Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

HurdAudio Rotation: Dedication to Poets and Brums

Ornette Coleman: Dedication to Poets and Writers. 1962.
Magic Music: 30010-CD.

Ornette Coleman: saxophones
David Izenzohn: bass
Charles Moffett: percussion
Selwart Clark: violin
Nathan Goldstein: violin
Julian Barber: viola
Kermit Moore: cello

This particular set has been of particular interest for me.  Poised at an early transition point between Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet (the one that propelled him with full force onto the jazz scene) and the body of music that would follow.  This was a concert organized and funded by Ornette Coleman that barely broke even as bad weather kept attendance low.  Which also set the stage for the criminally low acceptance (and encouragement) of Ornette Coleman's forays into composed chamber works.  Hearing his intervallic logic worked out in a string quartet is incredibly fascinating and I wish that more ears perked up when he began exploring this direction.  Coleman's trio work is also presented here as a road he managed to travel more frequently.  We are left with this documentation that manages to hint at both what was to come and what could have been.

Ches Smith: Congs for Brums. 2006. Free Porcupine Society: 015.

Ches Smith: drums, vibraphone

Ches Smith sustains a 45-minute solo through a careful excursion through distinct territories.  Ches for Brums opens with a handful of notes on the vibraphone that border on being a network call sign.  This is then developed outward as a vibraphone solo that introduces bowed tones and moves toward metal bowls, bells and other percussion instruments along a path that leads toward the trap set.  Later pieces in this set move between the vibraphone and drums, exploring textural and stylistic variants that touch upon experimental percussion music, cool jazz and heavy metal.  Congs for Brums works as a showcase for Ches Smith's personal stylistic sensibilities.  His sense of formal development and his unique attack and tone.  It's less of a showcase of his formal technique.  His concern being weighted toward ideas and less toward flash.  This is is his own musical language and he speaks it fluently.  After a few spins of this disc I've come to appreciate his sense of dynamic variation and restraint.  He comes tantalizingly close to spinning out a sonic world that the listener can fully inhabit with transitions that cut things short before they get too comfortable.  Which is a sure fire way of leaving the listener hungry for more.

Various Artists: Technicolor Hell. 2007. Malleable: 01.

Mincemeat or Tenspeed
Dave Smolen
Sharks with Wings
Sweet Nothing
Charles Cohen
Joe Lentini
Cars Will Burn
Tim Albro
Drums Like Machine Guns

A compilation of the Philadelphia harsh noise scene that reveals multiple shades of aggressive signal flow.  The stand out for me is the relatively placid "I'll Let the Committee Name It" by Charles Cohen with his electronic textures of drips and liquid bubbling giving way to drumming textures.  It's a piece with a great sense of its own extremes and a sense of form that mines those extremes.  Newton's "Ode To My Bloody Philadelphia Heart" delivers the sharp bursts of static-laden noise that is a therapeutic staple of noise music.  Another track that lulls the ears in with its slow trickle of feedback before turning on the full fire hose of harsh is "Four Color Heck" by Tweeter.  A piece that deftly plumbs the high frequency drones most likely to leave the ears ringing afterward.  As a compilation, there is an inevitable uneven quality to these selections.  Though none of the tracks on Technicolor Hell are sub standard.  There are a few that slave a little too hard to an industrial beat for my taste.  But each does stand up as an aggressive (and necessary) expression.  This is collection is strictly for those willing to expand their awareness of sonic extremities.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

HurdAudio Rotation: Groove and Drone

The Bad Plus: Give. 2004. Sony Music Entertainment: CK 90771.

Reid Anderson: bass
Ethan Iverson: piano
David King: drums

The Bad Plus brings a healthy dose of prog rock to the jazz piano trio.  They do it without spectacle or glamour or back up vocalists.  They do it with a sound that is grounded in both jazz performance history and ears wise to the multitude of genres of the past several decades.  A lot of focus has been given to their approach to covering popular tunes (co-opting is more like it).  Give does close out with a particularly inspired shade of Deep Purple's "Iron Man."  But the focus on the way they twist the familiar gives short shift to the inventive turns that each member of this trio brings to this set as composers.  Particularly the balance of serious versus whimsy that David King strikes with such gems as "1979 Semi-Finalist" and "Layin' A Strip For the Higher-Self State Line."  Rhythmically, this is an incredibly tight group.  Though they do display an ability to loosen things up a bit when taking on Ornette Coleman's "Street Woman" in harmolodic style.  They manage to turn in performances that are enormously polished without being anesthetized.

Jonathan Zorn: For Rob Powers: Suite no. 2 - Additive Feedback. 2004. Set-Projects: 03.

Jonathan Zorn: electronics

The first twenty minutes or so of this suite exists at the very periphery of human perception.  A single drone that changes dramatically as the listener moves their head relative to the speakers.  Not all speakers can produce this frequency.  When this psycho acoustically rich drone does change musically it comes as a jolt.  A barely perceptible, barely audible pure tone that suddenly changes frequency, amplitude and slowly becomes less of a single sine tone.  The remainder of this suite unfolds through a series of short movements that retain the singularity of this sound.  A near monophonic study that introduces more variation and improvised bursts of sound driven by the way electrons interact as a signal.  The texture and the form of this work presents a stark austerity of sonic materials.  Opening the ears to the expansive qualities of minimal source.

Elliott Sharp/Tectonics: Errata. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: KFR-255.

Composed, performed and produced by Elliott Sharp.

Tectonics was Elliott Sharp's foray into the realm of electronica.  Studio creations that work with groove centered materials with Sharp's own sonic sensibilities attacking the form and content.  Part of what makes Elliott Sharp's music so appealing to my ears is his cerebral instinct that prevents him from mindlessly jamming out over drum loops.  He respects the physicality of the musical pulse.  This keeps him from wandering into the pulse-less, anti-body territory favored by other cerebral composers and instead mines a relentless assault upon texture as grooves are assembled and dissolved through creative processing and jump cuts.  The end result is a music that would never survive within night club dance culture (his Tectonics releases were frequently criticized as "failures" for not crossing over).  But the flip side is that this is music that ages incredibly well.  And I'll admit to being stuck on this disc for a few days as I discover nuances I had missed on an old favorite of mine.  But the real payoff in listening to this set as a whole is the final three tracks: "Goomy," "Kargyrea" and "Errataka."  Everything that comes before them feels like it builds up to where those three pieces go.  "Goomy" artfully develops a bass line and beat that skirt dangerously close to ear worm territory.  "Kargyrea" then seamlessly picks up on the timbral qualities of "Goomy" and develops it further.  Then "Errataka" comes in and bulldozes the entire sound with an aggressive, drone-heavy assault.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

HurdAudio Rotation: Mangled Pianos and Lake of Roaches

Annie Gosfield: Burnt Ivory and Loose Wires. 1998. Tzadik: TZ 7040.

Annie Gosfield: composer, sampling keyboards
Roger Kleier: electric guitar
Christine Bard: drums, percussion
Jim Pugliese: percussion
Ted Mook: cello
Rova Saxophone Quartet -
Bruce Ackley: soprano saxophone
Steve Adams: alto saxophone
Larry Ochs: tenor saxophone
Jon Raskin: baritone saxophone

Nickolaievski Soldat (1994)
Freud (1996)
The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory (1995)
Four Roses (1997)
Blue Serge (1996)
Brawl (1998)

There's a lot that hits home with these ears on this set of compositions.  Detuned piano samples and bursts of groove centered, pulsating gestalts hit right where I live.  The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory is an interesting piece structured along two, roughly 5-minute movements.  The first is a sampler solo that explores a texture of mangled piano samples (deliciously detuned, of course).  The second movement kicks into a large ensemble propelled by a driving pulse.  The ensemble feels like an organic outgrowth of the solo material even as the focus shifts squarely toward a more fully composed sound.  The sense of improvisation present in the first movement simply gives way to the militancy of the second.  This is strangely satisfying.  For my ears, Nickolaievski Soldat is the most satisfying of the set as a quartet of sampler, electric guitar and two percussionists.  Four Roses is a great study in tension between sampler and cello.  And Brawl offers a glimpse into the compositional terrain of Annie Gosfield when realized by a saxophone quartet (the only work on this set without a sampler).  Gosfield works with a style that embraces the physicality of rhythm in compelling ways.  Often this serves as a hook that draws the ears through a number of cerebral structures.

Mark Feldman: What Exit. 2006. ECM: 1928 B0007361-02.

Mark Feldman: violin
John Taylor: piano
Anders Jormin: double-bass
Tom Rainey: drums

The first sound to seep into the air as this music spins up is Tom Rainey's sticks on the high hat ushering in the long form "Arcade" as it cycles through multiple configurations of this quartet as it realizes a reserved, sparse texture stretched out for over twenty minutes.  The "Tom Rainey effect" comes into play early and often throughout this disc. Following "Arcade" is a series of more densely "composed" tunes that still leave plenty of breathing space for these stellar improvisers.  My ears always perk up at this quartet realization of "Elegy," a piece I know well from Mark Feldman's solo recording for Tzadik.  This recording is bathed in the spacious, Manfred Eicher production values that give this music a strong sense of chamber jazz.  It's a sound that all four of these musicians thrive within as they turn in a nearly flawless jazz record.  Highly, highly recommended.

Wolf Eyes: Human Animal. 2006. Sub Pop: SPCD 688.

Nathan Young: electronics, metal, harmonica, voice
Mike Connelly: electronics, metal, guitar, voice
John Olson: electronics, metal, saxophones, gong

The title of the last track states Wolf Eyes' position succinctly; "Noise Not Music."  Answering the question of what music can be when it attempts to embrace noise to the exclusion of music.  Within my personal aesthetic one must travel quite some distance to escape music as I embrace noise and all sound as being perceived as music.  My ears still regard this as noise and music.  Though Human Animal does have a unique relationship with pain as I don't realize how much pain my ears have been in until this music stops and relieves a sensory system that has been overwhelmed by high frequency content.  This is accompanied by a stinging sensation just as the eardrums reach a more relaxed state.  Human Animal does manage to build up to this state, hiding the aural fatigue through textural variation and crescendo.  Wolf Eyes opens this set with a slow simmer punctuated by percussive bursts before going into a full boil at the title track.  The brutality of this bleak, dark soundscape is appealing in much the same way as spicy cuisine (which is another pain I gladly indulge).  Like a well spiced dish, Human Animal does not disguise its form through a monotonous barrage of sonic aggression.  This is a set that holds together for the duration of its 30+ minutes with a healthy density of surface details to keep the ears engaged as they bleed.