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Héléne Breschand (harp), Elliott Sharp (g)

12/2019; W71, Weikersheim photo by Bernd Scholkemper

Chicago Plan - Fred Lonberg-Holm (c), Gebhard Ullmann (b-cl), Michael Zerang (dr), Steve Swell (tb)

12/2019; Manufaktur Schorndorf

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Sippy Cup – On Independence, On Isolation (self-released, 2020) ****


This self-released, digital only, recording came out during the harsh days of the lockdown in Britain. Sippy Cup is the underground (but does this term even apply today?) duo of Kate Armitage and THF Drenching. Both of them utilize various sippy-silly sounds that I might not even recognize. Percussion and wind instruments, voices and various objects. Quite fascinating and unpredictable sounds. It’s improvisational music all right and one of those who prefer not to be defined by the good old mannerism that even in those parts of the musical spectrum lives.

On Indepedence, On Isolation consists of two tracks. The first comes from a live recording at Manchester in July of 2019 (oh, those good old days) and the second a live recording on Instagram from March 2020. Both of them are on the spot improvisations, with a, it seems, linear structure. They seem to know each other very well, their interaction never stopped to amaze throughout the forty five minutes of the two recordings.

I must admit that the second track, 'On Isolation', which is the newer of the two, has some dark energy flowing inside it. It might be my idea, could be the global feeling of isolation, mistrust towards authority and despair that makes it a document of this period. Both of them seem more focused and aggressive. They never resolve into loud outbursts though.

'On Indepedence' on the other hand has a more playful approach, one that could be deriving from the fact that there’s some audience there and, guess what (in case we forget it…), it’s always more thrilling to perform in front of real people. I believe that this non-verbal communication we call music, worked out really well here between musicians and people attending. This contradiction between the two tracks makes On Indepedence, On Isolation a unique recording. Both artists are too serious to take themselves seriously as they ponder each time and every second of both tracks, in what to do next. You can feel their quest, their disagreements maybe, their struggle to exercise the need to self expression.

I’ve written here before about a surprisingly big amount of people in Britain right now who work below the radar and produce fine music – be any genre you like. Armitage and Drenching make it easily on this list. They do need our support though; because, yes they are workers, call it art workers or whatever else. Before I start writing about class solidarity, do check their bandcamp page.

@koultouranafigo

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Matthias Müller - Acud/Bunker (mamü, 2020) ****

By Keith Prosk

Trombonist Matthias Müller showcases the growth of his expansive, distinctive style on two freely-played solos lasting 52 minutes on Acud/Bunker. Müller recorded “Bunker” in 2016 just a few months after his first solo recording, solo trombone , and recorded “Acud” in 2018. Müller’s reputation seems to place him as a team player, adapting as much to near-silent soundscapes of extended technique as to energetic, fiery free jazz (demonstrated well by the contrast between the recently reissued Super Earth and Live im Künstlerhaus ). solo trombone provided a vital document of his style and a catalog of his technique in a vacuum; Acud/Bunker seems to provide a document of the development of his style and technique with the time between recording dates.

“Bunker” is a 28-minute set with a small break and some applause kept in the middle of the recording. It’s a timbral collage featuring a breathy static modulated with pressure play, air notes like flickering flames, deep throaty oms punctuated with tinny muted swells, foghorn blows, balloons deflating, muted wah wah morse code, and a kind of metallic tapping like a typewriter, among a menagerie of other sounds. Sometimes the sounds are just sound; sometimes they play to the carnivalesque, jocular, suspenseful, or noirish moods the instrument is so often called upon to personify. And Müller is just as comfortable injecting more traditional tones - including the teacher from Peanuts - into the mix with his more exploratory timbres.

The foundation of “Acud” contains many of the same elements as “Bunker,” though with additional timbres like his valve release air notes, air notes like sand across a snarehead, draining or sucking incorporated in the breathy static with more saliva and new embouchures, horse snorts, and machine gun staccato. It might be partly due to better mic’ing, but the increased dynamism in breath- and mouth-play that can be heard here is significant. Whereas “Bunker” is a relatively rapid-fire barrage, “Acud” takes it a step further, containing a lot of continuous play achieved through circular breathing. And the moods mentioned previously are here too, with a particularly suspenseful dyad recalling Grachan Moncur III’s efficacy in simplicity (e.g. “The Twins”) and building from a kind of alarm to a buzzing swarm. This is a really solid set that shouldn’t be missed.

So, for those that have been following Müller, what’s here won’t necessarily surprise but provide an affirmation of the reasons why they started to follow him. For those that haven’t, this is a great introduction to a top notch trombonist that’s always expanding the vocabulary of the instrument and themselves. It serves as an excellent companion piece to solo trombone, demonstrating the instrumentalist’s growth from that point. Like his debut solo, it again provides vital documentation of his distinctive style outside of a band. Recommended.

Acud/Bunker is a digital-only release.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Jerome Cooper and Kresten Osgood – As of Not (ILK Music, 2020) ****½

By Nick Ostrum

Something about this album grabbed me right from the beginning. Maybe it was the fact that this is an album by two percussionists that is not percussion heavy. Maybe it is because this is seven-part suite is one of Jerome Cooper’s final works and recordings. Maybe it just sits right.

As of Not consists of Jerome Cooper – formerly of the epic Revolutionary Ensemble and sundry projects since - on drums, chirimia, balafon, and electronic tonal activator and Kresten Osgood – Dutch percussionist extraordinaire - on drums and piano. The percussion is there and sometimes layered but hardly consumes the pieces. For example, it takes almost seven minutes for the ambient electronics and piano to give way to a piano-balafon duet – performed in frenetic unison - in the As of Not Part 1. Part 2 is a flood of sound –chirimia, piano, and synthesized winds – opening for a steady drum beat only half-way through, then a spirited, broken-funk free-for-all led by Cooper’s chirimia and Osgood’s keys that take the track home. These pieces have so much variation in sound, mood, and color. They have so much energy – potential and realized – and always over a gathering storm of soft but churning synthetic sound. Part 3 begins a soulful chirimia and a sparingly deployed thud of a drum-set and, even with a gradual intensification and the addition of the tonal activator, keeps up the 70’s rooted meditation on a simple but deeply moving theme. Part 4 is a whirlwind of gusty chimes lain over a steady back beat, which evolves into a steady into a military cadence. Part 5 offers a mucky and disjointed take blues-plagued drum-and-bass. (The blues comes in the last few minutes of multiphonic euphony). The last two parts are shorter briefer meditations on similar, though somewhat spacier (Part 6) and jazzier (Part 7) themes.

Among the comments of a recent post on FJB , there was a brief but interesting discussion about what is “new” amidst all of this music that seems to be looking back to the paradigms of the 1970s. (That, of course, was when Cooper cut his chops with Leroy Jenkins and Sirone.) Including As of Not might complicate that discussion, not just because of the personal continuity Cooper embodies, but because of how firmly it is simultaneously rooted in spiritual jazz (think Sanders, Coltrane, and the more Egyptesque Sun Ra) rhythms and ritualism, the Revolutionary Ensemble’s dedication to genre-blending (though in a decidedly different form), and contemporary tendencies toward deconstruction. I am not sure I can put my finger on what exactly is new in all of this. But I can attest that, regardless of novelty, As of Not is some genuinely powerful music.

https://www.ilkmusic.com/products/jerome-cooper-kresten-osgood-as-of-not

Monday, July 13, 2020

Ronny Graupes SPOOM - Bridge Ices Before Road (Shoebill, 2020) ****

By Martin Schray

In 2004 the then 25-year old German guitarist Ronny Graupe started his project SPOOM, a trio with drummer Christian Lillinger (20) and bassist Jonas Westergaard (28). Looking back, the band represented something like a new wave of European jazz. In the beginning they focused mainly on the Great American Songbook, but as time passed more and more original compositions were added to their repertoire. The result was their first release As They Are (Shoebill, 2012), followed by two albums on Pirouet - SPOOM in 2013 and The White Belt in 2016.

Now, 16 years after the founding of the band and following a three-year break of not releasing any new material, Bridge Ices Before Road is like a re-start for them, because after such a long time playing in a trio format, Graupe decided to extend the band to a quartet. Since August 2018, alto saxophonist Christian Weidner has augmented the combo, which adds new variations to SPOOM’s musical colour palette.

On the one hand, Bridge Ices Before Road is full of tradition (like its predecessors), but on the other hand, it bursts of experimentation that spans the musical generations - it lives at the vanguard of new jazz music. The compositions present less through-composed parts, and thus imply more open space for individual improvisation of the interpreting players, like on “Ped Xing“, which is reminiscent of early 1960s cool jazz à la Jimmy Giuffre. Characteristic are the melodic entanglements, saxophone and guitar often act in unison, while the bass counters these attacks with separate hook lines, like for example at the beginning of the opener “Launching ad 39b“. SPOOM’s sound is defined by the dense compositional structure of Graupe’s music and the interpretation of the intricate written material. At the same time the forms that emerge from the pieces are used for extensive improvisation. This approach is emblematic on this album, for example on the short “Sic Erat Scriptum“ or on the title track, on which Weidner’s rough contributions meet with Graupe’s catchy guitar lines at just the right, unexpected moment. The improvisations are always as smooth and elegant as calligraphy; yet it sounds like Graupe is literally signing these new ideas with his instrument, which can be heard on the melodic riffling of “Merge“, which explores some of the same dusky film noir allusions that SPOOM displayed on previous albums.

Bridge Ices Before Road is very recommendable, especially for listeners who like music at the intersection of modern jazz and freely improvised music.

The album is available as a CD and as a download. You can buy it here:

Watch them in the studio here:

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Pinkish Black & Yells At Eels - Vanishing Light In The Tunnel Of Dreams (Ayler Records, 2020) ****

By Stef Gijssels

I am not familiar with Pinkish Black, the "art rock" band that consists of Daron Beck on keyboards, and synth and Jon Teague on drums and synth. In contrast, I am very familiar with the great trio "Yells At Eels" with father Dennis González on trumpet, and sons Aaron González on bass and Stefan González on drums. We hadn't heard from this family trio for quite some time and it's great to hear them back. Both brothers are active in experimental rock music in bands of their own, and also appeared recently as members of guitarist Luis Lopes Humanization 4tet.

The combination of both bands is stellar. Heard of psychedelic jazz? Well, this is it. Heavy synth orchestration with steady rhythms and rolling sound waves over which eery trumpet tones sing their sad melodies. Other psychedelic jazz references could be "Elephant9", "Sun of Goldfinger", "Giovanni Di Domenico & Abschattungen", or "The Godforgottens". Check them out and enjoy this rare breed of music.

The González family and the Pinkish Black duo collaborate to perfection. The atmosphere is dark, hypnotic, relentless, epic and full of inherent drama. The rock-solid rhythm section, the wall of sound created by the synths and the beautiful trumpet playing by Dennis González make this very infectious and compelling music. The musicianship is exceptionally good, coherent and the ensemble playing as tight as you can expect from family members.

I have always been a great fan of Dennis González, and I even think I have all his albums. He is a musician (and visual artist) with a unique and deeply emotional and lyrical approach to music, open to many influences without ever losing his own warm voice on trumpet. From the generosity of his playing, you sense the joy he feels of collaborating in this setting.

Fans of psychedelic jazz will absolutely relish this album.

Special kudos to Stéphane Berland of Ayler Records for his perseverance and obstinacy. He made this album a reality.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.








Saturday, July 11, 2020

No Base Trio - s/t/ (Setola di Maiale, 2020) ****



Who isn't up for a pleasant surprise from time to time? Especially these days when the surprises tend to be the less welcoming kind, The No Base Trio from Puerto Rico is definitely of the better type, and their eponymous debut is most certainly a welcome one.

The group, formed in San Juan 10 years ago, is Jonathan Suazo on alto saxophone and EWI, Gabriel Vicéns on electric guitar, and Leonardo Osuna on drums. They began as a straight ahead trio, playing throughout Puerto Rico, but their sound has matured into an amalgam of ambient rock and layered electronic foundations, with blasts of free improvisation.

They begin the album with the strum of an expectant chord and the wail of a slightly processed saxophone. The track 'EXT-I' could, in the first moments, go down a slick slide into easy listening prog-rock (is that an actual genre?) but there is something about the hints of dissonance and the rock-oriented bass figure (played on the guitar) that suggest otherwise. Indeed, for the patient listener, the increasingly dominant EWI and the deepening grit of the guitar places a Pat Metheny-like layer over a thickening groove. 'EXT-II' follows a somewhat similar pattern, though a bit darker in tone and growing rougher towards the end. 'EXT-III' begins much differently, a free interplay between the guitar and EWI that fuses into an awkward but alluring groove. 

The group next explores varying sonic textures through a couple shorter tracks. 'EXT-V' is notably freely improvised, starting as a solo guitar piece with what sounds like a walking bass, but may in fact be the EWI! 'EXT-VII' offers some extreme ambient textures, while twisting deeper like a corkscrew opening a finely aged bottle of post-rock wine. The final two tracks continue to offer new ideas, but it is 'EXT-IX', which is denoted as a bonus track, that really goes deep into exploration and minimalist drones (it also clocks in at nearly a half-hour, for the hard-core listener). 

No Base Trio is not a hasty album by any means, the group takes its time to make its musical statements. The album is certainly worth a listen, and mostly like, it will pleasantly surprise you with its mix of melody and exploration.   
   

Friday, July 10, 2020

Bonjintan (梵人譚) - Dental Kafka (Trost, 2020) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

Dental Kafka is already the sophomore album of Japanese sax hero Akira Sakata international quartet Bonjintan, following a self-titled release on Sakata’s label Daphinia in 2017. Bonjintan features Sakata on alto sax, clarinet, and voice, American, Tokyo-based Jim O’Rourke, of Gastr del Sol and Sonic Youth fame, on double bass, Italian pianist Giovanni Di Domenico and Japanese drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto.

All four musicians have collaborated before in many formats and outfits during the last decade. O’Rourke initiated recordings of Sakata, did the recording and mixing and produced some of his albums with the Chikamorachi trio (with double bass player Darin Grey and drummer Chris Corsano); Di Domenico took part in few of Sakata’s other international quartets and recorded with him a duo album (Iruman, Mbari, 2014). He also recorded with O’Rourke before, including with the Delivery Health trio with drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto; Yamamoto played in a one-off recording of the trio Kafka’s Ibiki with O’Rourke and his partner, pianist Eiko Ishibashi and in other trios with Di Domenico, including one with Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Dental Kafka was recorded at Hoshi to Niji studio, Kobuchizawa in June 2018.

Sakata sounds as taking a back seat in this quartet, although his voice - literally - is still the most dominant one in this collective. Dental Kafka opens with “Ape Huci Kamuy (God of Fire by Ainu people), a lament to the marginalized ethnic group in Japan, Ainu, where Sakata recites an angry text to the minimalist, tense music of Di Domenico, O’Rourke and Yamamoto. The title-piece alternates between a fiery, free jazz piece here with Sakata playing the alto sax and leading with a charismatic, organic flow and with a telepathic interplay with Di Domenico, pushed by the massive rhythm section of O’Rourke and Yamamoto, and a simple rhythmic conversation by Di Domenico, O’Rourke and Yamamato.

The other two extended pieces stress a more intimate, reserved, and poetic voice of Sakata, playing the clarinet. His singing solo introduces “Koro Koro Donguri”, setting the searching tone for a quiet free-improvisation that highlights the inventive colors of Yamamoto, but mid-piece he lets Di Domenico, who plays the Hohner pianet, to take the lead as he did on the title-piece, before Sakata concludes with a short, complaining speech. The last “Bonjin” is even more introspective. The quartet plays here like a four-headed organism, with great conviction, flowing elegance, and poetic beauty.

That’s the beauty of Sakata’s music and his bands. At his age, 75, he does not need to prove anything, but he will always will explore new territories surprise even the keen listener. When you go to some wild sonic trips with such an observant marine biologist you know that that there is a chance that you may encounter some engaging beasts and Bonjintan is one of the most fascinating ones.



Thursday, July 9, 2020

Luís Lopes Humanization 4tet – Believe, Believe (Clean Feed, 2020) ****

By Nick Ostrum

Now a unit for 12 years, this is the fourth release of the Lisbon-Dallas quartet of Luís Lopes (electric guitar), Rodrigo Amado (tenor saxophone), Aaron González (bass), and Stefan González (drums). Two years ago for their tenth anniversary, they embarked on a tour of the United States, during which they found their way to the Marigny Studios in New Orleans. OK. So, I am not sure that the location itself had any unique effect on these recordings, but the liner notes make a big deal out of it and this session took place just one month before I moved down here. To my chagrin.

The Humanization 4tet is known for its singular blending of free bop, funeral cool jazz, heavy funk, punk and postpunk, metal and, I imagine, pretty much any other musical influence you could associate with the fringes of early 2000s youth culture in the US and, apparently, in Portugal as well. In a way, they are the Iberian/American counterpart to projects like Fire!, The Thing, and even Angles, who have one foot firmly planted in a Holy Ghost fire-breathing folkish melodicism and the other in rock’s fringes. Indeed, these musicians experiment with boundaries, odd juxtapositions and juncture. Apart from Humanization, Lopes and Amado have appeared on countless releases often with the deeply variegated Lisbon scene. Lopes in particular has released some absolutely wild noise balladeering most recently through his Love Songs project and his duo with Julien Desprez. Aaron and Stefan have meanwhile been plumbing the pipelines linking grind, heavy angular fusion, and even stranger experimental music separately (especially Stefan in his percussion/vocals project Orgulla Primitivo, the experimental hip-hop group The Young Mothers, and the more classically crust Imperial Slaughter) and together (the blackened free-psychedelia combo Unconscious Collective and the S.O.D./Naked City love-child Akkolyte). That is, while still maintaining their two-decades-and-running free jazz trio Yells at Eels with their father Dennis González.

Surprise, surprise, Believe, Believe is a wonderous melting pot. It leans towards free jazz but has unmistakably contemporary shadings. Lopes plays his now characteristic jagged and deconstructed guitar lines, but he converges them with jazzier runs and rhythms. Synchronic themes piece together out of rough fragments of hard-bop melodies, which are then shredded into scraps that the band slowly pieces back together. Amado can play sultry. Just listen to the first minute of Ed Harris/Tranquilidad Alborotadora, the first section a Bill-Lee-penned tribute to the great eponymous saxophonist, the second a take on an Unconscious Collective composition. But, as anyone who has heard This is Our Language or A History of Nothing already knows, he can really open up and spiral into some mesmerizingly outre territory. The González brothers meanwhile hold clattery and off-time but steady rhythms, like Haden and Blackwell but even less predisposed to tradition and more interested in the heavy vamping and flailing percussion that have found an equally fitting home in their spazzier and more metallic undertakings.

Themes are catchy and may be ultimately rooted in bop, but the most noteworthy elements come when the musicians avail themselves of the melodic constraints and play on a feeling or simply on stored energy. These are the places where the punk-rock inspiration, the just-short-of-reckless abandon take over. And when they do, it is something to behold, even if it only lasts for a quick half hour.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Ken Vandermark on Catalytic Sound, a Virtual Festival, and Making Music in a Pandemic

Interview with Ken Vandermark. Photo (C) Cristina Marx/Photomusix


By Paul Acquaro and Stef Gijssels

There is hardly a more hardworking musician as Chicago-based, and world renowned, woodwind player and composer Ken Vandermark. Just in the past few months he has released a large band recording, ENTR'ACTS' Soigne Ta Droite, as well as one with a new quartet, Open Border with percussionist Hamid Drake and two European colleagues,  Luigi Ceccarelli on electronics and Gianni Trovalusci on flutes (review to come). In addition, he has begin releasing individual recordings that will add up to a new Consequent Duos collection (see the review of vol 1). He is also a leading figure in the music consortium Catalytic Sound, which acts as a distributor, organizer, fund raiser, label, and club house with nice benefits for its members. 

Catalytic Sound Festival

The Catalytic Sound Festival 2020 is a virtual festival hosted in conjunction with Chicago's Experimental Sound Studio. The festival is this coming weekend, Friday, July 10th, through Sunday, July 12th, with sets featuring an tantalizing roster of collective artists with both US and European time-zone friendly sets.

The concerts can be enjoyed by all, with suggested donations. For more information check out Catalytic Sound's website or Experimental Sound Studio's page.

Making Music in a Pandemic 

Vandermark also discusses the ways that he and his colleagues are trying to make the virtual experience more than a 'standard' webcast, and then gets into life as a working artist before, during, and after the pandemic. In fact, after getting onto the topic of streaming, we talk about Catalytic Sounds' next venture - which is indeed a streaming service. Vandermark is thoughtful not only about music, but about the state of the world and what can be done about it. He discusses the consortium's efforts to make it possible to earn a living as an experimental musician, and how they try to actively support the change they want to see. 

All this and more ... enjoy the interview and be sure to check out the Catalytic Sound website and festival.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The hypnotic universe of Pak Yan Lau

By Stef Gijssels

Last year, I came across Belgian pianist Pak Yan Lau, who released the phenomenal "Duo Pour 454 Chordes". Despite the fact that we're living in the same city, I never actually met her, nor did I ever see any of her performances, and the current context is not really helpful either. 

Pak Yan Lau was born in Belgium, after her parents moved here from Hong Kong. She began playing the piano at the age of six ("A girl from my neighborhood was playing, and I just wanted to do the same. My mom was convinced that it was not for me as in the Chinese culture the concept of playing the piano means “sitting still like a lady and being very disciplined". Contrary to that, I was constantly running around and sitting still was something I really couldn't do. I cried for 2 days before she gave in" (Kraak, 2019). She started a formal piano education at the age of nine and obtained her degree of classical piano at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp, Belgium and at the 'Escola Superior de Música e Artes do Espectáculo' in Porto, Portugal. After her studies she expanded into jazz following workshops by Marilyn Crispell, Stefano Battaglia, Christoph Erbstösser and others. 

Like other pianists such as Magda Mayas and Eve Risser, she has left the traditional notion of her instrument as a keyboard. In her hands it has become a total instrument, with many hidden sounds and percussive possibilities. You couldn't call her music 'jazz', because it lacks the typical chord progressions or scales that are typical in the genre. Her approach is minimal in its inputs - a few notes, a few beats - that then get expanded and amplified both acoustically or electronically. 

"Improvisation is like a whole world of 'possibilities'. Depending on when, where, and with who you’re doing it, it shapes the music. So, I see it as a moment of possible things. All kind of possible things, from positive and beautiful to negative and ugly or just simply blank. However, what I love about improvisation is that it's very much always the moment. So it's a very present thing, it is alive, it follows the energy and, in a certain way, focus is required. Flexibility and open ears. Always very open ears. All my music making is very much into improvisation and experimentation. I am sure I will go on to another phase of composing one day but I really love to improvise. I love this intense being when you have to let go of yourself and connect to a bigger stream", she says in an interview in Kraak in April 2019.

She has released several albums since last year, of which I will review two duo performances who of an equally high level. 

Pak Yan Lau & Lionel Malric - TIOT - Live At Lastours (Self, 2020) ****


On TIOT she performs again a duo with Lionel Malric, also on piano. TIOT stands for "the impermanence of things", a philosophical concept that is found around the world and is possibly most  relevant to the nature of music, it is gone before you realise it. 

This album is a live recording from a concert at the Domaine de Lastours in Coursan, France in September 2017. Next to their pianos, the duo have a whole range of other instruments and materials that they use to perform their art: clavichords, cimbalom, toy pianos, synthesizers, casio keyboards, woks, old irons and electronic effects. Like on the previous album, their art gets organically structured, growing out of some initial ideas, and anchored around repeated rhythms. 

The performance consists of one long improvisation of close to one hour, and it offers a kaleidoscopic use of sound, changing into a myriad of sonic elements that alter and move, hypnotic and persistent at moments, calm and plaintive at others, resonating and intimate, but always captivating and surprising, including the use of ambient sounds (such as birds singing).     

The middle of the piece is quiet and minimal, with few notes and bass tones creating even more intensity and tension than the more voluminous moments. Minimal patterns grow with patient discipline and restraint, gradually building up their narrative with subtle sonic and rhythmic changes. And once you think you've understood their approach, they take the journey to an even stranger place, equally suprising and enjoyable. 

Like on the previous album, the question of 'how' they do it quickly disappears (because impossible to answer) and the joy of listening remains. It is strong, compelling, balanced, inviting and unusual. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp


Pak Yan Lau & Darin Gray - Trudge Lightly (By The Bluest Of Seas, 2020) ****½


Her second album this year is a duo with Darin Gray, who plays double bass, preparations, objects and electronics. Gray is an American bassist who may be known from his collaborations with Jim O'Rourke, Loren Mazzacane Connors or Chris Corsano. Pak Yan Lau plays prepared piano, toy pianos, synth, objects and electronics. 

This album is again something else, with six relatively short pieces, quite distinct in nature and atmosphere. The album was recorded in 2016 with little preconceptions and agreed ideas. Then Pak Yan Lau reworked the material, adding and subtracting as she saw fit. A long work of post-production, but the result is worth it. 

The album starts almost in "in medias res" as if you've entered too late into an already ongoing performance. The approach shocks, refreshens and creates a sense of urgency. It is dark, compelling, insistent and strange ... and it is over before you realise what's happening. 

The second track, "Callings" presents weird deep moaning bows accompanied by flute-like sounds, the third, "Suspended Thoughts" is an intense interaction between gamelan-like percussion, rhythmic plucked strings and a deep moaning/mooing sound from the bass. It conjures up a deep sense of sadness and despair, and has a surprisingly radical ending. "Way to Walk" is a short rhythmic piece, with ever changing structure and sounds, calmly slowing down near the end. 

"Lost" starts with light-textured eery resonating sounds, evolving in a meditative theme played on the keys of the piano (yes), gentle and spacious, and surrounded by the mystery of fragile accompanying sonic explorations. The longer title track, "Trudge Lightly" illustrates the light/darkness contrast of the music and the title itself: the moving forward through obstacles yet in an easy way. The piece develops around a simple rhythmic pattern, played on muted strings, which resonate at the same time through other devices, creating an unusual contrast of soundlessness and clarity, that develops into a hypnotic insistent and rotating repetitiveness. 

Like her other albums reviewed here, this one is equally mesmerising, fresh, inventive and intense. Her sense of spontaneous composition, the inherent intensity and musicality of it as well as the sonic arrangements are exceptional. 

Listen and downlad from Bandcamp It is also available as a vinyl production with booklet. 

I can only hope that the lockdown ends soon and that performances are allowed again. Pak Yan Lau will be high on my agenda.