Category Archives: improvisation

Recent Arrivals: Discus & Leo Records

Martin Archer – Storytellers (Discus): Over the years, Sheffield-based musician and composer Martin Archer has issued several albums of music with various groups of musicians but, it’s a rarity to see something come out under his own name. This recent project is certainly a fine time to toot his own horn (so to say) as it’s another one of his excellent offerings.

Over the course of two CDs spanning nearly 2 1/2 hours, six “books” are related in suite form. Each book revolves around movements around a common theme. They feature performance by the full band as well as sections designed to highlight specific soloists.

Each book weaves its own tale which winds its way from start to finish with sparkling dexterity among the musicians. What seems to make this music really gain an extra dimension of life is the fact that almost all of it was recorded live in the studio by the group. There is very little done in the way of subsequent overdubbing of parts. This process has resulted in a sound which harks back to some of the best recorded jazz works from the past. Top marks, indeed!

Sergey Kuryokhin – The Spirit Lives (Leo): As mentioned in the liner notes of this set, Leo Records was the first record company to issue the music of Russian composer/musician Sergey Kuryokhin which was smuggled out of the Soviet Union. It seems only fitting that they have decided to issue this recording of a live performance celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

Recorded in July 2015, this set contains both an audio CD and DVD. The works are performed by Alexei Aigui & Ensemble 4’33”. The sixteen works contained in this performance show the breadth and scope of Kuryokhin’s catalogue of work.

The arrangements by Aigui which incorporate jazz and classical players brings the music a powerful scope. The strings build and sweep to propel the music to wonderful sonic heights as the jazz ensemble bob and weave a tapestry of sound.

There are even moments when the music rocks out with near Status Quo guitar riffery in pieces like Tragedy, Rock Style.

This is an essential document which truly does justice to the legacy and memory of the late Sergey Kuryokhnin.

 

Recent Arrivals – MoonJune

2016 marks the 15th anniversary of the MoonJune Records label. Over the course of its history, the label has released an impressive array of sounds spanning jazz rock, prog and world fusion recordings. Here are a few of the most recent…

“Zhongyu” Is Chinese for “Finally” is the self explanatory title of the CD by Zhongyu. The group explores many different areas which encompass relationships between different genres of music.

From the initial sounds of some electronic experimentation, the group slips into a prog rock mode with Crimson-esque guitar riffs and violin reminiscent of the Lark’s Tongue in Aspic era.

The use of the Chinese zither known as the guzheng brings an oriental feel to many of the works. It is used on its own as well as being blended with more modern electric sounds to interesting effect.

Overall, the mix of themes and instrumentation forms a nice balance for an album of interesting sounds.

So Far So Close by keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan seems like a real blast from the past. If somebody had told me that an unreleased 1970s album by Return to Forever had recently been unearthed, I’d have been hard-pressed to argue. So far from the ’70s, so close to the sound.

Since I have been listening to RTF a fair amount lately, this disc seems to fit right into that mode. Even Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Jerry Goodman has been brought into the mix to feature on the album’s first track.

Sometimes it is hard to ascertain whether an artist is making a nod to the past with their sound or simply stuck in the era. Either way, if this type of jazz fusion is your cup of tea, you’ll probably find it quite entertaining.

For many of us of a certain age, the release of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon seemed like a watershed moment in musical time back in March of 1973. Since then, a couple of generations had been around to absorb its ever-present sonic vibrations. Over the years, there have been countless tributes and covers spanning all manner of disparate musical genres.

The Great Gig in the Sky is another such tribute by the trio of Boris Savoldelli, Raffaele Casarano and Marco Bardoscia. After the obligatory heartbeats and spooky voices, an acoustic bass brings the listener into Breathe.

Throughout the tracks, the sounds of jazz are mixed with electronic sounds which sometimes develop into pseudo electro dance beats.

The interpretations are interesting with accomplished musicianship.  The only drawback for me are the vocal contributions. While Boris Savoldelli has a distinctive vocal style, the often pained, dark approach seems to be more of a distraction within the context of the rest of the music.

MoonJune Records website

 

 

Keith Tippett on Discus

A while back, I posted about a recent Kickstarter campaign to fund a new Keith Tippett release on the Discus label. It was a quick success and now the CD is available for all to hear.

Keith Tippett has been active on the British jazz scene for over 45 years. His discography (under his own name as as a player with others) spans dozens and dozens of releases over those years.

My own introduction to his work came in the form of his sprawling double LP set called Septober Energy by the ensemble of fifty musicians that he assembled known as Centipede. This set released in 1971 (1974 on this side of the pond) was an amazing and sometimes confounding work of a massive scale. It certainly made my teenage ears perk up and listen.

Over the years, Tippett has continued to produce many works deemed important in the annals of British jazz. His latest work certainly does not veer from that standard.

The Nine Dances of Patrick O’Gonogon spans over the course of a series of nine (natch!) compositions… with an additional two works appended as codas.

Scored for his octet, the introductory work often feels like there are often twice as many players at work. The band could be as big as any Ellington or Basie ensemble at work. The piece swings but with a series of jagged edges stabbing within and around rapid-fire themes.

The second piece makes you feel like you have come out of the blistering sunlight and into the shade of a familiar tree. You can now wipe the sweat from your brow and feel some relief from the heat.

Three of the works – The Dance of the Walk with the Sun on his Back, The Dance of the Bike Ride from Shinanagh Bridge with the Wind at his Back and The Dance of the Wily Old Fox of the Ballyhoura Mountains – give off a cinematic air. These ears want to hear the sounds coming from a black and white detective film from the 1950s. They evoke a contemporary sound which harks to a monochrome age.

Following the Nine Dances are two codas. The first is a ballad sung by Julie Tippetts which seems to come out of nowhere to bring a tear to the eye like so many Irish folk songs are wont to do. It is followed by an arrangement of the traditional Irish song The Last Rose of Summer which neatly ties the whole package with a big shiny bow.

Tick the box for one more impressive addition to the discography of Keith Tippett.

Keith Tippet at Discus Music

Silent Records Lives Again

Silent Records was the brainchild of label founder Kim Cascone. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Silent issued many recordings of interesting music spanning several genres including ambient, industrial and beat-oriented sounds.

In 1996, Kim invited me to issue something on his label after becoming familiar with my work on the FAX label from Germany. So, twenty years ago(!) my album Distant Rituals was released on Silent Records.

It was around this time that Kim left the label and sold it to an employee. Unfortunately, this change of hands did not work out well and the label folded in 1997. So, for nearly 20 years many great recordings have remained out of print.

Fast forward to 2016 and Kim has decided to re-boot Silent Records. In recent months, he has managed to track down most of the core artists who are still living and active. That includes me.

In the coming months, many of the long out of print recordings will start to make a reappearance via various media platforms. In addition to this, he has also managed to create a brand new compilation release entitled From Here to Tranquility 6. This latest installment in the series includes recent recordings by many of those core artists from years gone by. My work entitled Onlooker will be featured on the set. It will be available for download or as a limited edition CD release.

There will also be a second volume of this set which features artists which have some relationship with the label (but, not as a core artist). This release will be made available as a download-only item.

In addition to re-issuing Distant Rituals, Kim has inquired about the re-release of some of my other long out of print material. Stay tuned as there will be more information coming in the future.

At the present time, Silent Records now has its own devoted streaming channel via SomaFM. Please visit the site to hear some wonderful ambient sounds from the past. This is just the beginning to the channel. Musical content will soon be expanding.

It’s all very exciting news and I wish Kim Cascone the best for his venture in the future!

The Silent Channel on SomaFM

Exposure for Canadian contemporary music (or lack thereof)

During my 25 years on the radio, I always took great pleasure in featuring the music of countless Canadian composers and musicians. These included works from the world of contemporary classical, electroacoustic and out jazz music. While it was great to share this material with the audience of a community radio station, it was not quite the audience that this music could have been receiving from a national broadcaster.

Over the years, the CBC (Canada’s national broadcasting service) has gone through many changes and these have often resulted in these types of music getting even more marginalized.

Canadian composer Paul Steenhuisen recently put together a letter to send to the Canadian League of Composer which addressed the situation of contemporary music and its status on the CBC. Paul has graciously given me permission to re-post his letter here.

Please read this letter in order to gain a greater understanding of the challenges that people like me (an electroacoustic composer) face when trying to get our music exposed to more people.


From Paul Steenhuisen to the Canadian League of Composers:

Following up on my recent FB post, I’ve written a letter to the Canadian League of Composers. I include the letter here in order that others can read it, and perhaps add their comments. The letter was addressed to CLC President Brian Harman and the Head of the Advocacy Committee, Ian Crutchley. Others cited in my original FB post were Christien Ledroit, David Pay, and David Jaeger. Hopefully good things will happen.

“As a former longtime Canadian League of Composers Council Member, past ISCM Canadian Section President, composer, and contemporary music and public broadcasting advocate, I am requesting that the CLC, in its role as representative of Canadian composers, direct resources toward renewing its working relationship with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, for the benefit of the status of the artist in Canada.

The past decade has seen the removal of the CBC’s composer commissioning program, the demise of the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, the cancellation of Two New Hours (the primary broadcast venue), the abandonment of recording of Canadian contemporary music, the end of the Young Composers Competition, and removal of other Classical Music radio programming. The accumulation of these actions amounts to the decimation of all resources previously, historically, and successfully devoted to Canadian contemporary music by the CBC, and the severance of the relationship between our flourishing field and the public broadcaster. While in some areas the CBC has diversified its programming, with the absence of Canadian composers and Classical music programming, it has moved toward significantly more commercial programming, at the expense of its responsibilities to the 1991 Broadcast Act. The Broadcast Act states that the CBC is mandated to provide programming that is “distinctively Canadian,” “actively contribute(s) to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,” to “make maximum use of Canadian creative and other resources in the creation and presentation of programming,” to “safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada,” and serve as “a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty.” Over the course of just over a decade, the CBC has perpetrated significant, quantifiable cultural and economic damage to the fields of Contemporary and Classical music in Canada.

In addition to developing and maintaining regular dialogue with the CBC to regenerate their investment in Canadian contemporary music through recordings, broadcasts, and commissions, etc., it would be prudent to determine the formal process for how new programs are proposed and developed, create a list of producers amenable to new programming initiatives, determine ways in which composers work could be included in current programming, and compile a set of resources that would assist CLC constituents in establishing meaningful communication with the CBC regarding our shared musical interests. More specifically, I am also requesting that the CLC, in combination with the organizers of the ISCM World New Music Days (Vancouver 2017), work towards securing national broadcast commitments by the CBC. The ISCM World New Music Days is an important international festival that will showcase top-level music, performers, and composers, and is an ideal opportunity for the CBC to be reminded of the quality, interest, and value of artists and individuals contributing to this wide-ranging field of creative music. While various other new media is available for making concerts available, nothing can currently match the awareness and exposure that can be obtained through the radio and television resources of Canada’s longstanding public broadcaster.

Please note that in discussion with the CBC, some individuals are inclined to distort and manipulate important terminology required for the presentation and understanding of accurate broadcast statistics. While demonizing art music as elitist, they have simultaneously sought to co-opt the term composer to apply to singer-songwriters and anyone who makes music. They have also attempted to transform the terms contemporary music and new music to mean anything recent, and inclusive of anything, such as commercial, pop, rock, hip-hop, electronica, and other forms of musical expression. By doing so, they will argue that they play more contemporary music by Canadian composers than they ever have, while knowing that this is untrue based on historically accepted definitions of the terms. Meanwhile, the CBC’s inclusion of composers associated with the Canadian Music Centre, including electroacoustic music, is near zero. The CBC is mandated to be an alternative to commercial interests, driven by cultural responsibilities rather than commercial ones.

With a new government that has stated its commitment to restoring the CBC, and new funds being promised to the public broadcaster, it is critical for the Canadian League of Composers to devote significant and ongoing resources to forging a meaningful role for Canadian art music at the CBC. There is a wealth of wonderful music being made and performed by artists of the highest level in Canada, and the field has expanded and changed – it is a cultural loss to Canadians that the CBC is currently not part of it. My hope is that with the advocacy of the CLC (perhaps in combination with the Canadian New Music Network), the current circumstance will change and our collective, active role in Canadian culture will once again be reflected by our public broadcaster.”

Patty Waters – In Concert 2015

If you read my earlier blog post about Patty Waters (or know me in real life), you’ll be aware of my affection for her ESP label debut LP. Well, this month marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of that album (December 19, 1965). So, it seems fitting to make another post about Patty at this time.

Last month, Patty gave a rare concert appearance at the Jazzhouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. Luckily, quite a bit of the performance was captured on video on that night of November 8th.

Here are clips from that show featuring Burton Greene (piano), Barry Altshul (drums) and Tjitze Vogel (bass). Enjoy!

 

Recent Arrivals – Leo Records

Pianist Uwe Oberg’s latest release – Twice, At Least – is a solo outing recorded at concerts in Germany in 2012 and 2015. In addition to the self-penned compositions, he also plays works from Annette Peacock, Steve Lacy, Carla Bley and Thelonious Monk.

Throughout the performances, Oberg expands the sound of the piano by often simultaneously playing the keyboard while also reaching inside to pluck the strings. This practice adds an extra layer of detail and expressiveness to the works which are already detailed and dynamic.

Hearing these live recordings makes the listener wish that there they were in the audience to see the performance first-hand. An excellent collection of works which excite the ears with their dynamic variations.

VocColours is a quartet of poetic vocalizers who have teamed up with musician Eberhard Kranemann to produce a unique blend of voices along with double bass and electronics. Throughout their CD entitled Luxatio, the ensemble bobs and weaves through a tapestry of vocalizations with sympathetic sonic accompaniment by Kranemann.

The result is a quilt of sound full of abstract sonic imagery and highly interesting blending dynamics.

The other two most recent releases in this latest batch from Leo Records share many similar sonic traits.

14 rue Paul Fort, Paris features the trio of Joelle Leandre (bass), Benoit Delbecq (piano) and Francois Houle (clarinets). Ramble is by the quintet known as SWQ and features Sandra Weiss (sax, bassoon), Jonathan Moritz (sax), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Sean Ali (double bass) and Carlo Costa (drums).

On both recordings, the ensemble players are seeking to create a flowing and abstract sound picture. The musicians listen to the sounds emanating from around them and spontaneously react to the situation at hand. It feels more like an improvisation of sound clouds than a a musical progression.

These clouds bend and blend to create a wonderful distortion of musical reality. Two sonic excursions which provide an aural palette of curious abstract imagery.

Leo Records website 

 

Recent Arrivals – Discus

If there is one thing that you can anticipate from the releases on the Discus label, it’s to expect the unexpected. This is a case in point.

frostlake is Sheffield-based singer, musician Jan Todd. On this debut release (White Moon, Black Moon), she creates layers of her voice and multiple instruments alongside contributions from other fine folks from the area including Martin Archer, Charlie Collins, Terry Todd and others.

The first thing that strikes you is the reverb-drenched near-whisper vocals. These are combined with layers of dreamy instrumentation that evokes a folky, psychedelic, progressive soundscape. It almost feels like one of those unearthed rarities of what is now termed “acid folk” recorded in the late ’60s or early ’70s.

However, the sound is brought up to date with one foot in the past and another with a hold on the present and future. The music is dreamy yet never slipping into a maudlin melancholy. There is always something going on to keep the listener engaged as the background sounds blend seamlessly with the often haunting layered vocals in the foreground. Definitely an album inviting repeated late-night listens.

Martin Archer’s latest release – Echoic Enchantment – is a collaboration with poet Bo Meson. Martin goes into some detail about the project’s genesis in the liner notes of the CD.

Inspired by a performance by Bo’s poetry group, Martin was inspired to create a work written around the text. The musical portion of the disc-length range from sparse basslines to haunting string sections evoking an atmosphere not unlike Ligeti or Pendereski. These sections are juxtaposed with others based on “directed improvisation” which have been edited and collaged featuring percussion, piano etc… which incorporate text which weaves its way into the soundscape.

The work flows and glides in several directions often creating a haunting and evocative atmosphere. A lengthy sonic journey that provides multi-layered scenery for the ears.

Discus website

 

Recent Arrivals – Drip Audio and Ambiances Magnetique

It’s always nice to receive some wonderful sounds from right here in Canada. These recent arrivals come from opposite sides of the country.

Joyful Talk is Jay Crocker. A Nova Scotian who found himself embedded in the heart of the Calgary experimental scene. His latest offering – MUUIXX  – consists of a series of self-recorded works which feature a number of his own homemade instruments. With these instruments, he creates soundscapes which range from repeating percussion lines, loops of electronic sounds and some obscured voices to haunt the mix.

Despite the percussive feel, the sounds don’t make their way into a realm of dance-ability. The rhythms are often broken or fractured evoking a picture sometimes reminding one of Autechre or Aphex Twin.

There are many twists and turns over the duration of the material and it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear where things proceed.

Guitarist Tony Wilson’s latest release features him in the context of an ensemble which is well suited to his wide range of performing. Many of the works present an atmosphere of hazy, laid-back sounds. His guitar mixes well with the violin of Jesse Zubot and trumpet of J.P. Carter. Cellist Peggy Lee, bassist Russell Sholberg and drummer Skye Brooks flesh out the picture to create a highly polished sound.

The hazy works are complimented buy other tracks which evoke the quirkiness of a Zappa-esque feel.  Even some King Crimson Lark’s Tongue in Aspic inspiration makes its way into the mix at times. A very diverse and successful recording.

With Musiques de Chambres 1992 – 2012, Jean Derome presents works different to the usual jazz-based releases that we’ve heard over the years. In this context, he presents several works in a more classical style but featuring instrumentation more associated with jazz.

Four of the compositions feature ensembles of four to eight players. Of those, one features eight flutes and another four saxophones. One work features Lori Freedman on solo bass clarinet and another is a duo with Derome on bass flute and alto saxophone along with Lori Freedman on clarinet and bass clarinet.

All of the works feature top-notch arrangements featuring stellar musicianship. While these pieces may not be what you would generally associate with Jean Derome, they should be considered an essential listen if you are a fan of his past work.

Drip Audio website

Ambiences Magnetique website

Brian Eno – An Interesting Interview

Anybody who has known me for the past 40 odd years will probably recall that one of my favourite artists back in the ’70s was Roxy Music. They formed an interesting hybrid of both musical and visual styles which I found immensely unique and intriguing.

In 1973, band member Brian Eno left the group and started his own musical career. His path was even more interesting to me as it spanned rock music and electronic sounds. I was also very lucky to be able to sit in on a live radio interview that he did on CJOM-FM in Windsor, Ontario back in July 1974. It was there that I discovered a common interest in German bands of the day such as Can, Neu!, Cluster and Kraftwerk.

Eno’s experiments with sound – ambient, long-duration works etc… – eventually became an integral touchstone for the music which I would begin to create a few years down the road.

He has been interviewed many times over the years about many different subjects but, this interview is particularly interesting as it really covers his early years and influences in a very detailed way. So, I thought that I would share this video.

 

Dieter Moebius (Cluster): 1944 – 2015

Dieter Moebius was one of the founding members of the avant-garde experimental trio known as Kluster who formed in Berlin in the late ’60s. Along side fellow artists Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler, they produced a trio of records which were abstract sound collages.

After the departure of Schnitzler (who was also a founding member of Tangerine Dream), the remaining duo re-branded themselves as Cluster. In this incarnation, the duo produced several recordings of wonderful minimalist electronic soundscapes.

In the early 1970s, new music from German began filtering into the UK. The sounds of Cluster along with Can, Amon Duul II, Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Kraftwerk began to make inroads outside of their native land.

One person whose ears were opened to these sounds was Brian Eno. He subsequently recorded albums in collaboration with the Cluster duo.

Both Moebius and Roedelius recorded many solo albums over the years. They also continued to work together as well as joining Neu! guitarist Michael Rother as a trio called Harmonia.

The sounds made by Moebius and Roedelius not only made an impact on a new generation of electronic music artists in the 1970s but, continue to be felt to this day.

In the early 1980s, I was half of an electronic music duo called M104 along with Werner Albert. The greatest compliment that we received about our music was that we were the Canadian version of Cluster. Enough said.

Obituary at The Guardian website.

 

Recent Arrivals – Leo Records

The latest quartet of releases from Leo Records contains work from two saxophonists whose work has been very well documented by the label over the years – Ivo Perelman and Carlos Actis Dato.

Three of the four new discs feature Perelman in both duo and trio settings. Tenorhood with drummer Whit Dickey, Callas with pianist Matthew Shipp and Counterpoint with violinist Matt Maneri and guitarist Joe Morris.

All three recordings show Perelman in his element. In Tenorhood, he locks in with Dickey as they bob and weave to produce a tapestry of propulsive, percussive works.

With Matthew Shipp (on Callas), he produces a series of pieces (over two CDs) which have been inspired by the late, great opera singer Maria Callas. Each of the improvised works were subsequently named after one of the famous parts which Callas played (Aida, Norma etc…). While not specifically designed to mimic the music of any of these works, the inspiration of the serves to unify the theme in the minds of the players.

On Counterpoint, the trio which includes Morris and Maneri pull out all the proverbial stops to create an air of sonic surprises. The proceedings twist, turn and melt together to produce a cohesive picture of expansive proportions.

The Actis Dato Quartet include second sax player Beppe Di Filippo, bassist Matteo Ravizza and drummer Daniele Bertone. The context on the CD Earth is the Place focuses on compositions as opposed to improvisation. The works are up-beat and joyous in their presentation. It’s an uplifting atmosphere of a quartet locked in the moment and enjoying themselves as much as the listener.

Photos: Ivo Perelman (top), Carlo Actis Dato (bottom)

Leo Records website. 

Remembering Ornette Coleman 1930 – 2015

Ornette Coleman passed away on June 11th at the age of 85. He was a jazz legend who ranks among the greats such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. While he probably sold less records than those two other artists, his influence on music certainly rivaled them.

Coleman’s 1958 debut album called Something Else!!!! in 1958 caused a stir in the jazz world that would continue to divide listeners and critics for years to come. His approach to melody, harmony and rhythm was part of his own view of what he called “harmolodics”.

His music was unique, inspired and inspiring. As with Davis and Coltrane, his sidemen over the years reads like a Who’s Who of jazz innovators. People like Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins all traveled though his groups.

I first heard Coleman’s music at some point in the 1970s. It wasn’t until some years later that I started adding his music to my collection. The advent of the CD era seemed to make it easier to find his recordings. These often included extra tracks recorded at the same sessions.

I also tried to track down copies of his albums on vinyl whenever possible. In the end, I managed to amass quite a large selection of his work in both formats (sometimes with duplication).

As my friend David Lee (jazz writer and former editor of Coda magazine) has mentioned, Coleman’s death is not a time for sadness. He was around producing his own personal style of music for decades. So, it is more a time to celebrate the work that he left us over so many years.

Luckily for us, Ornette Coleman did not die at an early age like Jimi Hendrix. In the latter’s case, we can only be left to speculate on what he would have done had he lived beyond the age of 27. In Coleman’s case, we were truly blessed to have heard his world of sound evolve over many years.

Ornette Coleman’s obituary from The Guardian

Recent Arrivals – Discus

DiscusCDs-Tippetts&Archeretc...-flat

One of the best things about doing a radio programme featuring non-mainstream music for many years was receiving music from like-minded folks from around the globe. Such was the case back in the ’90s when I received a package of CDs from Martin Archer on his Discus label.

Martin continued to send me music and I continued to feature it on the airwaves. We also corresponded quite frequently and a musical relationship built up. In the ensuing years, we have played together live many times on my visits to the UK and we’ve also contributed to each other’s recordings.

When I visited Martin in Sheffield last June, he was in the midst of about a dozen different recording and performance ventures. At that time, he played me a number of recordings that he was working on. Many of these are now available on this latest trio of double-CD releases.

Vestigium is the latest collaboration between Martin and vocalist Julie Tippetts. Every release in their series of works seems to magically rise above the previous  set. This is no mean feat as each of their projects are quite wonderful affairs.

This latest set is no exception as the individual works often vary drastically in their sound but manage to create a bigger picture which holds all of them together. Sonic backdrops can be minimal and shimmering with the vocal lines drifting through the landscape. Other times, a steady bassline and percussion beat bring the funk to the fore.

Listening to these works, it seems like both Martin and Julie were destined to lock their creative energies together. Julie’s dexterous vocalizations meld perfectly with the music. Martin’s ear for detail and the ability to create subtle layers for the vocals makes for a tapestry of aural delights. The final work in the set – Stalking the Vision – is a fine example of this sonic synergy in action.

Bad Tidings from Slackwater Drag is by Martin’s ten-piece big band called Engine Room Favourites. From the introductory tune – Song for Alice Coltrane – you know that you are in for a good ride. Tracks range from dense and frenetic to minimal improvised structures.

At times, I was put in the mind of Soft Machine and also was reminded of Julius Hemphill’s Big Band. The latter thought was confirmed as the concluding number of the set is a cover version of Hemphill’s classic track The Hard Blues. And ERF do a most admirable job in their performance.

Inclusion Principle’s Third Opening shows even more diversity for Martin and his cohorts. This is a trio which also includes Herve Perez and Peter Fairclough.

On this set, the sounds range from environmental field recordings, computer-generated sounds, saxophones, piano and percussion. From minimal soundscapes to wild hyper-rhythms, the pieces blend and weave their way through two CDs of diverse sonic contexts.

Definitely three more highlights for the ever-expanding Discus catalogue.

Discus Music website

 

 

Future Days by David Stubbs

FutureDays-book

Subtitled “Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany” this book takes the reader on a journey through the heady days of the German experimental music scene from the late sixties into the seventies.

Stubbs begins with a lengthy prologue which traces the social developments of the country through the 20th century. This is done to provide a perspective on what was to come after the Second World War.

After he has established the state of the minds of the German youth through the sixties, he then relates the stories behind the major groups who began creating experimental music.

Full chapters are devoted to some of the best known bands in what was termed “Krautrock” such as Amon Duul, Can, Kraftwerk and Faust. He later explores the “scenes” happening in areas such as Berlin.

He finishes by discussing newer music as well as the influence of the German music on specific musicians (David Bowie) and musical scenes (post punk).

For those not intimately familiar with this music, it may serve as a good introduction to stir up some curiosity. For those of us who are already quite well-versed in the genre, there are still some facts that are revealed that may be new to us.

 

Bernard Stollman (1929 – 2015)

ESP-Disk'

Bernard Stollman passed away on April 20 at the age of 85. He was the founder of one of the most eclectic record labels that ever existed – ESP-disk.

The roster of artists who recorded for ESP in the 1960s reads like an encyclopedia of the avant-garde musical world. Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Patty Waters, Paul Bley, Burton Greene, Alan Silva, Don Cherry, The Fugs, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders… The list seems endless.

For me personally, if they had only released the Patty Waters album, I would have been more than happy. But, they released so many more interesting and influential records over the course of the years.

Here is a link to Bernard Stollman’s obituary in the New York Times.

ESP-disk website

Essential Sounds – Patty Waters

Back in the mid-’70s, I was listening to the radio (WABX, Detroit or CJOM, Windsor) when I heard a DJ talking about an record that he was about to play. He sounded very upset. He felt that this was a VERY special album and that in a perfect world everybody would own or at least hear it. He then played the piece which takes up the entire second side of the LP entitled Patty Waters Sings. I was so blown away by the sounds that I immediately went downtown and special ordered a copy of the record.

Recorded in December 1965 and released the following year on the wild and wonderful ESP record label, Patty Waters Sings is indeed an essential listening experience.

The first side consists of short songs with Patty on vocals and piano. The songs are minimalist works of art. Both the vocals and piano seem to hang suspended in space with a persistent mood of melancholy mixed with broken-hearted despair.

Every time that I have played this album for people, they would sit motionless and entranced by the sound. Jaws would drop.

And then there is the second side. Here, Patty is accompanied by Burton Greene (piano), Steve Tintweiss (bass) and Tom Price (percussion). The sole piece on this side is a radical reworking of Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.

During the course of this track, the band goes off into a manic level of improvisation while Patty seems possessed by a demon. She starts off quite traditionally but winds up sounding like she is running around the studio shrieking to the mass of angular sounds stabbing their way around her voice. It is a magnificent tour de force of both instrumental and vocal dexterity.

In a recent discussion on a music forum, the question was asked what one album you would save if you had to escape your home burning down. This was the album… and it didn’t take a great deal of thought to make the decision.

Patty released one more LP for ESP which was a live recording. But, her debut album is the one that really stands the test of time for its essential sounds.

PattyWaters-Sings