Sunday, December 31, 2006

Composed thoughts

During 2006 I invested a considerable amount of time and money investigating areas of modern composition in more depth than I ever have in the past. Whilst I have long had an interest in Feldman, Cage, Lachenmann and several others, over the last year I have dug deep into the back catalogue of an ever growing list of composers, slowly feeding an ever hungry appetite for new musical experiences. Here are some of the CDs I have enjoyed the most;

Luigi Nono
Many many albums, but in particular I have purchased five different versions of La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura for vioin and tape. Its hard to choose a favourite, the original Deutsche Gramophon version with Gideon Kremer’s violin is probably the one held in highest regard, and it is truly wonderful, though I also think the Clemens Merkel version on Wandelweiser and Irvine Arditti’s recording for Montaigne are equally strong.

Max Neuhaus
Not a composer (at least I don’t think so) but a percussionist and electronics pioneer that produced some amazing work in the ‘60s performing a relatively small canon of works by the likes of Feldman, Cage, Stockhausen and Brown. His Nine Realisations of the New York School (Alga Marghen) was one of the most played CDs at Pinnell Towers this last year, a wonderfully sensual and skilled set of works. Other favourites have been his Electronics and Percussion on Sony Japan and Four Realisations of Stockhausen’s Zyklus again on Alga Marghen.

Klaus Lang
A German composer with very little work out there on CD. Three solo compositions to be precise plus a duo work with Werner Dafeldecker. The three solos are all very powerful pieces, two of which have been released on Robert Zank’s rather fine Editions RZ label, the heart-stoppingly beautiful Trauermusiken (Mourning Music) for viola and Sei-Jaku for string quartet, played by the Ardittis. These two are quite different works in many ways, yet also share an intense concern for the quality of notes played, an incredible restraint to the composition and an unswerving focus on sheer simplistic beauty. The third solo on Durian, Die überwinterung der mollusken is I believe out of print these days and is therefore hard to find, but is well worth picking up if you stumble upon a copy as it inhabits just as good though slightly different ground to the two RZ releases.

James Tenney
Unfortunately Tenney passed away in 2006, and only a few months after I had discovered his music. I first picked up the HatART release Pika-Don for percussion ensemble following an unusual recommendation from Brian Marley, who proclaimed it the best thing he’d heard in months. High praise from a man that until very recently worked in a record shop and spends most of his time listening to dub reggae. ☺ Pika-Don Is indeed very good, though I have since come to prefer his other Hat release The solo works for percussion performed by Matthias Kaul that includes the very wonderful Koan: having never written a note for percussion a 1971 work for solo tam tam that predates Mark Wastell’s fine output by three decades. My investigations into Tenney’s earlier work for electronics have been less rewarding, though have been interesting from a historical point of view.

Giacinto Scelsi
My journey down the road of fully understanding Scelsi’s work is a new one, as I have only half a dozen or so CDs purchased and digested so far, but of the ex-serialist’s work my favourite piece so far has to be Natura Renovatur for string ensemble, with the version by the Klangforum Wien and Hans Zender on Kairos my favorite ahead of the recent ECM recording by the Munich Chamber Orchestra.

Eliane Radigue – Kyema, Intermediate States (XI)
I have adored Radigue’s music for many years, but this 1990 release of Kyema on Phill Niblock’s XI label has long avoided me, and I assumed it was out of print and only likely to turn up on eBay. Imagine my surprise then when I found single copies lurking in two different New York record shops in one afternoon last September. What’s more it’s a wonderful piece of music, an hour long study in drones and shifting chimes electronically pieced together by Radigue back in 1988. For me this is up there with Adnos I-IV as being amongst the best of Radigue’s work, a beautifully focussed and structured recording that I have used on more than one occasion in recent months to soothe the stress away after a tough day.

The Wandelweiser Group and label
Much maligned in certain circles for their continued exploration of Cagean ideas regarding silence in music, the Wandelweiser collective of composers and musicians have been creating and releasing music on their own label since 1992 with almost forty albums now available. Two out of every three Edition Wandelweiser releases are well worth owning to my ears, with a few of their releases absolutely essential. Along with the great Nono release mentioned above the following releases have all had heavy rotation here over the last twelve months (though unless you turn the volume right up sometimes you just don’t notice!)
Christian Wolff – Stones (Wandelweiser Komponisten Ensemble)
John Cage – Cartridge Music (Daswirdas Ensemble)
John Cage – Branches (Daswirdas Ensemble)
Burkhard Schlothauer – Arbregisterieren (Eva-Maria houber, Organ)
Eva-Maria Houben – Dazwischen / immer anders
Tim Parkinson – cello Piece (Stefan Thut, violoncello)
Radu Malfatti – Die temperatur der bedeutung
Jurg Frey - Klaviermusik 1978-2001 (John McAlpine, piano)
Burkhard Schlothauer – ChamberEvents

Horatio Radelescu
A composer I am intrigued and impressed by so far but a long way to go with his music. The immensely complex Streichquartett nr.4 opus 33 on RZ is a fantastic work that reveals something new with every listen, just as its composition and performance (by the Arditti String Quartet) is an immense undertaking, developing Radelescu’s interesting ‘spectral’ music, the piece is a real challenge to listen to, particularly after spending some time with the sleeve notes makes you completely rethink your approach to listening to the CD!
I have recently acquired the new SubRosa release of his Intimate Rituals for viola(s), though have not yet got around to spending any time with it.

So just some of the areas I’ve been digging into, and hope to hear more of in 2007. Recommendations for further listening always gratefully received.

Another year, another list.

So 2006 comes to an end. Its been a funny old year. On a physical level I've not had a good year at all. My job has reduced me to an exhausted wreck most of the time, as everyone that knows me is sick of hearing about. 2006 has seen me unwell at regular intervals, an experience I have never had in my life. So from that point of view, good riddance to the last twelve months, though unfortunately 2007 doesn't look that much rosier from a work point of view.

However, the last twelve months have also been a real rollercoaster for me when it comes to music. Alastair and I began audition on ResonanceFM nearly a year ago now, and some 35 shows later it remains a really enjoyable, positive thing to do. Working on this with ol' fuzzface has been nothing short of a joy, and despite his occasionally dreadful taste in music Al has been a great guy to know, so cheers mate.

I began Cathnor halfway through the year, and whilst there have been several important lessons learnt in a short period of time, the experience of running a label, however small it may be has been very rewarding. I hope to get Cath003-007 out before 2007 is done with, and there are some more vague ideas for projects in the pipeline too.

I have been lucky enough to witness music in five different countries, and have attended festivals in New York, Dublin, Norway, Stirling and Melbourne (OK, well not that Melbourne as such, Melbourne in Derbyshire, England, but it sounds good) and overall saw around seventy live sets of music. I've been fortunate enough to spend quality time in the company of some great musicians who have become friends, and have had the chance to meet up with online friends in person, which has always been a very strange, but enjoyable experience.

And so to the annual torturous ritual of list-making... Once again, there's been some fantastic music released this year. Despite the early doom and gloom predictions that the well had run dry I have really really struggled to whittle down the 350 or so CDs I have acquired this year to a Top 20. Call me Mr Over-tolerant if you like, but I have had a lot of fun enjoying no end of great music this year, and I could easily have made a list of 50 CDs from 2006 that I would heartily endorse, so no apologies for my enthusiasm for the twelve months just gone and my optimism for 2007.

So here then, after literally several weeks of deliberation is the Top20... take it with a pinch of salt, I'll probably change my mind next week, and apologies if your CD didn't make the cut. Cathnor releases are obviously excluded, or at least one of them would have ranked very highly...

1. Keith Rowe / Toshimaru Nakamura – between (Erstwhile)
2. Taku Sugimoto / Taku Unami – Tengu et Kitsune (Slub)
3. Klaus Filip / Toshimaru Nakamura – Aluk (IMJ)
4. [N:Q] – November Quebec (Esquilo)
5. Mark Wastell – Amoungst English Men (Absinth)
6. Jakob Ullmann – A Catalogue of Sounds (Edition RZ)
7. Nmperign / Jason Lescalleet – Love me two times (Intransitive)
8. Mattin / Radu Malfatti – Going Fragile (Formed)
9. David Lacey / Paul Vogel / Mark Wastell – Live Dublin (Confront)
10. Manfred Werder – 20061 (Skiti)
11. Keith Rowe, Tomas Korber, Gunter Müller – Fibre (For 4 Ears)
12. Will Guthrie / Ferran Fages – Cinabri (Absurd)
13. Anthony Burr, Charles Curtis – Alvin Lucier (Antiopic/Sigma)
14. Burkhard Stangl / Taku Unami – i was (Hibari)
15. Arek Gulbenkoglu – Untitled (Document)
16. Tim Parkinson – Cello Piece (Wandelweiser)
17. Jason Lescalleet – The Pilgrim (Glistening Examples)
18. Kai Fagaschinski / Christof Kurzmann – First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Quincunx)
19. Christof Kurzmann / Ami Yoshida – a s o (Erstwhile)
20. Taku Sugimoto – Live in Kansai (Slub)

It originally crossed my mind to write a paragraph on each release, but if you are here reading this then the chances are you know what there is to know about most of the above. If there's anything you'd like to pick at my thoughts on then let me know.
So thats the list done, 2006 over with and here's to 2007.
Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

An early morning ramble

This morning after I had given up waiting for the sun to change the sky over Oxfordshire to any colour other than grey I went for a walk into the muddy, cold gloom of the countryside for a couple of hours. Along with warm coat, silly hat and walking boots I went armed with my iPod and a decent pair of Sennheisers and listened to lossless rips of a couple of albums that have caught my ears over the last week or so in a late run to try and dent my Top20 of the year...

No Spaghetti Edition - Sketches of a Fusion (Sofa)
No Spaghetti Edition are (for this album anyway, the line up changes from release to release) Martin Tétreault (turntables and small electronics) Xavier Charles (clarinet and harmonica) Christian Wallumrød (piano) Tonny Kluften (double bass) Ingar Zach (percussion) and Ivar Grydeland (guitar and banjo)

I picked this up only after listening to a lengthy portion of it at my local friendly record emporium at the recommendation of the pusherman behind the counter :) Although one or two of the names that make up No Spaghetti Edition have made great records I own in the past, the idea of a sextet made up of that arrangement of instrumentation producing a record entitled Sketches of a Fusion didn't exactly fill me with confidence, but I've rather enjoyed this.

There is condiderable restraint shown throughout, and most importantly the pace of the music is kept down, there's nothing worse than six musicians rushing about fighting for a space in the music. The pallette of colours is kept to a minimum too, and as I wandered along dreary countryside paths this morning I kept hearing shades of grey in the music, although the two track titles, Dark and Black suggest an even deeper gloom. Muted textures and decaying sounds are very much the order of the day, which is never a bad thing in my book.

The first of the two tracks, Dark is twice the length of the second, at 36 minutes. Although in a few places there is a sense of lost direction in the music, it contains some very beautiful periods, with the most successful usually involving Tetreault 's subtle buzzing and scraping from his turntables providing a textured canvas for one or two of the others to drop acoustic moments into. On few occasions do you hear more than two or three instruments at a time, and there is a sense of melancholic precision to the music perfect for the surroundings I listened to it in this morning. Overall, though a more critical edit of the track may have resulted in a more consistent work, its good stuff all the same.

The second shorter piece has more of an urgency to it, and again its Tetreault's contributions that seem to lead the way, with a tinkling, drilling sound near the start providing a backdrop for Wallumrød's minimal but persistent piano notes and Charles' forlornly wailing clarinet lines. Two thirds through and Tetreault steps back to allow the piano and bass to pick out small figures from the background, until some high pitched bowed metal swoops signal in a hissing, revolving wash from the turntables that suddenly drops away to leave a delicate patchwork of plucked strings and gently distressed metal. With a minute to go a slow static fuzz from Tetreault returns and builds as if making a point before it rips short to end the album.
Black is almost an abridged version of its predeccesor on the CD and probably works a littl ebetter for just that reason.

I liked this album lot, particularly when played in the right surroundings.

Edit: I just noticed that Brian posted a review of this at Bagatellen today as well, pretty spooky, especially as his feelings are very close to mine. Unfortunately the ever unreliable Bags server won't let me post a comment at the moment...sigh

RM74 / RLW - Pirouetten (Crouton)
This literally fell through my letterbox this morning, a lovely little package (as Crouton releases usually are) to brighten a gloomy end to a tiring year. The package consists of a CD and eight slightly larger than postcard sized prints of details from a winterstruck tree highlighted against a grey/blue sky. The images are not unlike (though far superior to) the photo that leads this blog entry, that I took on my walk this morning, each of them studies in negative shape and beautiful wintry desolation.
How these images realte to the music is less clear, and a paragraph from the Crouton press release leads to even further intrigue;

RM74 wanted to visit Ralf Wehowsky a.k.a. RLW in his solid green middle-class garden. On his way to RLW's single-family-house, RM74 became a victim of the german control paranoia, as embodied by a sturdy female Karlsruhe tram-warden. Influenced by the folkloristic stubbornness of present-day control authorities, a sustained penance resulted in mutual musical pieces.

RM74 is Reto Måder, a Swiss electroacoustician that I have not come across before. RLW is of course Ralf Wehowsky, for me one of the most talented yet frustratingly erratic sound arrangers around today. The music they make is varied, highly crafted and full of surprises, with each track taking a very different tack, ranging from deeply electronic soundscapes to acoustic conversations, with the list of sound sources involved reading like a dictionary of musical instruments.

Though each track has its own particular character there is a strange sinister feel to Pirouetten, perhaps a throw back to Wehowsky's industrial music past. There is a brooding sense of disquiet to the music, that sometimes manifests itself in obvious ways, such as the claustrophic swoops and backmasked children's voices at the start of Kontrollpunkt am herzen der wintergeister (Inspection point at the heart of the winter spirit according to babelfish, probably a reference to the tram-warden). In other places the feeling of unease is less tangible. The fifth track, intriguingly titled Folklore Off begins with a strangely off kilter cello set to all kinds of background clatter and in particular a frantically assaulted sheet of paper. Sturmangriff zur Austreiburg der Wintergeister und Anderer Geistlicher (go babelfish it yourself! )is made up of swarms of clamouring electronic drones that build up until suddenly overlaid by the sound of a marching band and what appears to be the gossip of the crowd watching it pass. All a bit surreal, but also somewhat unsettling.

Pirouetten is a fine album that sits in a category of its own. Quite often the music employs sounds that normally I shy away from. Early musique concrete twittering and electronic phasing all play a part, yet somehow are mixed in such a way with gentle chimes, hums and field recordings that make it all sound ok. On track seven, Herz Schlågt Noch sounds not dissimilar to those my nasal passages were making when I had a bad cold just before Christmas mix with a murky (I think pitchshifted) piano and EQ-ridden percussion to make up the one track that goes a little too far for me, but even then its comes together to some degree as the sounds converge into one growing mass towards the end.

So I think overall Pirouetten is one that will require a lot more listens, but as an individual and finely crafted statement its a fine piece of work. It gave the second half of my walk an odd soundtrack. Although 10AM in the morning, the greyness of the skies combined with the cloaked aggression of Måder and Wehowsky's music somehow encouraged me to hurry home faster than I had ambled off in the other direction, and as the clouds opened and the rain began, i'm quite pleased I did.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

'Twas the night before Christmas

So yes its that time of the year... the frantic present buying and wrapping is over and done with, work can be forgotten for a day or two and this is my chance to wish a tolerable Christmas to all of those that may read this. If you don't celebrate Christmas well I hope you have a good couple of days anyway.

So the last two days I've spent quite a bit of time doing my annual last minute Christmas shopping, buying rubbish for people that don't want it, the usual thing. This has taken me into a lot of shops however, and as my quest to do more careful listening continues I have found this an interesting, if depressing time to have one's ears fully open on the high street out there.
People walking about in the street raise their voices more at this time of the year, snippets of conversations as people rush past sound fraught, worried, and the sounds from the street musicians have obviously changed, with even Oxford's resident didgeridoo busker attempting a version of Silent Night. Cars move faster (or so it seems) engines rev harder, and the Big Issue sellers take to wishing you a Merry Christmas whether you want to have one or not.

In shops the background music (muzak?) has the inevitable Christmas twist to it, but when you really stop and listen its amazing how few Christmas songs there are in rotation. Over here in old blighty we get Slade's 'Merry Christmas Everybody' , Wizzard's 'I wish it could be Christmas every day' , and Shakin' Stevens' 'Merry Christmas Everyone' over and over again, with a few other similar tracks joining them, but despite the endless stream of Christmas crap that comes out every year the only song from recent years that seems to have joined that elite group is Fairytale of New York, by The Pogues with the late Kirsty MaColl. This is quite pleasing as that song is by miles the best Christmas song ever written, but I fear that if I hear it many more times its magic may well begin to diminish, and it will fast join Jonah Lewie's 'Stop the Cavalry' as a song I really hope I never hear again.

There were a couple of odd moments whilst listening to in-store music over recent days. (I actually took notes of what was playing as we wandered about... Julie very nearly disowned me!) A branch of Borders played the standard Christmas fare at one end of the shop (Band Aid's 'Do they know its Christmas?' to be precise) but what sounded like a 'Best of Punk' compilation at the other, as The Clash's 'London Calling' and the Damned's 'New Rose' were both played. Standing just in between Biographies and New Hardback Fiction seemed to provide the perfect stereo mix.
In the very staid and mock traditional environment of Whittard's Tea and Coffee Shop a drum and bass album played very quietly in the background, and from where we sat and recovered with a hot drink the breaks in the music were filled by the sound of an amateur choir serenading that good king called Wenceslas particularly badly in the shopping centre outside, and an obnoxious child not happy that his parents chose a cup of tea in Whittards over a milkshake in McDonalds.

Finally, close listening revealed to me that the various Santas in various grottos around the town all seemed to have a Polish accent this year... sign of the times?!

Anyway, have a good one.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Can you keep a secret?

A recent I Hate Music thread asked for people to nominate their 'secret' CDs of the year, releases that perhaps have slipped under the radar yet warrant a mention. here are mine, two modern composition discs I have enjoyed listening to a lot, and a CDR release;

Jakob Ullmann - A Catalogue of Sounds (Edition RZ)
For Violin, Viola, Violoncello and Ensemble, this has been one of my own little discoveries of the year. Beautifully restrained, dry playing working with texture and muted colours and some incredible use of sustained notes the like of which Ive not witnessed before. Ullmann works with a reduced pallette that touches all the sweet spots for me.

Tim Parkinson - Cello Piece (Wandelweiser)
On Wandelweiser but far from silent. This is a wonderfully put together composition made up of twelve short parts that are all relatively different in sound and feel, each written on a separate sheet of paper.
For a live performance the pages are then shuffled and played in random order, so on the CD version the idea is to do the same, play the music on shuffle mode.

The piece plays with the idea of listening closely to single, simple sounds from one instrument and then places another random sound from the same instrument beside it so that the juxtapositioning or compatibility of the two are interesting at a very basic, fundemental level. Its hard to describe beyond that, but given time, space and attention Cello Piece is a very rewarding experience.

Cor Fuhler, Keith Rowe - Doek3 (Conundrom CDR)
A recording from a concert in late 2003 that I believe was meant to appear at one time on the Grob label. Cor has made a few copies as CDRs and has been selling them on his own Conundrom label, but I'm not sure if he is up for making mass copies and distributing at all. Cor?
The music is great, Rowe's tabletop guitar and Fuhler playing prepared piano. I caught this duo live earlier this year and they were predictably good, a nice balance of the acoustic properties of each instrument tied to the power of the electonics affecting them both. Some lovely dynamics across the half hour long piece. There aren't many examples of Fuhler's piano work out there on disc ( a rather lovely solo CD is on the way in 2007 I understand however) so if there's any way you can find this I suggest you do, and I hope it finds a proper CD release one day.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You just had to be there...

OK so as the year drags its weary heaving carcass to a close we reach that time for writing ridiculous lists about the music we have enjoyed over the past twelve months. Well the pile of CDs not yet listened to remains a little too tall to be able to settle on a favourite CD list for the year just yet, but as I am now done with live shows until 2007 here is my list of favourite concerts from 2006.

Obviously ranking live shows like this is a hard thing to do. When you only experience something the once its very difficult to rate it against other events held months later, but I've taken a stab at it. On another week this list would probably look very different but for now it'll do. I think its safe to say that after a year in which I've been lucky enough to witness more than seventy sets of live music and thirteen of those involving Keith Rowe anything that made this Top 20 is of a pretty high quality!

1. Keith Rowe, Solo Treatise set. London 8th April.
2. David Lacey, Paul Vogel, Mark Wastell. Dublin 1st April.
3. Radu Malfatti, Klaus Filip. Brooklyn 2nd October.
4. John Tilbury and The Smith Quartet playing Morton Feldman – For John Cage. Huddersfield, 18th November.
5. Radu Malfatti, Mattin. New York Erstquake 1st October.
6. Keith Rowe, Cor Fuhler. Huddersfield, 18th November.
7. The Sealed Knot. London 28th October
8. English. New York Erstquake 29th September.
9. Keith Rowe, Sean Meehan. Dublin 1st April.
10. Otomo Yoshihide’s Anode Project. (Quiet Set) London LMC Fest 15th December.
11. John Tilbury playing Morton Feldman – Palais de Mari. London 24th March.
12. Keith Rowe, Matt Davis, Lee Patterson, Ben Drew, Graham Halliwell – Treatise set AVP Festival Melbourne, Derbyshire. 15th September.
13. Tomas Korber Solo. London LMC Fest 17th December.
14. English with Sachiko M. New York Erstquake 1st October.
15. Tomas Korber, Tisha Mukarji, Toshimaru Nakamura, Mark Wastell. Stirling 26th May.
16. Annette Krebs Solo. Dublin 31st March.
17. Burkhard Beins, Angharad Davies, Bertrand Denzler, Ben Drew, Wolfgang Fuchs, Graham Halliwell, Tomas Korber, Dominic Lash, Mark Wastell. Trondheim Norway 12th May.
18. Lee Patterson Solo. London April 30th..
19. Tim Barnes, Jeph Jerman, Sean Meehan. New York Erstquake 1st October.
20. Sachiko M, Sean Meehan, New York Erstquake 29th September.

Bubbling just under:

Sachiko M Solo London April 30th.
Jason Lescalleet, Phill Niblock. New York, Erstquake 1st October
David Lacey, Annette Krebs, Paul Vogel, Keith Rowe. Dublin 31st March

Monday, December 18, 2006

The one about the two Irishmen, a Swissman and a hotdog...

So tonight after a long day at work I am pleased to be able to just relax at home after three days of charging backwards and forwards to London for the LMC's 15th Annual Festival. As with all festivals it had its musical high and low points for me, but overall despite the exceptionally aggravating venue I had a really great time, many thanks to Ben Drew for putting so much hard work and effort into making it happen.

A full review will appear at Paris Transatlantic in the New Year, so not too much detail now, but here are some of my highs and lows of the weekend:


Otomo Yoshihide's Anode group, and in particular the sublime quiet set on Friday.
Tomas Korber's solo, despite the fact he had been very unwell all day. lesson: don't buy hot dogs from London street traders...
The Fluxus extravaganza by Keith Rowe, Ben Patterson and his son Lee. Perhaps not the greatest set I've ever heard musically, but rivetting, hilarious and thought provoking all the same, with a rather lovely and somewhat stormy couple of pages from Treatise buried in the middle.
Meeting up and spending time with David and Paul from Dublin and Alfio from Sicily, plus good to say hi again to Keith, Tomas, Tisha and one or two others that had flown in just to come and listen.
Being sat behind Bernard Parmegiani and his wife during the Texturizer audio/video set watching their responses... as Parmegiani forced his fingers hard into his ears his wife clamped her hand over her eyes... between the two of them I don't think they liked it much!


Being disappointed by Olivia Block live, perhaps just a simple playback of her work would have been better.
The missed opportunity of the Tim Barnes / Ishikawa Ko set that really didn't ever come alight but really should have been great...
Rhodri Davies' baseball cap...
Not meeting up with Luka Z of l'innomable... either he never made it over from Slovenia or he came over and couldn't get in. Either way a shame.
£3 for a bottle of Becks.

Looking forward to next year already!

CDs picked up over the weekend, including a trip to Sound323 and a parcel of stuff landing on my doormat today:

Taku Sugimoto - Live in Kansai (Slub)
Rhodri Davies, Ko Ishikawa - compositions for harp and sho (Compositions by Sugimoto, Masahiko Okura, Antoine Beuger and Toshiya Tsunoda) (Hibari)
Manfred Werder - Ein(e) ausführende(r) seiten 218-226 (Wandelweiser)
Chris Watson, BJ Nilsen- Storm (Touch)
No Spaghetti Edition - Sketches of a fusion (Sofa)
Bernhard Günter, Heribert Friedl - Trans (Non Visual Objects)
Makiko Nishikaze - Aqua . Piano . Aerial (Wandelweiser)
Richard Chartier - Current (Room40)
Kenneth Kirschener - Three Compositions (Sirr)
Anthony Burr, Charles Curtis - Alvin Lucier (Antopic/Sigma)
Horatiu Radelescu - Intimate Rituals (SubRosa)
Xavier Charles, Robert Piotrowicz - /// (EMD Records)
Keiichiro Shibuya, Maria - Slipped Disk (ATAK)
Yuji Takahashi, Keiichiro Shibuya, Maria - Dub Lilac (ATAK)
Keiichiro Shibuya, Norbert Moslang, Toshimaru Nakamura - s/t (ATAK)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Preparing for the Festivities

Yes its that time of the year again, we all get excited, the preparation needs to be done, but once its in place much merriment can be expected. You make any travel arrangements you need to make, you contact friends so you can all meet up and have a great time together, the entertainment is all laid on, there's even an old friendly fella with a beard.

Yep, its the LMC Festival again this weekend, including Otomo's Anode project, Tomas Korber, Bernard Parmegiani, Olivia Block, Tim Barnes and Keith "Santa" Rowe with Ben Patterson amongst other acts... looking forward to it, its just such a shame that Christmas rubbish follows so close behind...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sorting out my piles

Rarely a day passes without at least one CD falling through my letterbox (or rather gets left out in the rain thanks very much Mrs Postlady, grr) so its not unusual when coupled with regular trips to Sound323 for there to be a considerable pile of music waiting to be heard at the end of my desk.

Its rare that I manage to find a few spare hours to work my way through some of them, and even rarer that such a great little collection of albums accumulate at the top of the pile at one time. This past weekend though I somehow managed to spend some valuable time playing some of the recent releases I've gathered up, and I have to say its been a while since so many discs impressed me so much all at once.

I for one am glad I didn't publish my favourite CDs of the year list just yet, as there are probably some entries in that list to be found amongst this little group of latecomers. More details on them to come soon, but for now these have all been spinning frequently on my overworked CD player the last few days:

Jaon Lescalleet - The Pilgrim (only the little silver CD so far, I couldn't get the big one to fit in my player as yet)
Mark Wastell - Amoungst English Men
Olivia Block - Heave To
Tim Parkinson - Cello Piece
Joe Colley - Waste of Songs
Traw with Rhodri Davies - Cwywp y dwr ar ganol dydd

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Stress and the CD

I have a very stressful job that sees me work 60 plus hours a week under quite a bit of pressure. Music is one of my escapes from this relentless assault on my blood pressure, but stress is never far away.

So whilst browsing the contemporary classical sections of the big music chains on Oxford Street this afternoon I found a disc of the "Ka" and "Ttai" piano suites by Giancinto Scelsi, a CD on the Col Legno label that I've never seen before. I bought it, and headed off to the pub to meet Alastair, my co-presenter on the audition radio programme for our pre-show drink.

It was whilst sat waiting for him to arrive I noticed a statement from Scelsi on the back of the disc:

"This suite should be listened to and played with the greatest interior calm. Restless people should keep away"

Well as of today I have a new ambition, to be able to sit and listen to this album.

So why Learning to Listen?

Because we don't. Or I don’t, well, not enough anyway. Sure I sort of listen, there's music playing in the background right now as I type this for instance, but is my attention fully with Sabine Ecklertz's trumpet right now? Not really.

I need to listen more, really listen, not just in bed before falling asleep when there’s nothing distracting me, and not just when I need to write something about the music and I have to force myself to focus, but as a matter of course. It can be done, it just takes a little practice.

One place I often manage to listen well is on the train home from London on Sunday evenings, when my senses are heightened after presenting the radio show and the train home is (usually) relatively empty.
Tonight however, the train was busy for some reason, and whilst I found a seat, it was only in the “Quiet Carriage”. The concept of the Quiet Carriage has long amused me. The theory is that you are not allowed to use mobile phones or personal stereos in the carriage so that people can have a little peace and quiet.
On the whole I quite like the idea of not getting assaulted by some annoying teenager blasting second hand music at me and not having to listen to someone’s telephone conversation apologising to the wife for being late home, but for those of us that are able to listen to music and also have a little respect for those sat beside us it’s a little annoying.

My amusement however, comes solely from the title “Quiet Carriage”. Apart from the obvious fact that the shoddily built excuses for trains that run on the Great Western line make a similar noise to your average Prurient concert, there are many reasons why the carriage is far from quiet.
Tonight a bevvied-up bunch of Chelsea fans celebrated dropping crucial Premiership points by splitting their time between a game of paper bag football in the aisles and what sounded like a pretty accomplished belching competition. Behind me a young couple kissed each other so violently I could hear the sound of bruises forming, and a lone Asian guy was either ignoring the no phones rule or talking loudly to himself, could have been either.

So unable to retreat to my iPod like usual, I just closed my eyes and listened to this veritable cacophony until at the last stop before I get off the carriage emptied. Now sat alone I took out my iPod, figuring that the Quiet Carriage rules only applied if there was more than one person in the carriage.
However just before those little white buds went into my ears I stopped myself, realising that a moment alone without my ears being pummelled by anything more than the now somehow satisfying rumble of the train across the tracks was something to be cherished. The final ten minutes of the journey home were spent watching raindrops rush across the window and getting caught in the graffiti scratched in the glass.

So yeah, listening, I need to do more of it.

Friday, December 01, 2006


So, a blog.

Lets not beat around the bush, I've decided to start writing here after reading recent blogs by friends and people I admire and thinking that this is a nice thing to do. In particular over recent weeks the pages by Brian Olewnick and Robert Kirkpatrick have been an inspiration. Although I have had the idea to do this rattling around in my head ever since writing daily reviews a year or so ago for my One Month with Jeph Jerman thread at the I Hate Music forum, its only now having seen what can be done that I have done something about it.

So what can you expect from me here? Well, all the usual stuff, badly thought out, opinionated writing on experimental music, typing errors, aimless musings on anything and everything that crosses my path, and the odd photograph or two.
How can you possibly resist?