Sunday, February 17, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Anti-Escapism

Michael Zerang: Cedarhead. 2006. Al Maslakh: 06.

Michael Zerang: drums, darbuka, percussion
duos with
Sharif Sehnaoui: electric guitar
Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet
Raed Yassin: tapes, electronics
Christine Sehnaoui: alto saxophone
Charbel Haber: electric guitar
Jassem Hindi: electronics
Bechir Saade: nay

There is a grim, unflinching honesty in the aesthetic fiber of the Lebanese experimental music scene that Michael Zerang's collaborators share with one another. The stark, extended techniques and occasional sonic reference points to contemporary Beirut in the form of concrete recordings or stylistic cues borrowed from folk musics of the Middle East point toward a common sensibility shaped by the absurd severity of centuries of regional conflict. The unflinching honesty of this music in its directness of free improvisation combined with its escapist-free integrity makes these soundscapes enormously compelling.

Bang On A Can & Don Byron: A Ballad For Many. 2006. Cantaloupe Music: CA21036.

Don Byron: composer, clarinet
Robert Black: bass
David Cossin: drums, percussion
Lisa Moore: piano
Mark Stewart: guitars
Wendy Sutter: cello
Evan Ziporyn: clarinets

My enthusiasm for this disc grows each time the ears become reacquainted with the Byron-esque melodic lines that weave everything together. With the Bang On A Can ensemble realizing these pieces the focus rests upon Don Byron the composer as they bring a swinging, polished shine to these works. The music composed for the documentary The Red-tailed Angels about the Tuskegee Airmen is particularly well realized while Basquiat is the resounding highlight of this collection. Show Him Some Lub closes out this disc like an imaginary encore as Byron sets aside the baton and applies his spontaneous energy on the clarinet that fills out the spectrum of groove and inventiveness these ears associate with this great improviser.

Elliott Sharp/Orchestra Carbon: Abstract Repressionism: 1990-99. 1992. Victo: 019.

Elliott Sharp: composer, double guitar bass
Gregor Kitziz: violin
David Soldier: violin
Wendy Ultan: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Michelle Kinney: cello
Margaret Parkins: cello
Mary Wooten: cello
Lindsay Horner: bass
Joseph Trump: drums, electronic percussion

This is one of Elliott Sharp's large-scale compositions that has resonated with me for a long time. The canonical treatment of its jagged themes and aggressively developed string textures make for a sound that courses through my own sensibilities as a piece I refer back to frequently.

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