well-defined loop.  First street marching bands and a maître de céremonie who exhorts the “crowd” to move back.  Later, various official announcements convey a sense of superfluous, Gallic pomp.  They, in turn, will be interspersed with snippets of overexcited sports commentators bent on athletic, machine gun verbal über-performance.  A late-night hard-bop moment overshadows a West African choir.  A static Buddhist ceremony, immobilized by bells and trumpets; a subglacial new age flute; guttural religiosity of monks’ prayers; Indian radio songs…  Some of these elements will filter through as mere forays, but others will morph into a colossal orogeny of sounds.  A shamanic chant stays with us a little longer, with organ and tambourine accentuating the instrumental paucity in stark contrast to the accretive value of the looped effects. 

 

Ils s’apperçoivent un grand machin mobil

Without interrupting the flow, this part now segues into a polyrhytmic sequence of Karnatic percussion and mantric voices.  Droney choir refurbishes the meditative building blocks of Gong’s early achievements, augmented here by untuned brassy percussion, and then breathy scraping of non-resonant metal sheets.  Equally dull clatter is the only permanent feature here.  The passage is so dense and polymetric that it is impossible to fathom what kind of rhythmic loop would eventually emerge.  And indeed, we have to wait for the band’s very straightforward drumset, Casio and synthesized effects to find a rhythmic clue.  The orthogonal loops operate at varying speeds. 

 

Un vrai morceau joue de manière fausse

Silence.  Bizarre…  A magical, melodic line emanates from the mandolins, electric bass, sustained viola and soft-clipped electric guitar.  Airy bongos are here to add some chroma, rather than improve on the reining loop’s rhythmic dominance.  The guitar improvises at the center.  The sepulchral viola responds to each of the guitar’s opening chords.  Slow recitation in English ensues.  The solemnity of the voice is crowded with guitar and electronic effects while the granular rhythmic structure becomes more pronounced and distinctive.

 

Quelque chose d’assez obscur

The final eight minutes take us for a much less abstract exercise of percussive cohesion and a vaguely melodic recitation in English.  The phrases, barely understandable, fall perfectly within the meter determined by the drums and the guitar loop.  A delicate metallophone adds decorative accents over the topmost layer. 

 

Les 4 soleils à l’horizon

The poignant, unmusical voices will intone a sad song with a faux harmonium sound from a modern keyboard, accompanied by an occasional drum thud and metallic scuttle’n’scrape.  The journey ends here.

 

***

 

DDAA’s discography is extensive and not easily available.  Many of the older productions are screaming for a re-edition on CD.  I strongly recommend in particular all the recordings from the first five years of activity (1979-1984) and from the period 1990-2001.  In addition to the records, cassettes and CDs listed below, the band produced a wealth of shorter compositions published on international compilations, including the famed “Masse Mensch”, “Douze pour un”, “Voices Notes and Noise”, “Bad Alchemy no 10”, “Strength”, “Three Minute Symphony”, “Paris-Tokyo” and “Sensationnel Journal no.1”.  Some, although not all of these songs appeared on the band’s own collections.  The trio is occasionally active to this day.

 

DDAA: “Déficit des années antérieures” MC (1979)

DDAA: “Miss Vandann” SP (1979)

DDAA: “Front de l’Est” 2SP (1980)

DDAA: “Aventures en Afrique” SP (1980)

DDAA: “Live in Acapulco” 2MC (1980)

DDAA: “Action and Japanese Demonstration” (1982)

DDAA: “Prehistoric rejet” MC (1983)

DDAA: “5ème anniversaire” EP (1984)

DDAA: “Les ambulents” (1984)

DDAA: “Objet” (1983-1985)

DDAA: “Lernen 5.  Submusic” MC (1984-1985)

DDAA: “La familles des saltimbanques MC (1984-1985)

DDAA: “When a Cap is Rising” (1982-1986)

DDAA: “En concert” MC (1983, 1986)

DDAA/NURSE WITH WOUND/G.REVELL: “Nekropolis” (1986)

DDAA: “Ronsard” (1988)

DDAA: “Otez votre jeunesse” SP (1988)

DDAA: “Les Corbusier buildings” SP (1988)

DDAA: “Nouvelles constructions sonores sur fondations visuelles” MC (1988)

DDAA: “Bruit son petit son” (1990-1991)

DDAA: “Nouveaux bouinages sonores dans la période” (1990-1992)

DDAA & J-F.PAUVROS: “De Gaulle à Bayeux, un opera Maracayace” (1994)

DDAA: “Baggersee” MCD (1995)

DDAA: “La conférence Maracayace” (1994, 1999)

DDAA: “20 ans de vieille musique nouvelle” (1994, 2001)

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Comments (3)  
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PALO ALTO: “Asphodèles de l’asphalte” ****

Recorded between 1989 and 1992

 

Palo Alto was a French quartet active in the 1990s. Denis Frajerman, Jacques Barbéri, Philippe Perreaudin and Philippe Masson successfully reconciled two distinct musical traditions – quintessentially Gallic miniatures and a very un-French approach to studio processing. The results were stupefying. The pictorial depth of their recordings could only be matched by Denis Frajerman’s solo adventures. Their rich, phantasmagorical paysages were populated by odd shapes and eerie shadows. This was rock electronics of volcanic creativity.

 

The band disappeared from sight around 2000. More recently, a number of archival recordings saw the light of the French day (with, regrettably, little light anywhere else). The collection presented here was among them.

 

After several cameo appearances on various tribute records (Ptose, Coil), the band resurfaced live and finally published a new CD in late 2007. They seem to be active again, publishing music, video and books.

 

Le chant posthume

Self-declared overdrive bass opens the record as if evoking the zeuhl heritage. Il n’en est rien. This piece and the entire record will be strongly rooted in the then inescapable tradition of post-new wave stylisms and Residents-like nightmares. Following a sequence of faux tubular bells, a quasi hysterical female vocalism sidetracks our attention. But instead, a slow progression on keyboards remains stuck in pentatonic scale. The “song” closes with unsettling ingressive vocal sounds.

 

Asphodèle de l’asphalte

Mechanical mambo jolts from the rhythm box, accompanied by a very juicy electric bass which will define the record’s title piece. This simple repetitive melody will see no development, despite, or may be because of a somewhat anemic Middle Eastern phrasing.

 

Madame la charcutière

This is little more than an epigrammatic piano vignette. Two female voices, courtesy Claire and Nathalie, turn the nascent melody into a non-sequitur.

 

Séquence 4

Manipulated, growling voices open this sequence. Deeper, subharmonic layers provide a canvas for sharp snippets of alto sax loops. Independently, percussive pattering envelopes a sketchy keyboard melody and grows in intensity, but will not obscure the melodic line.

 

Les flots sont moins bleus que les sables

After an all-too-short intro on maghrebian recorder, over-familiar electronic pulse zooms in. Luckily, hyperactive balalaika soon floods us with rapid figures, contending for space with vaguely Middle Eastern harmonics. It is then substituted by a pre-dawn clarinet. One searches for references to Joseph Racaille, but in vain.

 

Cosette

Formulaic tune played by Denis Frajerman on multi tracked keyboards in a shrugging Klimperei style.

 

Monsters are Bach

We revisit the Residents recipe – marching aliens, distorted voices at triple speed and mechanic reversals of muscular electro-feedback. Squeezed into this stomping, the keyboard theme is actually less straightforward than in the previous pieces.

 

Anomala

Innocuous rhythm box hails from deep in the 1980s – an unabashedly new wavy reminiscence. Were it not for the spastic balalaika in the background, the tune could almost be adorned with affected vocals à la the Cure.

 

Paysage: nul chant d’oiseau

Simplistic electronic meter chops about for another meal of pentatonic figures. But then we are reached by austere effects of untuned strings. The resonating twang evokes African kora, but we should not be misled, as the sound apparently emerges from a cheap keyboard that Philippe found at a flea market. The mixed-down balalaika returns, bridging those dull pizzicato explorations with the mutant rhythm.

 

Musique de l’enfer 1

The ghastliness of this miniature will barely attain the standard of the B-movie. The somewhat ramshackle beat will brake before we have even noticed.

 

Musique de l’enfer 2

This is a more exploratory dance macabre, adorned with echoing alto sax. The morbid, electronic pulse recalls, this time again, the Residents.

 

Avant la naissance

This number is based on a procedure well known since 1960s – a tape recording, here with a text in French, cut short and sent through a loop. After several seconds, the repetition graces us with an irregular rhythm until new loops of other conversations and radio announcements are overlaid on top. Fortunately, the collage never becomes too dense. After nearly 3 minutes this sonic sauce is supplemented by a heavily processed source of electronic origin, but it will not materially alter the original theme. Henceforth, the track develops along two surfaces. Jacques Barbéri’s strident alto saxophone cuts through this mass until the electro-throb returns and drowns out all the other contributions.

 

Friture

The next two compositions present Palo Alto as a quintet and are more consciously developed. Here melodramatic recitation by Marie-Laurence Amouroux extrudes phonemic values from the interplay of pre-programmed rhythm-box and a warm bass clarinet. The alto saxophone, as often on this collection, soars independently. Philippe Masson multiplies the grating mechanical beats.

 

Le pont

Another anti-chanson. This one approaches the style developed several years before by Alesia Cosmos. The stripped down female voice seems to be slowing down the hesitant theme. The reeds contribute sparsely to the overall cartoonish image.

 

La quatuor vocale

The last recording is something of a throwaway – an experiment of a multi-tracked vocal contributed by Philippe Perreaudin.

 

***

 

All those who wish to uncover Palo Alto’s other jewels, here are some recommendations:

 

PALO ALTO: Le close (1990)

PALO ALTO: Grand succédanés (1992)

PALO ALTO: Asphodèle de l’asphalte (1989-1992)

PALO ALTO: Excroissance (1993) MC

PALO ALTO: Trash et artères (1993-1994)

PALO ALTO: Le disque dur (1996)

PALO ALTO: Trans Plan (1998 )

PALO ALTO / KLIMPEREI: Mondocane (1995-2000)

PALO ALTO: Terminal sidéral (2005-2007)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Pogs Box (2001), remixes

Denis FRAJERMAN: Mandibules (1990, 1994) MC

Denis FRAJERMAN – PALO ALTO Solo: Le souffle du vide (1992-1995)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Drosophiles (1995) MC

Denis FRAJERMAN – Jacques BARBERI – PALO ALTO: Le nom des arbres (1996)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Les suites Volodine (1997)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Fasmes vol.1 (1997)

Denis FRAJERMAN: Macau Peplum (1996-1999)

 

A.D.D. Trio: “Instinct” ******

Recorded February 1995.

 

A.D.D. Trio was active in Switzerland in the 1990s. Drawing on the talents of Christy Doran on guitar, Robert Dick on flutes and the young Steve Argüelles on drums and percussion, the trio naturally abode by the traditions of continental Euro-jazz. The band’s two recordings, “Instinct” from 1995 and “Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat” from 1998 are exemplary marriages of jazz form and rock sensitivity. The compositions are highly illustrative, yet complex and mostly improvisation-based. The trio filled a niche, seldom exploited by jazz or rock artists – a guitar in a multiple melodic and rhythmic role, and intelligent drumming structures providing ample, four-dimensional space for a variety of flutes. The playing is tight and the experienced musicians never yield to the temptation to show off.

 

Rock fans will be disappointed by unfulfilled promise of repetitive patterns. Jazz buffs may have a problem with the structure of most compositions. But fans of sonic asymmetry will return to these recordings with unwavering fascination.

 

Instinct

We are welcomed by the unlikely wheeze from the flutist. The instrument punctuates a guitar figure that is too unobtrusive to be obsessive. Suddenly, bass-drum duo accelerates and introduces the piccolo flute in its graceful twists and turns. Initially, the high octave instrument invites the reluctant guitar to respond. But then it settles to whistle airily above the increasingly tight structure provided by the sensual drumming.

At times, it enters nearly registers redolent of shakuhachi.

 

After nearly four minutes, the rhythmic guitar reinvents the piece. It will create a tension over which bass flute will glide effortlessly. Its more commonly used cousin will finally intone a melody, only to crash against deep thuds from the drums. A loud progression from fuzz guitar will make overtures, but they are doomed and will bring no conclusion. An interlude evoking an earlier flute melody and a mellower guitar rhythm will lyrically lead towards a more optimistic closure. It is a clear, almost classic tone that bids farewell to this jewel.

 

ReDug Me Not

At the outset, didjeridoo-like puffs from the contrabass flute collide with scraps from fuzz guitar. The strumming work fails to become more consistent and the titans choke in the duel until an unusual rock duo begins to test a rapid progression, then a lilting strut, then an offbeat workshop chop. The drum kit tightly keeps it all in place. Under the surface, the puffing woodwind strides until a looped guitar form takes the center stage, supported by a deep drone and punctuated by overlaid impressionistic guitar solo. The story evolves rapidly into a crescendo and stops at high speed.

 

Steam

The galloping rhythm is supported by both the drums and repetitive guitar. Bass flute echoes in misty landscapes, improvising freely. Half way through the piece, the guitar aspires to its own voice, only to fold back sheepishly into the rhythmic role. The flute’s poignant tone makes it for a wistful experience despite the gallop. Excellent introduction to the drummer’s compositional talents.

 

Cerulean Blues

The high register of the oriental opening ushers us into a space populated with richly percussive textures. But the shamanic slapping does not last and the mysteriously Asian intro prevails until a more constructive guitar counterpoint shifts the direction. The flute returns, like starkly ink-colored brushwork. Blues, maybe, but with slanted eyes.

 

Twists and Turns

Back from the Orient, we return to a more familiar, Chicagoan territory. Christy Doran’s mid-tempo figure is easily recognizable from his OM days. One wonder if this is a cross-textual quotation. The unusual undertone of the contrabass flute provides a holding pattern for a succession of shuffling figures in which the guitar calls on both partners. After a moment of silence, the musicians fall into a collective exercise in doubt. Each ventures into the center stage, only to retreat with scraps of atonality. More color from warped percussion. Finally, a gentle breeze from the guitar oozes into the distance.

 

Way Up There

Like the first lark in Spring, the flute turns the annunciation of a new piece into a promise of a more jagged improvisation. This more decisively polyrythmic exposé stammers between warm guitar soli. It then picks up the pieces to hand over the direction to the drummer. Arguelles displays a disciplined palette until overlaid by the intrusive flute. But no melodic line will evolve from the fractured form. The most we can get is an occasional solstice from the entire trio.

 

Magmas

This time the delicate brushing of the kit and vesperian guitar offer a slow-shifting background for the bass flute. With considerable agility, Robert Dick is running up and down the entire register of this instrument. The extreme frequencies are further expanded in the background – deafening bass drones through dull chimes. Occasionally, impressionistic guitar glissando provides a harmonic backbone. We are almost in the ECM territory.

 

All the Time, Anyway

The combo approaches from all sides, but we do not instantly know where the meeting point will be. Imperceptibly, the lattice is becoming denser. But the three artists fail to meet. Instead, they circulate at some distance from each other. The guitar accents are less ubiquitous, but paradoxically more divisive than the pervasive flute lines. The slow tempo allows the drummer to experiment with various responses to the dialogue that eventually unfolds between Doran and Dick. As their dialogue turns into an argument, the tempo rises but so does the rhythmic complexity. As often on this record, the tension fails to climax. Instead, the drummer clatters apart and the flute invokes the oriental mood of Cerulean Blues. But then a different band emerges, dependent on the thundering guitar rumbling, multilayered and not shying away from the confrontation. The 10-minute long opus ends with a flute coda, bathing in an electronic soup.

 

Next

Syncopated rock breaks through in a Shrek mold. It yields to a structured flute melody, this time played without restraint. This is the ADD Trio at its most compact yet, linear and uptempo. It is articulate and unadorned, but somehow majestic.

 

****

 

For all those who have a chance to enjoy A.D.D. Trio, here are some other recommendations:

 

OM: Montreux Live & More (1974)

OM: Kirikuki (1975)

OM: Rautionaha (1976)

OM: With Dom Um Romao (1977)

OM: Cerberus (1980)

DORAN-STUDER-WITTWER: Red Twist and Tuned Arrow (1986)

DORAN-STUDER-BURRI-MAGNEGAT: Musik für zwei Kontrabasse… (1990)

Fredy STUDER – Christy DORAN: Half a Lifetime (1977-1994)

ADD TRIO: Instinct (1996)

ADD TRIO: Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat (1998)

 

 

Please note that the Swiss OM has nothing to do with the currently active US band under the same name, led by Al Cisneros. Nor should it be confused with the Spanish experimental jazz-rock band from early 1970s.

Published in: on May 18, 2008 at 7:23 pm  Comments (4)  
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