Annie Gosfield: Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers. 2011. Cantaloupe Music.
Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers for piano and sampler
Brooklyn, October 5, 1941 for solo piano
Performed by Lisa Moore
Annie Gosfield has developed a singular language that focuses on the transitory properties of sampled sound with live acoustic instruments. And in the case of Brooklyn, October 5, 1941 strips away the electronic components to leave the acoustic exposed. A language that favors abrupt transitions between musical ideas and a healthy dose of rhythmic groove derived from the mechanical qualities of recorded machinery. The result is something dynamic, captivating and thoroughly non-derivative.
I heard Lisa Moore perform Lightning Slingers and Dead Ringers at a Bang on a Can marathon some time ago and was enthralled by the textures and the acrobatic feats of saddling a single virtuoso with playing the piano part and triggering samples. This recording allows me to wrap my head around the piece as a whole and understand its structural logic. I am happy to report that Lisa Moore still delivers a dynamic, thrilling performance for this recording and it is a work that stands up well to repeated listening as it reveals new details each time one encounters it. It is a genuinely outstanding composition.
The addition of Brooklyn, October 5, 1941 adds a perfect coda to this set. A short piano work that resonates like a ghost of an unheard recording of factory machinery. Instead realized as the maniacal rhythms played upon both the exterior and interior of the piano.
Fowl: InaStorMental. 2008. Independent.
InaStorMental exists at a different extreme from Annie Gosfield. The sonic language is anything but singular, often consisting of dense layers of multi-tracked material that pay homage to a set of influences that remind these ears of Frank Zappa and John Zorn. While the end result is often uneven on this disc, it does manage to soar when it is good. There is a great record lurking within this set, but it is often buried, obscured or in need of some editing. While much of the forward momentum of this music is compelling, it often trips over itself and loses its way in tangles of texture and atmosphere. There is much to like about this record, but there is also much that holds it back. Leaving the ears hungry for a quality that doesn't require qualification.
Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else. 2007. Thrill Jockey.
True to its name, the Exploding Star Orchestra presents music with a sense of cosmic scale. The centerpiece of this particular set is easily the Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time suite that invokes the wrath of the big bang along with the graceful agility of a swimming sting ray. Offering searing textures that draw upon the density of a large ensemble (with two drum kits kicking out grooves) to moments of exquisite intimacy of brittle electronics or solo piano. Rob Mazurek harnesses the creative energy of extremes and comes up with an expressive and rewarding whole for the listener willing to commit to these large, suite forms. Imagine the creative forces of Sun Ra and Philip K. Dick unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Music that draws upon the creative energy of the Chicago scene and shapes it into something larger than the sum of its considerable parts. This is an extraordinary record.