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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Peter Brötzmann & Peeter Uuskyla: Dead and Useless (Omlott, 2014) ***½

Peter Brötzman and Peeter Uuskyla’s Dead and Useless – recorded at Bohus Sound Recording in Sweden on September 9, 2006 – is described as a new LP-Master by Uuskyla of the fourth track from their previous album: Born Broke (Atavistic, 2008) for release on vinyl (also available on CD which rather annoyingly, includes the side break – surely easy enough to edit out for the digital transfer). Along with Peter Friis Nielsen (electric bass) they formed the trio that released four albums recorded between 1999 and 2003.

In his review of Born Broke in 2008, Stef wrote that although not a Brötzmann fan, this recording might win him over because “the two musicians seem to be led on by the same feelings of love and rage, subtlety and power, sensitivity and brutality“.  But compared to other Brötzmann duos there’s less rage and brutality. The first part is a prime example how he’s been processing classic jazz melodies, and using a core vocabulary deployed in different contexts with various partners and line-ups. Brötzmann is not the notorious destroyer of melodies; he just uses them in his own, particular way.

Dead and Useless Part 1 starts with Brötzmann on tenor and Uuskyla on cymbals in a very reluctant, almost tender fashion, which is untypical as he usually hits the ground running with his familiar call to arms. Unlike many live performances however, studio recordings have often been used to explore his more reflective and intimate side, here encouraged by Uuskyla’s soft patterned and melodic drumming. 

Soon a classic Brötzmann melody crystalizes – usually referred to as the Master of a Small House theme: a five-tone-motif which he first used on Tales Out of Time (hatOLOGY, 2004). It has its roots in Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman – one of the great blues dirges that’s haunted Brötzmann for some time – possibly even remnants of Sentimental Journey  (Brötz and Doris Day: now that would be a way to celebrate her ninetieth birthday)! He modulates and plays with it, drops and picks it up again. Once more, he shows how much the blues pervades his playing and that for all his avant garde accolades, his music is often less close to what is conventionally called “free jazz” than it is to icons like Ben Webster or Lester Young.

Peeter Uuskyla is the perfect partner for this approach: one can’t imagine such music with Paal Nilssen-Love or Han Bennink. Uuskyla makes subtle and low-key contributions using complex rhythmic patterns over which Brötzmann can soar. His rhythms and almost straight patterns, his roiling tom toms and especially his staccato snare rolls entwined with cymbal crashes provide a sort of deconstructed swing. It’s a well-balanced give and take, with both artists pushing and guiding each other.

The instrumental balance does not seem to differ in any significant way from the original recording (it’s a re-master, not a re-mix) and with three additional tracks, Born Broke is better value. Probably one for vinyl junkies and completists only

Available from Instantjazz

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ty Citerman – Bop Kabbalah (Tzadik Records) ***½

By Chris Haines

This has been released as part of the Radical Jewish Culture Series on Tzadik Records.  The music incorporates elements of klezmer, nigunim, jazz & rock styles played by a guitar lead quartet.  Containing composed and improvisational structures the music at times is flavoured by the klezmer and nigunim sounding melodies.  Nigunim are a type of melody found in Jewish religious vocal music that are generally improvised.

The album starts off sounding like a chamber-rock group with the likes of Univers Zero springing to mind.  At times this type of style is returned to but for the most part the music is quite varied throughout the album, whilst retaining a sense of continuity.  There is some good interplay between the instrumentation, especially during the more improvised moments, that makes for interesting listening with the various instruments being deployed to their strengths, which enhances the various moods of the music at any one time.

For me the album really comes to life on the track Talmudic Breakbeat, which has a latin-type feel to the piece and real energy.  The trumpet plays a melody line that could easily have been taken from a British sitcom from the Seventies (that’s meant as a good thing!) and a handclapping rhythm that doesn’t sound too dissimilar from Steve Reich’s Clapping Music.  This is followed by a completely contrasting piece, Exchanging Pleasantries with a Wall, where Ty Citerman, gradually builds gentle layers of repeated notes through delay and changes the complete feel of the album thus far.

There is a real sense of creativity within the music and the musicianship is unquestionable.  ‘Bop Kabbalah’ is a good listen and one that piques an interest to return to it for repeated encounters.

Personnel: Ty Citerman (guitar), Ken Thomson (bass clarinet), Adam D Gold (drums) & Ben Holmes (trumpet).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fennesz - Bécs (Editions Mego, 2014) ****½

By Martin Schray

”Sitting quietly in never-never land, I am listening to summer fleas jump off my small female cat on to the polished wood floor. Outside starlings are squabbling in the fig tree and from behind me I can hear swifts wheeling over rooftops. (…) The ambient hum of night air and low frequency motor vehicle drone merges with insect hum. (…) These sounds reconnect me to a world from which I had disengaged. Sound places us in the real universe.” David Toop wrote this in the first chapter of “Ocean of Sound” and Austrian guitarist Christian Fennesz’s new album turns these words into music.

“Bécs” (pronounced “baeetch”) is Hungarian for Vienna and it is the first full length Fennesz solo release since 2008’s “Black Sea” and his first on the Mego label since 2001’s “Endless Summer” (his reference to the Beach Boys). Like the latter one “Bécs” focuses more on the pop pole of the Fennesz universe, although the opposite pole, a combination of harsh rock explorations and dark drones, always lurks in the background. Fennesz swings to and fro between these poles trying to create an ideal trans- and posthuman world (as German critic Diedrich Diederichsen put it), the result is an album full of grandeur and obfuscated pathos.

Perfect examples are “Static Kings”, where Fennesz is augmented by Polwechsel’s Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayr who fire electric grit on Fennesz’s aural sculptures, whose guitar succeeds in rising like a phoenix from this noise and underlying bass drones, and the central track “Liminality” (with Tony Buck on drums), a typical 10-minute Fennesz piece which reminds of Mogwai with its exuberant guitar strumming, its epic structure, and evocative majesty. The track displays an emotional impact which can almost drive you to tears, you are tempted to add a vocal audio track to it. The third outstanding example is the title track, which comes closest to contemporary rock on the one hand, but which is also the perfect personification of Fennesz’s musical spectrum: a style combining the greatest traditions of pop, electronica, free jazz and improv, with the doctrines of techno and new classical music.

Finally, this album also works as a sound collage for modern Vienna – however, not for the postcard kitsch of Hofburg, Schönbrunn Castle and Albertina but for the one of the outskirts and their dehumanized housing complexes and the arterial roads with their refineries and factories (the one depicted in the films by Ulrich Seidl), it reminds of Walter Ruttmann’s legendary documentary “Berlin – Sinfonie einer Großstadt” (1927) - just with Vienna being in the focus.

So - sitting quietly on my sofa, I am listening to bits of electronic drizzle pouring out of my speakers. “Bécs” makes me listen to shivering melodies, noise textures that seem to bury beautiful details, background hook lines flying by. The ambient hum of low frequency drones merges with 1980s synthesizer sounds which reconnect me to a world from which I had almost disengaged – the music of David Sylvian and Japan, of Ryuichi Sakamoto and his Yellow Magic Orchestra, of 1970s prog rock, of Glenn Branca’s “Symphony for 100 Guitars” – it’s the soundtrack of my life. “Bécs” places me in this universe, which is absolutely real to me.

“Bécs” is available on vinyl, CD and as a download.

You can buy the album on the Editions Mego website where you can also listen to “Static Kings” and “Liar”:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reeds and violin .... throughout the seasons

By Stef 

Is it a coincidence that all the recent reeds and violin duets that were released in the past year are about the passing of time, stronger even, with three of them having names of seasons in their title? It may be, but possibly not. The selection of the smallest ensemble, and the choice of the instruments already create a favorable context for a more melancholy, intimate and meditative sound. But is it? Would this mean that all selected albums reviewed below have the same atmosphere, the same sadness, propensity for tears and shaking of heads? No, not at all. 

Duo Baars-Henneman - Autumn Songs (Wig, 2013) ****½

My favorite album in this series is without a doubt the Dutch duo of Ab Baars on tenor, clarinet and shakuhachi, and Ig Henneman on viola. All pieces consist of composed themes that form the outset for improvisations. There is nothing exceptional in this by itself, but the way both musicians expand on the theme, and the way the other musician then takes this expansion as a basis for further exploration, is exceptional. Even more so, because they are not afraid to use dissonance as a key ingredient of their sound. This could be off-putting for many listeners, yet the way they use it here is of a subtlety that pleases the ear, adding a more vulnerable, human touch to the sound, one that resonates deeply. 

The album offers a lot of variety. On "Winter Comes To Hush Her Song", Baars weaves his shakuhachi tones around Henneman's almost single tone foundation, played arco or pizzi, resulting in a song as fragile as a snow flake. At the other end of the spectrum, you can find "It Bends It Sways", on which tenor and viola interact in a mode that is almost aggressive, with agitated multiphonics coming out of both instruments in short bursts and with strong attack. And in between you get transported to areas of beauty, of hypnotic themes, of soft-spoken interaction, of subtle movement and with colors, colors, colors, as you can imagine in that period of year.

Listen and download from CDBaby.

Jerzy Mazzoll feat. Sroczynski - Rite Of Spring Variation (Requiem, 2013) ****

Of a totally different nature is this album by Jerzy Mazzoll on clarinets and Tomasz Sroczyński on violin, giving their own, quite idiosyncratic rendition of Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" or "The Rite Of Spring", which when first performed 100 years ago in Paris, it created quite a stir in the audience, many of whom left. In the meantime his innovations with dissonance, meter and rhythm changes, shifts in emphasis have become relatively mainstream, so much so that the real fans of modern classical music will probably scream bloody murder when they hear the performance by Mazzoll and Sroczyński.

They keep the themes, but then turn them into shorter pieces, with both instruments taking turns in taking flights away from them, while at the same time making deliberate mistakes against the composition. This latter part is determined as "arhythmic perfection", when even if it is possible to perform 'the ideal', inducing errors into the process changes the dynamics of the composition. In doing so, Mazzol and Sroczyński create a compelling album, with lots of bouts of circular breathing, and electronic alterations, which at times leads to hypnotic moments.

It is in any case much more energetic and captivating than the traditional Stravinsky composition ... at least in my humble opinion.

  Karin Hellqvist & Keir Neuringer - Warsaw Autumn 2013 (ForTune, 2013) ***½

The presentation of this album is a little deceptive, in that the first four compositions are performed by violinist Karin Hellqvist solo and then the last track is performed by Keir Neuringer solo on saxophone.

Hellqvist plays compositions by Dominik Karski, Mauricio Pauly, Joakim Sandgren and Malin Bång, which in a way comes close in sound to lots of free improvisation, exploring the other side of sound, creating uncanny, even ominous pieces with lots of noise, scraping and hard-to-place sonic inventions, including the destruction of silence, which receives quite a prominent part in one of the tracks.

Neuringer gets the last quarter of the album, performing a piece that is quite similar to his recent solo album "Ceremonies Out Of The Air", in fact a twenty-minute long bout of circular breathing - or electronically repeated? - close to a single tone which shifts color as we progress, with variations starting to kick in halfway the piece. It is quite impressive in fact, and fits well with Hellqvist's sonic universe, so we can understand that both are published on the same album.

Gianni Mimmo & Alison Blunt - Lasting Ephemerals (Amirani, 2014) ****½

The last album in this series is not really about seasons, but also about the passing of time, or even the opposite concept, in which the most fragile and volatile and transitory, gets a timeless nature. Gianni Mimmo on soprano sax and Alison Blunt on violin treat us to some ephemeral beauty on this LP with three fully improvised pieces, recorded live at the St Leonard's Shoreditch Church in London, in June 2013.

It is hard to describe the music as jazz, and although Mimmo's legacy is clearly with Steve Lacy, his sound and musical approach is truly his own, more abstract, classical at times in the clarity of his tone, yet audacious and explorative too. The spontaneous interaction with Blunt is nothing short of fabulous, almost organic, like birds, delivering soaring love songs, or fluttering agitatedly, or even stronger, like more intimate whispers, cautious touching of notes, moving forward gently and elegantly together. Blunt herself has the same spontaneous attitude for superb control of timbre and sound, while remaining utterly free in her inventiveness. Even in the rawest parts they find each other well, echoing improvised phrases, and creating sharp multiphonics if needed, before falling back on more gentle embraces.

A marvelous duo.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Syrinx Effect - Snail Songs (self released, 2014) *****

Syrinx Effect is a Seattle based improv group with just two members -- Kate Olson on soprano saxophone, and Naomi Siegel on trombone, with additional sounds both electronic and percussive.  The 30 minute EP Snail Songs, released this past April, is a gorgeous work of art that is sonically and spiritually uplifting. 

The high register of the soprano combined with the lower trombone create a delicate and rich sound, and adding some electronic effects give it an ethereal atmosphere.  "Moon and Crab" opens the EP with a call and response like playing between the horn instruments, then slowing down to stretch the sound of each instrument, adding electronic sounds and echoing towards the end.  Highlights for me are the tracks "Another Day of Rain," with a funky light tambourine beat, and Olson's playing that recalls Wayne Shorter (especially his recent work with string quartet), and "Flight Case," where a minute into the track Siegel begins a rolling bass rhythm and both musicians superimpose on top of that a wild menagerie of sounds, analogue and digital.  

Part chamber music, part improvised, Snail Songs eschews easy categorization.  Instead, the two artists have created a sound and a world that is all their own, and have provided the listener with a musical journey that is not only aurally stimulating, but life affirming.  Outstanding!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Resurrection of the Audio Cassette????

By Stef 

Most albums reviewed on this now famous blog are produced in hundreds of copies only, some can even be counted in dozens. So it is truly music for a small crowd of passionate fans, who happen to buy a lot. So even if it is already difficult to reach these fans, there is now a new tendency to release new material not on CD, but again on audio cassette? For the young ones who have no idea what I am talking about, please find below a picture of it, and NO, you cannot play this with a CD player, you need an Audio Cassette player to listen to the music. The sound quality is bad, the tape risks to get blocked, torn or completely tangled into the cassette player, etc.

So, now for our audio cassette series, here are a few albums that are now available in this format. The cassettes reviewed here share nothing in common, except for the fact that they are released to be played on this specific archaic sound device. So go to your attics, and get the dust of those cassette players, or go the second hand shop and buy a great occasion, unless you still have the Fisher Price toy player lying around somewhere.

Sheldon Siegel - Midden (Skylantern, 2014)

The first one is by Sheldon Siegel, not the American author, but the Belgian band who stole his name, and who conist of Erik Heestermans on drums and percussion, Gerard Herman on saxophones, and Gino Coomans on cello. Their musical approach is quite radical, inspired by the AACM vision, with noise, dissonance and repetitive sounds as key ingredients for some harsh improvisations on a variety of instruments and related tools. 

The cassette lasts about fourty minutes and the music is also available from Bandcamp.

Tobias Brügge & Matthew Grigg (Unknown Tongue, 2013)

The second tape is by Tobias Brügge on tenor and our own Matthew Grigg on guitar and amplifier. Both are explorers of timbre and sound possibilities, engaging in a common journey. The first side brings one improvisation, called "Peace & Fire (For Mats Gustafsson)", a carefully balanced piece with intimate dialogues constructed with small and low volume extended techniques, or moments of heavy agitation and excitedness. On the second side the music evolves carefully on the first track, "An Airless Field  (For Bill Nace)"  then explodes with the second, called "Arch Duo (For Derek & Evan)" in heavy bursts of violent interaction. Grigg's guitar screeches with feedback and Brügge's raw sound is reacting in the same spirit, yet things calm down after a while. We're not used to this anymore, but the length of the cassette is twenty-three minutes. To the duo's credit, they only release the music on audio cassette. No digital version available.

The music can be ordered from

Travis Laplante, Trevor Dunn & Ches Smith - Ancestral Instrument (NNA Tapes, 2014)

Next in line is this wonderful trio album with Travis Laplante on sax, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Ches Smith on percussion. It will be reviewed later on in more detail. 

NNA Tapes, the label, has already released dozens of audio cassettes, which are luckily also available digitally from eMusic and other providers. 

No Know (Sound Band) - Sound Songs (Self, 2014)

When I was in New York some months ago, I witnessed a fantastic performance of conduction by Sean Francis Conway of the Kenney Wolleson & Horns ensemble at The Stone. On this cassette, Sean Francis Conway plays accordion, violin and he sings, while Andrew Bracken plays percussion. 

The duo's approach is beyond any conceivable concept of music, unless their very own. It has some shamanistic aspects with Conway's singing, or even folksy elements with the accordion. The percussion is only emphasising, disrupting or doing different things. 

Their vision is quite clear : "unknowing sound band approach is well known: walk thin lines, reject ideas that thinking thoughts think, proceed to create a sound sound", or is this not clear? It's so unusual that it's worth checking out. 
Available from Bandcamp.

Marco Serrato - Taaru (Knockturne, 2013)

We already presented Marco Serrato's solo bass album "Seis Canciones Para Cuervo" on a recent solo bass album overview. Last year, he also released this solo album, Taaru, on audio cassette, released on the Spanish label, specialised in experimental and ambient music.

The cassette can be ordered via Knockturne.

So what is the reason of producing audio cassettes? I can only conclude that it's a gimmick, just to have something tangible to buy, and together with the download version, you listen to it digitally anyway. Or not?

The Rempis/Marhaug Duo - Naancore (Aerophonic, 2014) ****

Dear Paul,

Some time ago I told you that my girlfriend didn’t like free jazz but she had accepted and tolerated my love and affection for this kind of music. Whenever she enters my apartment and she hears this music she usually ignores it and waits until I turn down the volume or put on something else. But when she arrived at my place after a long drive from Munich recently and caught me listening to Dave Rempis’ and Lasse Marhaug’s Naancore she actually almost screamed: “What the hell is this? How can you listen to something like this? Turn it off!”

I guess her hostile reaction results from the fact that Naancore is real noise in a sense Okkyung Lee once described it: noise are “sounds that are not wanted, to be abandoned, don’t quite fit in, not supposed to be there and which are not  necessarily pleasant to ears and even “wrong” at certain times”. So, on the one hand Naancore really hurts (especially listeners who are not used to such music).

On the other hand the album presents another chapter of the Scandinavia-Chicago-connection which has had a certain tradition if you think of Fire Room (Vandermark/Nilssen-Love/Marhaug), Ballister (Rempis/Lonberg-Holm/Nilssen-Love) or the various collaborations of Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark (just to name a few). Here Marhaug's relentless and wild combination of noise and pure lust to destroy conventional structures crashes into Rempis’ musical approach which is deeply rooted in blues textures and classic free jazz. Both have developed a highly personalized musical vocabulary utilizing noise and jazz to explore each other’s sonic universe and find a common intimacy while improvising. There nothing predetermined, both have to rely on themselves and the contributions of their musical partners. The result is a steaming, snarling, growling, and squawking inferno, Rempis’ alto sax cries are lost in distortion whenever Marhaug’s attacks him fiercely with his merciless electronics. It’s like a soundtrack for an experimental horror movie.

Well, Paul, to cut a long story short - somehow I can understand my girlfriend, this record scares the hell out of me too. The whole thing sounds ugly, hideous, dirty and evil – yet, there is a certain beauty under the surface because the music makes you feel alive as well, it makes you feel real if you commit yourself unconditionally ….. but it is not for the faint of heart!

Martin Schray

Dear Martin,

So nice to hear from you. I'm sure you are well aware that your girlfriend is right, there is nothing sane about listening to this stuff. These are the types of sound debated by lawyers when probing the legality of torture. In fact, you may recall that you, my girlfriend, and I bravely sat through some of the more adventurous moments of the A L’Arme Festival in Berlin last summer, and all that seems melodious compared to the electric mayhem that Mr. Rempis and Mr. Marhaug cook up on Naancore.

Would you agree that Mr. Rempis, who we all know as a fine and adventurous musician to be possessed in mind and body by some otherworldly spirit to even conceive of this recording? What else could explain how a Chicagoan saxophonist, enmeshed in free jazz and steeped in jazz tradition, would find his way to the studio of Oslo's Lasse Marhaug and his mad array of electronics?

When they launch into track one, Skinning the Poke, it’s pure pain. High pitched manipulated tones conspire with electrical pops and fizzles, like a heated argument between peeved electrons more than a musical duet. Rempis is on fire too - I fear Mr. Marhaug may have thrown some jumper cable clamps on him and started running some current! I imagine him playing all those melodic lines as lightning bolts flow through him. Then, I see his a sax become a twisted piece of metal with keys flapping wildly as it falls from his grip to the ground, and yet it keeps on playing. Heck, it’s almost like they are personally coming to light my house on fire through extended technique!

Before I get to side 2 - entitled Strategikon - let me ask, did you ever have a Commodore Vic-20 computer? Regardless, you could enter a command like  "POKE 36877,1" and the little critter would emit a high pitched squeal and not stop until you switched it off. My point, I think, is that there is something very primal in how the duo uses the electronics to rebuild, brick by 8-bit brick, my house that they burned down in the last paragraph, and it's rather amazing.

So, Martin, I am in the end compelled to agree with you, this is indeed tough stuff to listen to, but like you say, once you’ve made it over the threshold and let the duo raze any of your preconceptions of music or comfort, and then let them reassemble things, there is something utterly compelling and, dare I say, enjoyable about it?

Paul Acquaro

Naancore is available as a 180 g limited vinyl version (including a download) of 300 only.

Available from Instantjazz

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Turkish Free Music - 3 LP Box Set (Sagittarius, 2013) ****

By Stef 

Turkey is not a country easily associated with jazz, let alone free jazz. Apart from some great world jazz albums by Kudsi Erguner, and Barbaros Erköse, very little comes to mind, and that has more to do with this reviewer than with the Turkish jazz scene. Sure, most famous is probably Okay Temiz, the percussionist who played with jazz greats like Don Cherry, Johnny Dyani, Bert Rosengren, and who was a real presence in the Nordic jazz scene in the 80s. 

Now we get this great box of three LPs, in which Okay Temiz performs on two of them. 

The first LP is short, with only twenty-two minutes on both sides, performed by Konstrukt, the Turkish band which has been quite prolific over the past years. Check out their albums with Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, and Marshall Allen. Here they sound like a free form of the 70s Soft Machine, with organ and electric bass creating a specific color, supported by solid drumming, and a saxophone which resonates high in space, distant yet powerful. The music is trance-inducing, full of raw power and energy. It may seem a little chaotic at times, but that's part of the charm. The musicians are Korhan Futaci on tenor saxophone, alto saxophone and flute, Umut Çağlar on moog, vermona organ and electric guitar, Özün Usta on djembe, electric bass, flute and cura, Korhan Argüden on drums and old K Zildjian cymbals.

The second LP offers us a piano trio, with Hüseyin Ertunç on piano, flutes, küstüfons, kalimba, Okay Temiz on drums, flutes, triangle, harp, waterphone, kalimbas, and Doğan Doğusel on double bass and küstüfons. On the second side, Daniel Spicer joins on percussion and Umut Çağlar on kalimba. And what you get is anything but your traditional piano trio. Ertunç's playing is percussive, like an unchained Cecil Taylor, full of unpredictable changes, and so is the music, because it moves from jazz to more traditional flute and percussion, almost without any coherence with what went before, apart from the musicians, yet somehow it all flows quite naturally from one to the other. I like Side B even more, which starts more meditatively with piano and percussion, yet somehow it again switches to percussion laying a rhythmic foundation for several flutes and reeds. Somehow, all this was re-constructed in the studio, yet the effect is mesmerising and good. 

The third LP is like Don Cherry in the seventies revisited. You get a thirteen-man strong band going for it, with all restraints unleashed, in a hypnotic tribal dance that doesn't seem to stop. The band is Okay Temiz on kalimba, percussion, flutes, soprano saxophone and horn, Hüseyin Ertunç on küstüfons and flutes, Doğusel on küstüfons and flutes, Musa Dede on percussion, hand drum and flutes, Sarp Keskiner on percussion, hand drum and flutes, Özün Usta on cura, hand drum, overtone flute, Korhan Futaci on flute and alto saxophone, Umat Çağlar on violin, flute and bendir,  Murat Taner on zurna, Barlas Tan Özemek on acoustic guitar, Selim Saraçoglu on acoustic guitar, Daniel Spicer on bamboo saxophone, trumpet and bendir, and Berke Can Özcan on drums and percussion. Thirteen musicians playing dozens of instruments. 

The music is a mixture of jazz with traditional music, with influences thrown in from India, the Middle-East and the Balkan, into the great world music fest you can expect, or that goes even beyond expectation. It starts slowly, with guitar and flutes and rhythmless percussion creating an almost sad funeral tone, joined by the soaring sax, and after five minutes, rhythm picks up, with a repetitive theme presenting itself, gradually increasing speed and volume when the whole band participates. Now the rhythm is kept, and the shamanistic repetitive theme on the bamboo saxophone is repeated tirelessly, yet all other flutes and sax move and circle around it, in full free form, to be interrupted by total mayhem in the middle part, then total deconstruction, then things are put back again, repetitively, the theme repeated tirelessly, over and over, maniacally, like an endless invocation of spirits, like a festive dance that nobody wants to stop, and anything can happen, and sometimes it does, but this without disrupting the hypnotic trance-inducing theme, around which the whole band swirls and swirls like a great celebration of life itself. Like with Don Cherry's bands, technical proficiency is not a must, it's all about the collective playing, the richness of sounds moving together in the same direction, inviting everybody in the community to participate. 

This music is like a jump back into the past, a travel through time, when collective playing still had a kind of philosophical and spiritual aura, where the communal experience of sound creates magic. 

Available from Instantjazz

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Odean Pope - In This Moment (CIMP, 2013) ***

By Stefan Wood

"In this Moment" is a late 2013 album on CIMP (Creative Improvised Music Projects), with Odean Pope and his trio, with legendary Arkestra member and leader Marshall Allen.  Pope's albums on CIMP have featured many pairings with modern sax players, such as Luther Thomas and Prince Lasha, so this album can be seen as a continuation of this theme.  While both are in their autumn of their years, both still have the creative fire and chops to play at the top of their form, as the opening track "Maze (take 1)" starts off with a bang, drummer Craig McIver opening with a salvo of beats for both Pope and Allen to ride on, as both trade off their distinctive sounds, Pope being firm but stead, and Allen more acidic and edgy, pushing each other forward.  "Maze (Take 2)", is a longer and even more furious version, Pope employing his Coltrane influenced sheets of sound playing, with Allen responding with succinct responses.

If only the entire album maintained this intensity.  Instead, we have a series of solo and duo efforts, which, taken individually, are quite beautiful.  "On this Day" we hear just Pope and Allen, beautifully executing a bebop like phrasing that evolves towards something more free.  "Circumstance" is a fine moment featuring Odean mostly soloing, drawing from his Philadelphian music heritage to create an intimate yet deliberate and playful moment.  "City Streets" and "Collage Four" can almost be heard as one long track, again McIver providing an aggressive foundation for the horn players to swing and improvise.  Yet a feeling over the entire album was that it felt too polite, too respectful or maybe restrained.  The soloing was good but felt too overly familiar, and many times seemed to drift off to a tangent, which, as a listener, made one forget how the track began and started to lose interest.  Perhaps a bit more competitiveness was in order, like a Johnny Griffin/Eddie Lockjaw Davis vibe, or a better editing of track selections.  Fourty minutes would have been real tight, but with an hour it loses cohesiveness.  Nevertheless, this was a welcome collaboration that hopefully will lead to more, as Pope and Allen work remarkably well together.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rusconi - History Sugar Dream (Qilin / Beejazz, 2014) **½

By Martin Schray

Rusconi’s 2012 release Revolution was a wonderful record, it was full of surprises going beyond the usual framework set of a piano trio (listen to Alice in the Sky where the trio teams up with Fred Frith if you want to know what I mean).  And then you put History Sugar Dream on your stereo and you might check if this is the wrong album or if it is a false pressing.

Stefan Rusconi (p), Fabian Gisler (b) and Claudio Strüby (dr) like this idea, it seems to amuse them. “Finally”, the first track, starts with Strüby on vocals, strumming a guitar while Rusconi joins in on a diddley bow. It is ethereal and light-headed pop, it reminds a bit of Mazzy Star or Beck on his Seachange album – just without that recording’s minor key nostalgia and craving.

Rusconi say that they want to explore things, that they want to have fun, they do not want to be pigeonholed. For them music has no limits, that’s why they change their instruments on “Change” - Rusconi plays the guitar, Strüby plays piano and Gisler plays the drums. They are like naïve children discovering a new world.

This sounds like a good idea, it seems to be an innovative and adventurous approach as to atmosphere, moods, and songwriting– however, it is mostly the opposite. History Sugar Dream is an album that remains on the surface, there is nothing new about it. There are classical Rusconi tracks like “Ankor” or “Yogya Trip”, although they sound like the outtakes of “Revolution”. Still, this is interesting music on the borderline between jazz and pop. But the album fails when they go beyond: “Twisted” is a dry and unobtrusive Robert Wyatt track, the rhythmic breaks and the vocals, which are put through the effect machines, seem artsy fartsy; on “Change” they sound like amateur Prefab Sprout imitators. 

Above all, the album mainly fails as to sound. Especially the guitar solos are adult orientated rock, like on the 14-minute “Sojus Dream” or “Mediation”.  The music lacks compositional impetus, there is hardly something you don’t expect, it’s predictable.

In 2013 Rusconi rightfully received an award for “Live Act of the Year 2013” in Germany, live they include deejaying and other surprising elements, they can be a great band – curious and fearless, but now they seem to have taken a wrong turn. Yet, I am sure they have some interesting music in them and their next album might be more interesting again. But for this album the title says it all: History Sugar Dream is like eating too much sugar before you go to sleep. You wake up with a headache.

History Sugar Dream is available as 180 gram vinyl (including a download) and on CD.

Listen to “Sojus Dream” here:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eric Thielemans - Sprang (Miasmah, 2014) ****

By Stef 

Oh, oh, oh ... in my latest solo percussion review I forgot to mention this new album by my compatriot Eric Thielemans, apologies for that. And who is he? Ever heard of Eric Thielemans? He is a percussionist with a broad background in classical, rock, jazz and free music and many more styles, and on this album he develops his own genre. 

With a myriad of objects and percussion instruments, he creates stories of sound, purefied stories, on which all the unnecessary subplots and superfluous characters are stripped from the straight line, a line full of atmosphere and tension, the result of precision and careful effects. Some tracks have a zen-like quality, such as "Rocks", on which the sounds - no, not rocks - evolve quietly and naturally, well-paced with a slow, hardly noticeable build-up of density. On "Garden", his distant and quietly resonating whistling gives a cinematic feel to a number of single percussive hits on a variety of objects, strangely comforting. 

Other tracks have more shifting dynamics, such as "Tptptptp", which sounds agitated and nervous, a rhythmic collage, or the more theatrical "Ode To Oxley", on which rhythm is completely removed and replaced by percussive effects resonating in space. 

In sharp contrast to many solo percussion albums, there aren't many unnecessary notes here. Thielemans is not really a minimalist either, because he offers a lot, with creative variation, with substance and density, and innovative inventions, without expanding too long on each concept. 

A really beautiful album which will please non-drummers too. A percussion album that makes you dream: a rare feat. It is not only about technique, it is about the music. And we like that. 

Listen and download from eMusic. The album is also available from the label on vinyl and CD.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jaap Blonk, Sandy Ewen, Damon Smith, Chris Cogburn - North of Blanco (Balance Point Acoustics, 2014) ***

By Ed Pettersen

Funny that right after I send in the William Hooker review I get another record with Damon Smith on it.  Sweet.  This is a really cool album with a wide array of diverse sounds and adventurous textures.

Quirky birps and bleeps along with bizarre but somehow welcoming vocalizations characterize the first two songs, “Cueing the Nooks” and “Net Kongo” which isn’t surprising consideration Dutch performance artist Jaap Blonk is on this record.  It’s opens up a bit more atmospherically and dynamically on the next cut, “Winner Kult Song” but the vocalizations remain a constant throughout. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can wear you down a bit after a while.  Fortunately Mr. Blonk gives guitarist Ewen, percussionist Cogburn and double bassist Smith room to breathe on the next cut “Brewing Tools” before dominating the last third.  Ewen, Cogburn and Smith are sensitive and intuitive musicians who never overwhelm the proceedings and should be commended highly.  With all due respect I’d love to hear them on a record as a trio some time.

“Hebber Took Us In” and “On the Big Wulk” close out the album in the same fashion and credit must be given to all for the cohesiveness of the recording.  Mr. Blonk is an acquired taste but to his credit he didn’t over dominate this album but I can’t help thinking that maybe some folks might be turned off to six cuts lasting almost an hour together of his improvs.  Nonetheless this was a cool collection and I’m glad I got to hear it.  Add a star if you’re a big fan of Mr. Blonk.

William Hooker Duo w/Damon Smith - Triangles of Force (Balance Point Acoustics, 2014) ***½

By Ed Pettersen

Most musicians know that the most important element of a band is the drummer.  I’ve worked with some of the best but William Hooker isn’t one of them.  I mean, I haven’t worked with him but he is one of the best.  You’d have to be great to get me to listen to a 21 minute opening track of just drums.

Recorded in a nice space at a gig presumably (room ambience not attributed to a normal studio and some audience response) it is very well recorded and you can feel every nuance of Mr. Hooker’s playing.  The drums sound phenomenal.

I first became aware of Mr. Hooker’s work with Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo (separately) but this is my first introduction to double bassist Damon Smith’s work and it is fabulous.  He holds down the second song, “Made Anew”, and it is beautiful.  An atmospheric , lyrical and a well-constructed  12 1/2 minute piece.  Frankly, I was hoping it wasn’t another all drum track or this would be a very short review.

Track #3, “Doorway Into Life”, is a nice duet between the two that lasts just over 14 minutes.  You can tell a lot of listening is going on and that these two musicians have a healthy amount of respect for each other as neither steps on the other but adds to the piece nicely and very constructively with Mr. Smith adding some electronic textures in spots via deft bowing.

“Receptivity” is the final cut on the album at just over 12 minutes and flowed so well from the last cut I had to check and make sure they weren’t the same song.  It’s a perfect coda to the album as it’s easily the most dynamic piece of the whole set and Hooker and Smith really interact exceedingly well on this.

If you’re a drummer you can add a half star to this review and if you’re not you can subtract a half but I enjoyed it if for nothing else than to hear William Hooker in another context and to be introduced to Mr. Smith’s work.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hit them skins - percussion ensembles and solos

By Stef 

I've said it before, and I will repeat it here: there is nothing more boring than a drums solo. Or is there? Well, not always. Some percussion magicians can keep your attention going through a solo. Hamid Drake is such a magician, as is Andrea Centazzo, and several more, but often, it's a show-off moment of pyrotechnics without real musical interest.

Still, solo percussion albums, or percussion only albums are still being produced and released. Here is an overview of the latest batches.

Working Hard To Make Your Life Easier! - Volume One (Castor & Pollux, 2014) ***

The first album in the series was curated by TJ Goode, and offers a great list of some of today's finest drummers, mostly from the US, including Paul Kikuchi, Greg Burrows, Nathan Hubbard, Paolo Sanna, Tim Daisy, Curtis Glatter, Colin Woodford, Ted Byrnes, Frank Rosaly and TJ Goode himself.

And I must say it is a very entertaining album, with a variety of approaches, some including edits or with electronics in support, as with TJ Goode's own "Valerian". Woodford's piece offers an unrelenting fireworks of cymbal sounds, Ted Byrnes brings minimal nervous little sounds, Frank Rosaly an endless clattering of wood, skin and metal over grooving shifting rhythms, Tim Daisy a high energy roller-coaster, etc.

It's not the kind of music I will reach for often, yet it is fun, even for non-drummers.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Hamid Drake & Jesse Stewart - Timelines (Art Stew, 2013) ***

Hamid Drake is probably the only drummer to whom I will keep listening, even if he played for a full day on his own. Here he is joined by Jesse Stewart, award-winning percussionist and composer. This is not your usual kind of album. Hamid Drake sings, and uses his frame drum, in the kind of shamanistic incantation that we know from several of his other albums. The other tracks are mainly percussion duets, as you can expect, with a strong groundfeeling of deeply rooted polyrhythmic tribal rhythms, while adding complexities to the set approach. On some tracks, such as "Different Hats", Drake plays some bamboo flute, but more to set the scene for a fascinating duet on hi-hat only, that starts quietly, then gets increasingly and maddeningly energetic. Some tracks, such as "Low Blow" stay in the tribal context, with frame drum and a didgeridoo-like rhythmic blowing, but it becomes really interesting on the long "Drum Nerds" where both drummers use their full kit.

It's an album with a variety of stylistic approaches, making it quite rich for a percussion duet.

William Winant - Five American Percussion Pieces (Poon Village, 2013) ***½

"Five American Percussion Pieces" is a little more varied, primarily because we get to hear composed percussion pieces, performed by William Winant and by an ensemble of percussionists. No drums this time, but small percussion and bells.

The first track is composed by Lou Harrison and is performed by Daniel Kennedy, David Rosenthal, Todd Manley and William Winant, on instruments such as glasses, wood blocks, rattles, cowbells, wind chimes .... and drums. It is strange, with a kind of marching band beat to it, with hypnotic repetitions and dramatic, almost theatrical effects, with deep sounds and bells starkly contrasting. It is followed by a performance by Winant on four metallophones, resulting in a long chime-like sonic flow, with little subtle changes moving the composition forward. on "Bang Boom Excerpt", composed by Alvin Curran, Winant plays 13 tuned cowbells. The track is short, and quite mesmerising. The next composition, called "Having Never Written A Note For Percussion", consists of a long swelling of sound, with a paroxysm of volume in the middle part, then a slowing down again into silence. The album ends with "Solo For Anthony Sirone" on which Winant plays tenor bells. It has a quiet, beautiful African-sounding melody to it, even if the overall atmosphere is quite zen.

Peeter Uuskyla - Daydreaming Nerves (Omlott, 2014) ****

Swedish drummer Peeter Uuskyla is probably best known for his collaborations with Peter Brötzmann, and not surprisingly his style and musical vision is well-matched to the ferocity of the German saxophonist. On "Daydreaming Nerves", Uuskyla offers us a real treat, with sixty minutes of drums solo, with the exception of the opening and closting track, both called "The Dream", in which he also plays some piano. The other tracks, or close to ninety percent of the music, is unadultered drumming, with no dubs, no edits, no other instruments than the drumkit. These three lengthy tracks are called "Nerves". And nervous it is, with agitated tension throughout, and in contrast to my usual feelings about drum solos, it works well here, because of the energy, the changes in mode, the subtleties and the hypnotic power that he conjures up. It is fascinating, it is captivating, and it is even the lengthy "Nerves 1", well over twenty minutes that is my favorite.

Purity, power and precision.

Fred van Duijnhoven - Breuk (PJJ, 2013) **½

Dutch drummer Fred van Duijnhoven presents us this EP with approx. fifteen minutes worth of music, of which one is a song with Amber van Nieuwenburg singing a Burt Bacharach composition, and with Eugène Flören on marimba, who we find back on the last but one track. The other short tracks are played on drums, with lots of intensity, very crisp and snappy. It is strange in its shortness, bizarre in its overall mix of song and solo percussion. The rating given has more to do with the length than with the quality.

Hati - Wild Temple (Monotype, 2013) ****

One of the most fascinating album in this list is "Wild Temple" by Hati, actually a Polish percussion duo, consisting of Rafał Iwański and Rafał Kołacki, who are joined here by Sławomir Ciesielski, the latter the drummer of the Polish rock band Republika. The "band" is interested in mixing ethnic instruments with handmade instruments and found objects, offering acoustic music that bridges ritual with meditation.

The fact that they play as a trio, gives lots of possibilities for foundational themes, however abstract, giving structure and backbone to the sound, with very wild excursions into sonic landscapes, resonating deeply and even distantly in the studio where the album was recorded. The big difference with the other albums reviewed in this list, is the band's interest in creating an overall sound, or soundscape, instead of playing an instrument, and in that sense they are closer to for instance Andrea Centazzo in terms of approach.

A fascinating album.

Jason Kahn ‎– Things Fall Apart (Herbal International, 2013) ***

On "Things Fall Apart", we get a solo performance by Jason Kahn on drums, voice, metal objects, radio, mixing board, contact microphones, magnetic coil, speaker, computer, chairs and plastic bags, surely an interesting assortment of instruments, and as such not really a solo drums album, even if that's the most heard instrument. 

The title is inspired by the novel by the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe of the same title, and the album in this sense also is about the British drummer coming to grips with his country's colonial past in Africa. 

Kahn mixes pieces of noise of uncertain origin, with tracks with drumming only, which are often the best, even if I must admit that his shamanistic singing on "We Fall" moving into shouting on "Calling" and "Night" really pleased me too, somewhat reminding me of Norwegian drummer Terje Isungset. 

To be honest, I could have done without the "noise" tracks, yet I assume that's also part of the overall sonic exploration of the space in Zürich in which the performance took place. It is not ground-breaking, but it has its merits.

In sum, even if not all albums reviewed here offer "pure" percussion only music, the drums is the core instrument, presented in all its variety for intended and non-intended use. My preference goes to the Polish trio because their approach is really innovative with a very coherent end result, even if drummers will be left wanting, and to Peeter Uuskyla, whose album will definitely not leave any drummers wanting.

Available from Instantjazz

Monday, May 19, 2014

Roscoe Mitchell - Conversations II (Wide Hive, 2014) ****½

By Josh Campbell

Picking up right where Roscoe and company left off is Conversations II. Culled from the same 2 days in the studio as Conversations I, the music is in the same vein, exploratory. The main difference between this second record and the first, is a more mellow tone throughout. The musicians appear to become more and more comfortable on the collection of songs. Now its hard to determine without better documentation of the recording set order, but Conversations II feels more cohesive, where Conversations I felt more like a “let’s get to know each other” collection.

Although this is not the explosive up and down roller coaster that the first disc yielded, it deserves a place on the shelf next to the first one. Often times with a multi-disc set I’m left wondering if they had chopped the best material down to one disc would the experience be better. With these two albums, I can say that both discs warranted release, due mainly to the difference in the feel of the music. And had they chose to release one album vs. two, fans of this music would surely have missed out on some amazing music. The “negative” of Conversations I as the artwork for II is very fitting. I can’t recommend one disc over the other but I can absolutely recommend picked up at least one of these if not both. I do believe Wide Hive has plans to release these albums on vinyl in the near future.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ben Goldberg - Worry Later (BAG Production, 2014) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Woodwind player Ben Goldberg has done something like this before. Back in 2007 he pulled together a trio with Devin Hoff and Scott Amendola and dug into the Thelonious Monk song book. That album, Plays Monk, is a brilliant bass, drum, and clarinet take on the master. Here, with drummer Smith Dobson and guitarist Adam Levy, he's at it again, and that is some truly good news.

Kicking things off with 'Hornin In', a template is set - don't expect chord comping from Levy, straight ahead swing from Smith or verbatim melody from anyone.  Goldberg's group sketches the outline of the tunes and unfolds outward from there by taking Monk’s musical language, reducing it to its essence, and rebuilding it in their own way. Plucking threads from the atmosphere, the trio stitches back together individualistic versions of the already quite idiosyncratic music of Monk.

I'm particularly fond, after the first few listens, of the driving 'San Francisco Holiday (worry later)'. The track begins with the drums laying down the groundwork before the iconic melody is introduced only to be deconstructed moments later into a free improvisation. The clarinet and guitar spar more than they cohere, but in this three way duel, the tune is delivered in a sophisticatedly splintered manner.

The whole album is enjoyable in this manner as Goldberg picks the tunes carefully. A mix of lesser know gems (Light Blue') and evergreens (‘Brilliant Corners') gives the trio a great base to work off. Picking out enough of the melodies to let the listener connect and creating harmonies as they pass by each other, the group acts like a chordal instrument-less group, except for some rare tonal clusters from Levy, there is immense space and tight interactions.

In sum, very cool and loads of fun, Worry Later is another sophisticated and recommended take on Monk.

Worry Later will be available download only via the usual suspects starting May 20th. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Axel Dörner ... Axplorer of the past and the future

By Stef 

Axel Dörner is probably one of the musicians who are the most difficult to pigeon-hole. He has his own style and technique, yet he swims and runs and bicycles through different musical genres like a triathlete, moving forward and forward, ever onwards, regardless of the context he's put in, and in my opinion, Axel Dörner can also add flying to the variety of skills needed to have that forward motion.

We've reviewed him recently with "We Travel The Airwaves" by The Deciders, playing Sun Ra, with Mark Sanders on "Stonecipher" switching to electronics, on "Boperation" with Peeping Tom, playing the music of Monk, "Vier Halbe" with Die Enttaüschung, all albums that are easy to recommend, but cannot be used as references for what Axel Dörner's music sounds like, because he will jump out of any box you put him in. And here we have four more records on which he plays a key role, and four different approaches to music, what could you expect?

Axel Dörner - Die Anreicherung (Jazzwerkstatt, 2013) ****

In German, "Anreicherung" means "to enrich", like you can enrich soil for agriculture, or orange juice with vitamins, or life with music. The enrichers here are Axel Dörner on trumpet, Håvard Wiik on piano, Jan Roder on bass and Christian Lillinger on drums. This is modern jazz at its best, with compositions that serve as the foundation for creative and tight improvisations, carefully balanced in time and structure, squeezed in between the composed parts in an organic flow of unison and divergent outgrowths. 

Most compositions are written by Dörner and are of a playful nature, with unexpected twists and turns. Wiik also offers us three compositions, and they are of a different kind, more serious, like the dramatic "Sysophean Labour" or the more contemplative "Kaltwerk". The great thing is that the complementarity works well, strongly determined by the coherence of the bands vision on sound. 

In sum, a very varied album, that is offering ear-candy almost from beginning to end, with four musicians who are so technically skilled that any approach and complexity is taken with elegance and precision. This fact, and possibly also the nature of the compositions themselves go a little to the detriment of the emotional component, but it is great fun to hear throughout.

Mrs. Conception- Back In A Minute (Gligg, 2013) ****

We find Dörner and Roder back again as part of another quartet, now one called "Mrs. Conception", with Tobias Delius on tenor and Steve Heather on drums. Like with some other initiatives, the music switches between traditional jazz of the sixties, boppish in nature, with Delius sounding like Coleman Hawkins at times, to real avant-garde noises, whispers and screeches, and back, constructing and deconstructing as they move along.

This will not please the traditionalists, I can warn you, but for more progressive listeners with respect for tradition, this album is again a delight of craftmanship and band interaction, creating or rather re-creating the magic of music, the magic of telepathy (or hidden signs) to switch between composed and fully improvised parts. The music is playful, at all times interesting and full of surprises, played by a band whose instrumental skills are spectacular, moving as one to bring us again music full of small delights.

Bop unraveled into tiny single threads and woven back together, creating a sense of joyful expectation and frustrated impatience for Mrs Conception to return to the bed (What the hell is taking her so long?).

Axel Dörner, Andreas Willers & Achim Kaufmann - AAA Live (Creative Sources, 2013) ****

Like with other albums, Dörner likes puns and wordplays. If on "Die Anreicherung", all his compositions contain the word "Reich" (used with various meanings), on this album, all the improvisations contain the word "Rat" (counsel, council). The trio, with Dörner on trumpet, Andreas Willers on acoustic guitar and electronics, and Achim Kaufmann on piano, is actually only playing together on the first track, a thirty-six minute long exploration of sonic possibilities of this line-up.

From the very beginning, a tension is created that is so continually profound and deep that it is begging us to hope for relief. The sounds are minimal yet delivered with careful power, even when Dörner's trumpet offers only high pressure soundless blowing, or monotone extended single notes, it does something to the listener's neurological system, and it is the same with Willers industrial sonic excursions on his horizontally played acoustic guitar, and Kaufmann's muted strings on the prepared piano. If the previous albums reviewed here, are stylistic exercises, with a somewhat detached emotional component, this album does the exact opposite. There is no style, there are no references, just raw sounds, bouncing, sawing, tearing, piercing or weeping, strangely enough managing to create something coherent, something deeply resonating and touching. Unknown but not alien.

The second piece, "Inraten", is Andreas Willers solo, and the result is even more minimal, alternating between dry acoustic sounds and electronic white noise. "Entraten", the third track is a solo piano improvisation, and in sharp contrast from what we know from Kaufmann, he can contain his lyrical natural style reducing it to a level of maximal abstraction and restraint, well, really only until the second part of the track, when the dryness is suddenly changed by a sprinkling of refreshing rain coming out of the keyboard, a moment of joy before the more silent approach takes over again.

"Aufraten", the closing track, is an eleven-minute solo trumpet piece, on which Dörner offers us a wide recital of grunts, growls, whispers, suppressed blowing and silence. Until a little over halfway the piece, there is a sudden sound of real trumpet, a little moaning.

A weird universe, for sure. And a great album, if only for the first piece played as a trio. The solo parts are good, and please consider them as bonuses to the album.

Axel Dörner, Eddie Prévost,  Kai Fagaschinski,  Noid,  Sachiko M & Taku Unami - Ftarri Collection 2 (IMJ/Matchless, 2014) **½

Now, when you really thought that "AAA Live" had shown the farthest reaches of sonic exploration, this album can easily compete. This album, now available from Matchless, is part of the Japanese 7 CD series of the Ftarri concert series in Tokyo.

This album brings two "bands", first a quartet with Noid on cello, Kai Fagaschinski on clarinet, Axel Dörner on trumpet and Taku Unami on computer and guitar.

The second track is performed by Eddie Prévost on percussion and Sachiko M on sinewaves.

The first one is, as you can expect, built around silence, AMM style, with sounds of single instruments slowly piercing through the silence, in single notes, or in sudden waves of quartet sounds, moving together like reeds in the wind, slightly, and moving back. It is unclear to me whether the overall sound is frightening or soothing, but it is possibly both.

I have more problems with Sachiko M's sinewaves, which drive a single piercing tone through your eardrums, at times with multiphonics and higher volume, but rarely, because it is normally one piercing note, like an alarm forcing you to leave the building. Prévost adds some sustained bowing on his cymbals emphasising the effect. If the first track is interesting through its subtle variations, the second one is more irritating, at least to this listener.

In sum, these are some many facets of Axel Dörner's art and craft, a skilled musician with open-minded ideas, with great respect for tradition and daring to go further than most musicians dare go, a true Axplorer of the past and the future.