Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Irish Post

I'm in Ireland right now, posting from a little internet cafe that would be a really nice place if they didn't insist on playing Chris Rea records at you. I'm here for the i and e festival again, my third year in succession here. I nearly didn't make it over this time, with other stuff in life getting in the way, but I'm really pleased I made the effort again. The journey here was hell however, a two hour car journey was followed by the severe annoyance of having my debit card stolen by a faulty ATM machine at Stansted airport. Fortunately I had withdrawn plenty of cash earlier or I wouldn't be sat typing this here now. This was followed by a three hour wait at Stansted, the first two hours in the airport waiting lounge, which has apparently won various awards, presumably for services to soulless plastic places for people to look depressed in.

Anyway the music last night was fantastic, as is so often the case at this great little festival. More detail later when I have had the time to wrap my head around it all without "A road to hell" blaring in my ears, but the final two sets last night were great. The closing performance by No Furniture (Axel Dorner, Kai Fagaschinski and Boris Blatschun) was a subtle, assured set from three fantastic musicians. The real gem for me was the set by the Chip Shop Music quartet of Erik Carlsson, Martin Kuchen, David Lacey and Paul Vogel, really great and highly engaging music that had me right on the edge of my rather uncomfortable church pew seat. Later we enjoyed a game of count how many bowls of rice can be delivered to one table in a pretty bad Chinese restaurant, followed by a round of hunt the German musicians in ridiculously overcrowded Dublin pubs, but a great time was had all around.

Tonight there are four more sets, a solo from Boris Baltschun, a clarinet duo from Paul Vogel and Roy Carroll (having met him last night I can assure everyone that Mr Carroll has never played in goal for Manchester United), a solo from Jason Lescalleet and the much anticipated trio of Kuchen, Carlsson and Dorner. This great city feels like a second home these days. Right now after wandering around in the rain again today I'm off to bed for a few hours.

Oh yes and thanks Al for looking after audition alone again this weekend, much appreciated.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Extra large briefs

Right, there's so much good music and stuff here right now. I wish I had time to write in detail about everything that's moved me in recent weeks, but as I haven't, I figured that (not for the first time) I'd take a page out of Brian's book and take the lazyarse route of mentioning things briefly here...

First up, a big thank you to everyone that has sent me CDs recently for one reason or another, every one of you is a warm fuzzy wonderful person. Without you, well there would be less CDs in my life and that can never be a good thing can it? Particular thanks are due to the incredibly generous, kind hearted Antoine Beuger who just about completed my Wandelweiser collection with one package of discs. I am very grateful, and hope to restart my all too brief series of Wandelweiser musings here soon.

So what have I been listening to? Well just recently I've been on something of a Martin Küchen pilgrimage. I was left a little cold by his solo release on Confront a few years back, but have always been a fan of his contributions to the group Looper. It was his involvement alongside fellow Swede Erik Carlsson and the Irish duo of Advice Lady and A Love Plug in the group Chip Shop Music that sent me back to listen to that earlier disc though, and also to pick up a stream of recent releases, the last two of which only arrived here yesterday. The best of the recent four may well be Küchen's solo Homo Sacer on the Sofa offshoot label Silion, a rare solo sax disc that really captivates me, partly because it doesn't sound much like saxophone for much of the CD. Its varies quite a bit, from the kind of extended sax techniques we have become familiar with through to strange percussive patterns and almost electronic sounding passages. Homo Sacer hits the spot for me ahead of the old Confront disc partly because it contains longer pieces that are allowed to develop and evolve rather than the short catalogue style of the pieces on that earlier disc.

Two of the other Küchen releases have been duos with the guitarist David Stackenas. The first, named Agape from a year or two back on the Creative Sources label is really good. These two musicians compliment each other well, all gritty textural conversations with a great sense of space and balance. Its clear they had played together quite a lot prior to that release as the understanding between the two is very evident. Far too many good discs seem to avoid my attention when they first come out simply because they get buried in the usual deluge of CS releases (can you believe the catalogue is now 120 releases strong?) and this is another one in that category, but I got there in the end. Yesterday I received a copy of Guardaropa Open/Closed, the duo's new release on the beautifully packaged Kning Disk label. For this release they named the duo Agape, taking up the longstanding (but slighty perplexing, why do musicians always do that?) tradition of applying the title of the first album as the group name. I played it once through early this morning and although it has yet to have the impact of the first album I enjoyed it. Stackenas plays the guitar in a traditional manner more often on this release, which gives the album a quite different dynamic here and there but hey, only one spin so far, more listens required. The final Küchen related release also came through the door yesterday, a duo with Carlsson's percussion entitled Beirut. This one seemed to be a quieter, brooding affair at first blush, I have a feeling this one will grow to be a favourite.

Other interesting items include a gorgeously packaged little 3" CDR by Matthieu Saladin that sounds one hell of a lot less cute than it looks. It is essentially a recording of the first ever released performance of John Cage's 4"33", but with the "silence" amplified up to maximum levels and resulting in a deafening roar of fascinating detail. proof indeed that there is no such thing as silence...

Kostis Kilymis has launched a new label entitled Organized Music from Thessaloniki. He's waiting for me to pass comment on the name of the label, so I won't do that and will keep him waiting, but the first three releases are all well worth hearing. Brian mentions them all in his post here, and I agree with what he has to say so I won't repeat his words. I'd like to write more on these discs if I get a chance soon however.

Two new releases from Simon Reynell's fine Another Timbre label arrived this week too. (I somehow forgot to order the third of his new releases, I'll catch up with it soon) I have a few problems with the first of the discs I bought, the quartet of Max Eastley, Graham Halliwell, Evan Parker and Mark Wastell. Well, to be honest only one problem, namely Evan Parker, whose playing I just can't abide. I was so hoping that this would be the group to move him towards something I could come to enjoy, but alas not. Well not after a single listen anyway. I need to hear it some more and stop being such a judgmental old sod. The other new Another Timbre release I picked up has just finished its first spin as I type this. Clive Bell and Bechir Saade's An account of my hut sounded lovely on that first outing, naked, unadorned traditional wind instruments, (shakuhachi and ney to be precise) played and recorded in a manner that nicely captures the human spirit behind these simple yet beautiful pieces.

A nice little curio came from the Crouton label in as delightful packaging as ever. Node and anti-nodes is a DVD put together by the percussionists (seems such a limiting term for these two) Jon Meuller and Jeph Jerman. It features a series of short films very tastefully made that capture the detail of the making of the musi of the duo, close-ups of vibrating metal, sticks and stones bouncing around etc... The disc also contains an Mp3 soundfile of the music to the films as well. A clip can be viewed here,

A couple of new blogs to mention that try and do a little more than waffle on endlessly like I do here: Compost and Height is a nice venture put together by Patrick Farmer and his girlfriend Sarah (alas I don't know Sarah's surname, sorry) The blog contains links to exclusive tracks of a field recording nature, so far by Patrick and by Jez riley French, who would kill me if I forgot to also mention his new blog here. Jez also includes links to soundfiles alongside writing in his own inimitable, passionate fashion.

On the reading front I finally finished Elizabeth Wilson's Shostakovich: A Life Remembered some seven months after I started it... Why so long? Well apart from the fact its some 600 pages long and I don't manage to find very much time to sit and read these days, I tend to have several books on the go at the same time. It would be good not to do this, and concentrate on just one at a time, but it never seems to happen. I buy books faster than I read them and so as soon as I finished this one I began Alex Ross's equally long The Rest is Noise a somewhat ambitious attempt to capture the spirit of the music of the 20th Century in one volume. Thirty-odd pages in its an enjoyable if whirlwind read so far, though I'm not sure that The Guardian's front page description of Ross as "the man that transformed classical music" is not just a tad over the top.

In other news the broadcasting behemoth that is the audition radio show trundles along, some 67 shows strong now. We achieved a first for the show a couple of weeks back when we got the trio of Phil Durrant, Lee Patterson and Paul Vogel into the studio to perform live for us. We are proud of how that one turned out. An Mp3 of the show can be heard here.

A new Cathnor release should also be in my hands this time next week, the first for far too long a time. More details on that one very soon and all being well a new Cathnor website to coincide. All being well I am off to Dublin again next weekend for the 2008 incarnation of the i and e Festival. Really looking forward to making that trip again.

Finally a new review of mine went up at Bagatellen this week, and one I am quite proud of too. It can be found here.

Oh and whatever you do, don't buy the limited edition Marmite with Champagne in it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bumbling apologies

Its not been much fun around here of late. My long suffering other half Julie has been back and forth to hospital getting prodded about by any number of doctors and consultants. Despite early fears of cervical cancer we found out for sure today that she has nothing immediately life threatening. A significant and somewhat life changing operation now needs to follow, but we now know where we stand, and some of the stress and worry has been lifted.

Anyway, for once this isn't a post begging for pity, but a brief apology to the countless people I have let down one way or the other over the past few weeks. Delayed reviews, slow to appear Mp3s, a lack of posts here, CDs mailed out taking forever, emails not replied to, forthcoming Cathnor releases not being focussed upon etc...

Sorry guys, I'm catching up and normal (still very slow) service will be resumed soon.

Today though, out of the blue someone I'd never heard from before sent me a kind email about this blog and attached the above photo, which cheered me up no end. Thanks for that.

Just recently there's been a number of really great CDs landed here. Three in particular have really stood out over the last month, Toshimaru Nakamura and Jean-Luc Guionnet's MAP on the consistently strong Potlatch label is a really fine bundle of tension. I'm a bit late discovering Joe Foster and Kevin Parks' Ipsi sibi somnia fingunt but again a really great release, markedly different from much else out there right now and a really vibrant, exciting piece of music. Lastly Eric Cordier's disc of field recordings called Osorezan is also quite wonderful. Made up of brightly detailed recordings of a Japanese volcano letting off steam, the first three tracks on the album are really quite stunning. Reviews of all three of these are in the works and will appear at Bagatellen or here soon(ish)

A lick of virtual paint

Well if you are reading this post for the first time, and of course if you have been to this page before you will quite possibly note that the page looks a bit different. If you are a worried mother that landed here after googling for websites about how to get your children to pay more attention to you, then you can ignore this post.

Anyway yes, they say when you need cheering up a spot of spring cleaning and redecoration does the trick, and as things have been pretty depressing around PInnell Towers of late I thought I would amuse myself by giving this blog a bit of an overhaul. I sat up until silly o'clock in the morning the other night challenging my somewhat limited html skills to the very limit reworking the code of a standard Blogger template into what you see now, and so far I'm pretty pleased with the result. The image behind the title will probably change from time to time as I get bored with that one, and there's still some tweaking needs to be done here and there, but it all seems to work. I'm interested to hear people's opinions on the new look; do you like it? (if not, tough its staying anyway after all that effort!) does it work in your browser? So far I've only viewed it in Safari and Firefox so I'm eager to hear how things look in IE.

Now all I need is some content.....!