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Friday, August 1, 2014

1724 - Escaped Fragments (Klopotec, 2014) ***

This is a quite interesting record.  It has all the elements we ask for in free/improve music: innovative sounds, expressive playing, familiar yet diverse instrumentation (percussion, violin, guitar, electronic sounds, etc.) and obvious passion but something is lacking a bit.  

Perhaps too many tracks? (17 in total.  Too many tracks on a record is a personal pet peeve).  Not expansive enough in range of expression? (ie: a bit too much noodling for my taste).  Then why 3 stars and not less?  Because I don’t want to get too nit-picky here.  It’s not that I don’t like the record nor the playing.  It’s a commendable effort and I would be interested in hearing more from the group.  Plus, it’s really difficult to pigeon-hole an album, especially in free jazz/improve world, from simply mp3’s from the label without hearing the group in a live context.  It seems such an unfair way to judge artists sometimes.  It just lays flat for me (speaking of laying flat, if we could only review each album on vinyl, my well-known preferred format, you could discount the last two sentences outright).  The mixes don’t help either.  While the instruments are panned nicely in the recording I don’t get a three-dimensional sense of depth.  This would certainly allow the music to open even more.  But alas, it could again be the danged mp3’s.  

However, I give 1724 credit for a few things.  First: they’re not pretentious or trying too hard.  The music breathes which is a lot more than I can say for many artists.  They are in no rush and use silence and pace very well though it does meander a bit sometimes.  Second: they find a way to keep things interesting within the context of three to four instruments.  Not an easy task.  And third: I can feel the artistic commitment in their music.  In fact they could get an extra half-star just for that.  I get the sense that they truly believe in what they are doing wholeheartedly.  I look forward to hearing from them again soon and giving the music another chance.

The trio is Luca Kézdy on violin and effects, Emil Gross on drums andTomasz Leś on electric guitar.


Anonymous said...


It is not often that a review motivates me highly enough to write, however it is not often that a review strikes me as being as useless as yours does. Mostly, what 'criticism' is contained within amounts to little more than statements of personal taste rather than any objective analysis.

The majority of recordings reviewed here on this blog (& most review copies everywhere nowadays) are in the form of mp3s, sometimes with artwork/tracks/info/one-sheet - often without. In light of this, to devote such a large percentage of your text to airing this grievance is frankly absurd.

Whilst it is always preferential to experience music live, even the most cursory of internet searches will present you with video of the group in a performance context. There is also additional music available online with which you can further develop a clearer picture of the band, so as to avoid "pigeon-holing" and creates a more fair way to "judge artists".

Whilst I'm also not keen on some over-long records, you yourself have a 3CD 50 song effort to your name despite it being a "pet peeve". In fact, there really appears to be 4 tracks on this album, several of which have been dived up into smaller sections to indicate movements or self-contained ideas which both stand alone & are part of an over arching piece - a concept which shouldn't be alien to someone who has released an album of music self-described as a "movement in 12 Acts … jazz operatta (sic)."

Regarding the "credit" you so dispense;
Music doesn't have to breath, maybe for it to be to your taste it does, but its hardly a fundamental tenant of music. For someone who has released "Noise" albums, a basic awareness of Merzbow or even Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music should help inform you of this.

And an "extra half star" for "artistic commitment"?! In what world is freely improvised music the domain who don't "believe in what they are doing wholeheartedly"? It is a music with a tiny marginal audience, with little-to-no financial reward for the efforts musicians. No-one would ever pursue this music without it being something they truly believe in.

I would suggest you'd do well to reacquaint yourself with the basic principles of criticism outlined on the blog, and question the utility criticism itself before submitting a piece for publishing again.

Ed Pettersen said...

"Dear anonymous: I'm sorry you don't agree with my review and took it so harshly.
I re-read it twice and danged if I don't understand why you're so upset. It's not that
I didn't like the music or the group. In fact, I'm was open to hear more from them
in the future and said so. I also pointed out a few things that were really positive
but you're not doing the band or label any help by attacking a reviewer. We all do this
out of pure love and passion for the music. We don't get paid. And further, my personal
music career never factors into my criticism. I judge each record entirely on its merits and
in fact that is why I usually don't like outside information to color it. I simply write
how the particular album makes me feel. That's all I can do and offer some perspective and analysis.
Personal, anonymous attacks are not warranted and serve no purpose than to further alienate
possible future fans and/or friends. Yours in music, Ed"

Anonymous said...

Dear Ed
I'm not upset as such, simply I felt the review was without use. In retrospect, this was a little unfair as it does have 2 uses; to inform of the availability of the title in question (something I was unaware of) & to list the musicians performing (none of whom I'd previously come across). I explain my issue with the review at the outset, that there is little actual criticism contained, just seemingly a number of statements which amount to little more than assertions of personal preference. That is why I took issue.
I read the blog daily & for the most part find it an interesting read. I often disagree with the analysis of reviewers and find the quality of the writing to be highly variable (I'm aware English is often not the first language of contributors, nor is it mine). But I always find that the review serves a purpose & in some way positively feeds back into the community of musicians/listeners/interested parties. I felt yours didn't achieve this in any way, and also felt it was almost at odds with the editorial masthead (as detailed in the 'What I Appreciate in Music & How to Evaluate it for Others' sidebar) and the majority of writing on the blog, which is what motivated me to write.
I'm aware you make some positive points about your experience of the music, although I don't think at any point it constitutes "perspective and analysis." I mention your music for 3 reasons; firstly it was to demonstrate the ease at which one can gather additional information - which is something you mention in your reply that you don't care for (although you raise the issue in the initial review as a contributing factor to how you "judge artists"). Secondly, when trying to understand why you'd chosen to write in the manner you did, I checked your website to help me to understand/emphasise with your perspective - it was then that I found the standards to which you hold others to be different to those you yourself employ. Given your points seem to be almost entirely based on your personal taste, something you actively point out, it stuck me as strange that standards should differ from a creative vs critical perspective. Thirdly, nothing exists in a vacuum.
The comments I make are not a personal attack on the reviewer, but an attack on the review. I make no mention of you a person separate to the review you have submitted (I'm sure you are a decent guy and there was no personal "attack" intended), nor do I pass comment on either the music of 1724 or yours. I'm aware of the love that motivates contributors to write, and the lack of payment. I'm not trying to help or hinder the band or label, I'm simply voicing an opinion on the blog as it affords the reader the opportunity to do so.
My apologies if you read my comments as a personal "attack", this was not my intention. I'm aware the word can read as dry from the page, my comments were directed in the spirit of heated debate. Also, many magazines offer letters pages to voice opinions similar to those I have made, critical analysis should never be a closed system. Yours in music and critical thinking, Anon.

Ed Pettersen said...

Dear Mr.(or Ms.) Anonymous-

Surely when you refer to my music, which means you did a Google search on me to criticize when I make no mention of my own personal work in the review, and the fact you post anonymously could easily be perceived as a personal attack no? And when you refer to my 50-song "Song of America" collection with no mention that it is a compilation of the history of the United States in song spanning 500 years (culled from 1500 songs down to 50 I might add, no mean feat) and that it is 50 different artists not one artist means that you didn't really deeply research or review that source before referencing it. So in fact you are guilty of precisely what you accuse me of.

Further, the collaboration I did with Thollem McDonas, "Happening: A Movement in 12 Acts" is indeed a free jazz operetta of 12 songs isnpired by the Occupy movement again by 12 different artists, not one. Not 17 songs (most popular albums run anywhere from 10 to 12 songs which I find wholly suitable and satisfying BTW). So there again you use my outside work from the blog to make a point but a second time it makes no sense nor does it show that you did your homework. It seems you just want to nit pick me. Which is fine. Or maybe you have a personal beef with me (hard to tell when you're "anonymous"). But hey, I'm a big boy, I can take it. But call it what it is and don't hide.

In closing, isn't personal taste precisely what a reviewer brings to the table? If not, who's taste?

In addition, we all have limited time to review albums that come across our desk. I often sign up for acts I know nothing about to give them a chance to be heard and learn something new as I did with 1724. They got a 3 star review and some very positive things said about their music. Would you rather their music didn't get covered at all?

I have a very dear friend who writes for one of the largest publications in the world and it's come down to the fact that he can only write about big acts nowadays because there are simply too many albums crossing his desk to devote the proper time to them and print space is dwindling. So do you suggest that we only write about acts we already know? Then acts like 1724 wouldn't even get a chance to be considered.

And finally, I knew Lou Reed personally and am well acquainted with his and Merzbow's music and dig them both. To me their music does breathe. But hey, that's just my taste and opinion. Your mileage may vary.