Saturday, January 02, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Knife and Voice

Shonen Knife: Brand New Knife. 1997. MCA Victor/Big Deal: 9035-2.

Naoko Yamano: vocals, guitar, melotron
Michie Nakatani: vocals, bass
Atsuko Yamano: vocals, drums, percussion

Guilty pleasure. The addition of the Japanese originals for many of these tracks reveals that some of these songs are sung with a different kind of conviction in their native language. Though the strangely accented syllables and quirky subject matter are a gift. A means of shattering poetic pretense while still taking side alleys toward life's truths. But mostly a guilty pleasure.

Brian Sacawa: American Voices. 2007. Innova: 675.

Brian Sacawa: saxophones
Erik Spangler: turntables, electronics
Wenli Zhou: piano

Piece in the Shape of a Square by Philip Glass
Pre-Amnesia by Lee Hyla
pastlife laptops and attic instruments by Erik Spangler
Netherland by Chris Theofanidis
Bacchanalia Skiapodorum by Derek Hurst
Voice Within Voice by Keeril Makan
The Low Quartet by Michael Gordon

The static, minimalist works of Glass and Gordon book end this recital of works for saxophones. Each work presented with an equal attention to the details and demands of a wide ranging sampling of contemporary aesthetics. Equal respect is offered to the thorny lines of Hyla's Pre-Amnesia and the groove textures of Spanglers's pastlife laptops and attic instruments. The contrasts between selections giving an honest voice to the American Voices offered up on this disc. The details lurking within each individual piece revealing themselves in unexpected ways with repeat listenings. The soundtrack of my brief years in Baltimore.

Morton Subotnick: and the butterflies begin to sing. 1997. New World Records: 80514-2.

and the butterflies begin to sing (1988) for string quartet, bass, midi keyboard and computer
The Amernet String Quartet:
Kyoko Kashiwagi: violin
Marcia Littley de Arias: violin
Malcolm Johnson: viola
Javier Arias-Flores: cello

Bleda Elibal: double bass
James Tocco: keyboard

All my hummingbirds have alibis (1991) for flute, cello, midi keyboard, midi mallets, and computer
California EAR Unit:
Gloria Cheng: keyboard
Erika Duke: cello
Amy Knoles: percussion
Dorothy Stone: flute
Joan La Barbara: voice
Gene Youngblood: voice
Morton Subotnick: voice

These Morton Subotnick works from the late '80s and early '90s stand out sonically and aesthetically from his early works. There's a mixture of attraction and repulsion to these pieces for me that often requires gazing directly into them from time to time. Many of the textures assembled from live and electronic sound sources are incredibly appealing. Even if many of the midi sourced timbres have not aged particularly well. The tight, sequenced rhythms and impossible fills are also enormously attractive and off putting at the same time. It's a music that draws the listener in (with plenty of substance) while leaving one suspicious that they are gorging on a sonic, sticky substance like too much candy. Over the span of this listening I come away with a mixed bag. and the butterflies begin to sing is a fantastic composition that overcomes much of my qualms about the sweetness of this music. While All my hummingbirds have alibis leaves me disappointed. The mixture of voice with live instruments and electronics creating an uneasy sonic terrain. These are works that need to be revisited and reevaluated within the overall (and impressive) Morton Subotnick oeuvre.

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