Click here to [close]

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Going Solo

A round up of some intriguing solo recordings that have come to our attention in recent months.

By Paul Acquaro

Vinny Golia - Solo (Gold Lion Arts, 2015) ****

Get it while you can! This treat of a tape release from Gold Lion Arts is a scant run of 75 copies. Featuring the always excellent Vinny Golia on singing bowls and various woodwinds, Solo is 30 intimate minutes of performance. Side A features an intense sax workout, that after reaching the apex, is followed by what sounds like a wood flute or recorder and then the clarinet (Golia has an amazing assortment of wind instruments). Side B is a continuation, where Golia breaks out the bass clarinet (always a joy to hear!). 

Amy Reed - Gold Lion (Gold Lion Arts, 2015) ***½

Amy Reed is a guitarist and painter from Sacramento, California, home to the Gold Lion Arts performance space where she recorded this evocative solo guitar piece. Like some of her paintings, in which the abstract is met with precise strokes of paint and large open spaces, her extended technique solo guitar work takes advantage of similar motifs. The short tape release sees Reed creating an expectant atmosphere, pulling out all sorts of sounds from her instrument, from long pendulous swings to fine crackling bursts of bristling notes.

Paulo Chagas - Live Solo (Plus Timbre, 2014) ****

Am I biased on this one? Sure, why not. I had the honor of writing liner notes for Chagas' album Solo Saxophone, which I enjoyed greatly, and so chances were low that I not enjoy this follow up live album. Recorded live in the studio, the tone is dry and the sound clear and the album captures Chagas’ imaginative playing in intimate detail ... and it all starts with a squeak. The intro track sets the mood and clears the palette. The follow up ‘Pentola' begins with a gentle melody as Chagas introduces rhythmic breaks and stops to give the music a certain buoyancy. The melodies unfold with their own internal logic, and though you may wonder where you are by the end of the tune, you have no problem knowing how you got there. Enjoy (it’s a free download).

Keir Neuringer - Ceremonies out of the Air (New Atlantis, 2014) ****

My colleague Stefan already reviewed this one a few months ago, but I wanted to revisit it as I have now had a chance to catch the saxophonist play a couple of times, each time coming away more and more impressed. Ceremonies Out of the Air really crept up on me slowly. The music comes from somewhere deep and personal, as its creation has a lot to do with the emotions surrounding the passing of his mother. While there are moments of mourning, the music rather is a huge, deep, breath that just pours generously out over the course of the double album.

Will Guthrie - Stepped Stoned (Astral Projections, 2014) ***½

Will Guthrie is a France based drummer who works with several different groups like the Ames Room and Ellwood & Guthrie, but who also has been amassing a body of solo work. I wrote about his last album Sticks and Stones and Breaking Bones in 2012 and am happy to be following up with Stepped Stoned. Side one of this tape release takes a while to pick up, about four minutes of nearly silent tape runs, with a small sound growing stronger until a strain of incessant clatter, atmospheric cymbals and ghostly kick drum hits fill the space. About five minutes into side two (a continuation of side one), Guthrie involves more and more of the kit, until hitting a peak and slowly coming down. A captivating listen.

Scott Munro - Monty (Bug Incision, 2014) ***½

Recorded live in Calgary, Scott Munro creates something otherworldly with his baritone guitar. It’s a morphing shape of sound, sculpted from feedback and scratches, drones and percussive hits. Track one is slow, ambient, lugubrious, playing out over fifteen minutes. Track two begins with scattered picking, like a shower of broken glass, and about 5 minutes he begins introducing drone tones and sharp edged tonal clusters. The song fades into white noise … haunting.

Wilhelm Matthies - Breathing (Dark Pebble, Blue Wave, 2014) ***

Something utterly intriguing about Wilhelm Matthies solo album is that he has developed his own instrument - the 'mosesa' - which is a stringed instrument and as you can hear, he uses a bow to pull out tones in range similar to a cello, but that seems to be about where the similarities end. The music is about breathing, it feels organic, and though it does not have a melody or tempo, it draws you in in an unusual way. I think the best thing to do is to experience it:

Erik Friedlander - Illuminations (2015) ****

This solo cello album is utterly gorgeous. Straddling a line between classical and world music, Friedlander digs deep into the instrument and delivers an album of stunningly beautiful melodies and captivating motion. The rich tone he gets from the cello is reason enough to hear the album. I just wanted to give this one a quick mention in this solo round up - Illuminations should be receiving a longer review on the blog soon.

Mirbeau - White Blues (s/r, 2014) ***½

Mirbeau is a guitarist living in Brooklyn. His solo EP recording is a crispy, crunchy, free form blast of guitar that should provides quick satisfaction to the thirsty sonic adventurer. Though he is referencing track names from Miles Davis' cool jazz period (Cookin, Walkin, Steamin, Relaxin), the four short tracks on White Blues are all his own.

Brian Chase: Bass Drum Drone 

A little while back, drummer Brian Chase, who works with the group the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs shared some solo percussion/drone music and video pieces that he had been working on. About the project, he writes "in the sound from one drum there are a near infinite amount of tones. Drums and Drones explores the space inside the sound of a drum". Enjoy:

From Drums & Drones. Music by Brian Chase, drummer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, video by New York video artist Ursula Scherrer.


Arcturus said...

fyi, that flute-like sound from Vinny was achieved by removing his clarinet's mouthpiece & blowing sideways into the cylinder . . .