Thursday, November 12, 2020

AMPLIFY 2020: quarantine (III of III)

By Keith ProskEyal HareuveniNick MetzgerNick Ostrum

Read: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part III

John McCowen - [12​]​[​A​]​123​|​123​[​F]

Clarinetist John McCowen continues experiments in drone, microtones, and overtones with the 22-minute synthesizer piece, [12​]​[​A​]​123​|​123​[​F]. According to McCowen, the sine waves of this piece are “a digital map of the available partial for an acoustic composition on the contrabass clarinet,” the title of which is the fingering for the acoustic piece. Typical of McCowen’s work, there are multiple undulations occurring simultaneously here, creating polyrhythms and synthesizing to form new beatings. There’s some glassy resonance. And low, corporeal rumblings. The timbre is electric but the movement feels natural, as if you’re listening to one of McCowen’s mundanas on clarinet. An interesting view into the process of composition and overcoming performance barriers. Anticipatory of the ever-growing mastery McCowen displays on the clarinet. Invigorating for listeners of sine wave music or microtonal drone. Though certainly not as satisfactory as hearing the breath, the instrument, the human element. - Keith Prosk

Valerio Tricoli - Angolazioni Inusuali Della Tua Camera Da Letto

Valerio Tricoli presents his characteristic concrete music created with his Revox tape recorder on the 25-minute Angolazioni Inusuali Della Tua Camera Da Letto. Similar to his live performances, inputs include field recordings, found sounds, contact microphones, feedback, and FM synthesizer; however, recording at home allowed him to layer three improvisations from one day, resulting in an environment that’s especially alive and writhing. Tricoli is able to terraform glitched, dark atmospheres that feel like a more authentic take on the post-apocalyptic noir Portishead or Nicolas Jaar try to create. Cavernous clicks and rumbling throbbings provide a substrate for passing memories of melancholy violin and piano melodies, mewing cats, and night bugs. True to the name, which can be roughly translated as “unusual angles of your bedroom,” pornosonic snippets pepper the night-like landscape; seductive coos, moans, laughs or cries or both, exclamations of “Ah just like that” and “You like that?” As is often the case with Tricoli, it’s so well-played it sometimes seems composed or heavily post-produced. - Keith Prosk

Julia Reidy - vestige one

vestige one is a seven-minute fantasia from guitarist Julia Reidy. A kind of slow electric freak folk. With heavy finger picking recalling John Fahey circa Red Cross, each note hanging in the air, reverberating. Detuned melodies accompanied with synthesizers evoking a kind of peace and sorrow, or solemnity, that serves as a proxy for spirituality. Not as timbrally or conceptually exciting as many of the other recordings here, but Reidy is always a treat to listen to. - Keith Prosk

Shira Legmann - The Ganges

German born, Israel-based concert pianist Shira Legmann turned in a masterful performance on last year's album Barricade, her release on Elsewhere Records with Michael Pisaro-Liu and so I was excited to see her contribution pop-up on the festival's Facebook feed. On The Ganges Legmann composed and arranged a piece based on a graphic score by fellow Israeli artist Matvey Shapiro on which she plays accordion and cello. Slowly building over the first several minutes, Legmann plays in long swelling chords that tremble like light over water. Her notes join and depart like the tributaries and distributaries of India's holiest river. The cello only plays a supporting role here, buffeting some of the more delicate sounds. Another gorgeous piece from an artist that is rapidly coming into her own, Legmann has just recently released her second album with Elsewhere which comprises her interpretations of selected works by the distinguished Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi. - Nick Metzger

Sergio Merce - Pendulum Movement

Saxophonist Sergio Merce blends his uniquely-valved microtonal alto with synthesizer to create stunning waveforms on the 11-minute Pendulum Movement. The synthesizer creates a low, deep, bodily purr, providing some foreground beatings. The saxophone creates more longform beatings from higher-frequency tones, moving to compliment the movement of the synthesizer, which starts, accelerates, slows, and stops frequently (sometimes sounding like a four-on-the-floor club beat as it slows). A sideways pendulum stopped and pushed again, mapping waves as it moves through time. The blended sound nearly mimics a fan, with the synth actually sounding like the blades and the sax providing that glassy resonance you might hear in the vent as it slows. A satisfying listen extending Merce’s explorations into the microtonal capabilities of his saxophone. - Keith Prosk

Otomo Yoshihide - Guitar and Turntables

The significance of guitarist Otomo Yoshihide to Jon Abbey's AMPLIFY festival cannot be overstated. In Abbey's own introduction for this piece he acknowledges the influence that Yoshihide's own Mottomo Otomo had on the philosophy of his AMPLIFY festivals and the importance of the artist to the first decade of the Erstwhile label. Otomo needs no introduction and his excellent piece for AMPLIFY, simply titled Guitar and Turntables, is a volatile change-up to the more subtle festival material. Separated into three tracks, the first mixes clean electric guitar figures with piercing turntable noise, contrasting the full natural sound of the guitar recording with the spiky intermittent turntable squall. The second track does away with guitar altogether, focusing on the satisfyingly harsh metallic textures of Yoshihide is so good at coaxing from his turntables. On the third track the noise turns towards the ecstatic. Turntables scream in anthropomorphic phrases as the maestro cooly teases jagged figures from his guitar. The squeals give way to scrapes and crackle textures, plucked guitar harmonics and abused stylus lamentations. Excellent. - Nick Metzger

Clayton Thomas - All Things To All People

Beyond the stressors of the pandemic, there’s a lot of extramusical inputs wrapped up in this release. It’s dedicated to Sean Baxter and Cor Fuhler, two Australian improvisers who died this year. To the Eora Nation, the indigenous people from which the land this was recorded on was stolen, a land ravaged by bushfires at the time of recording. And to DJ Screw, the late HTX beatmaker whose mixes Erstwhile labelhead Jon Abbey posted AMPLIFY’s facebook page with frequency to provide inspiration for the musicians involved. The result is a building canon of contrabass technique reset by a gong, like a groundhog day in which you take a step further each time. The total sequence is something like deep woody arco > percussive preparation > hairy buzzing scraping > fishtailing bowing > furious flailing plucking > detuned inside-piano > a noirish plucked line > nails-on-chalkboard bowing > creaking wood > freight train > rapid descending glissandos > piano-like clusters > funk groove. Apparently whatever rules there are kept breaking down and this is just a conceptual sketch to practice overcoming performance or compositional barriers, but it’s a fantastic display of Thomas’ prowess and process-based approach. - Keith Prosk

Sarah Hennies - Bed of Nails

Percussionist Sarah Hennies’ Bed of Nails is a menagerie of objects and extended technique on the kit. Scraped metal squeals and squawks like some wetland aviary. Bowed cymbals create almost inaudible drones. Sometimes a wood block pops. And there’s a gong whose waves are so longform it doesn’t even feel percussive. This kind of percussion, with movement more parallel than perpendicular to objects and with hits deemphasized, emasculates the kit by stripping back the violence and pomp of drumming while upping the emotivity of it with its increased timbral possibilities. Eventually Hennies introduces a mass of second-hand store bells, chimes, and trinkets; waifs cast out like social others (see Sound American’s excellent The Alien Issue ). Here, it seems, a sound is allowed to be a sound, and this is a rich ecosystem of sounds. In this way, and with a run-time of five minutes, Bed of Nails provides a digest of queer percussion, masterfully accomplished by Hennies’ eye for the symbology of percussive performance. The cover art might suggest this is somehow related to Hennies’ The Reinvention of Romance from this year. - Keith Prosk

Clare Cooper - Y’s Clocks and Radios

Clare Cooper, usually found playing harp or zither, presents a spokenword story backed by metallophone pulses on the brief, five-minute Y’s Clocks and Radios. The text is a bit silly, highlighting a surreal, absurd, comical thread strung through some of Cooper’s work. And there’s a focus on mimickry and blurring sometimes found in echtzeitmusik’s headier projects. The title suggests a clock or clock parts; the text mentions a xylophone, vibraphone, and glockenspiel (and clocks); it’s unclear if the beat is created from these or something else entirely. The text speaks of language, and translating tik and toks to binary (maybe morse too), and the listener might begin to wonder if there’s just two texts. And it speaks of love, so often physically associated with pulse, the fluctuations of which the listener might relate to the affections of characters in the text. Musically, this is simple and dull. Conceptually, it’s a powerful demonstration of psychoacoustics, or how the introduction of a few different variables can change the listener’s perception of even a simple sound. - Keith Prosk

Áine O'Dwyer - Stone Sketch

Áine O’Dwyer, perhaps most famous for her organ and harp work though certainly familiar with the realm of field recordings, makes sounds with a stone for nine minutes on Stone Sketch. What’s astounding is how familiar the materials sound, despite being used in unfamiliar ways, and how O’Dwyer unfolds the listener’s understanding of the materials they’re hearing. There’s a tap of stone on wood before it scrapes. The taps reverberate, as if in a church, perhaps on a pew. Eventually, a stone tap rings so loud it vibrates strings, so an instrument. And then it scrapes across the strings, enough to be a piano or harp. The stone explores the strings, dull across the pins and massaging out glissandos. The wood and gut sound so rough the stone must be smooth, a river stone. It’s rhythmic with rich textures, though not very musical. An interesting piece of sound for sound’s sake and investigating the listener’s relation to and interpretation of it. - Keith Prosk

Ilan Volkov - Melodyharp

Ilan Volkov trades in his usual violin to shred on a melody harp for ten minutes on Melodyharp. Similar to some of his violin work, he explores the sounds of the whole instrument. Rubbing and scraping the body, the strings. It’s amplified, drenching the simple, often blithe instrument in ominous distortion and feedback. Volkov plays the strings with sustain unusual for the instrument, though perhaps with scraping fingernails, since no sound here is so mellow to suggest a bow. And he plucks delicate, detuned, spiderlike, spindling unmelodies, both close and far from the pegs, and sometimes so strongly the strings slam the soundboard. The melody ascribed to the instrument becomes evident, but I’m not familiar with it. And again similar to some of his violin work, he teases out beauty and catharsis from the maelstrom. - Keith Prosk

Reinier van Houdt

drift nowhere past (22 March 2020)

friction sleep maze (22 April 2020)

horizon without traveler (22 May 2020)

sky waves trails (22 June 2020)

bardot for Cor (22 July 2020)

mystery of erasure (22 Aug 2020)

Composer/pianist Reinier van Houdt contributed a series of pieces to the festival which were created on the 22 of each month, offering the listener an evolving window into his world, a sonic journal. As mentioned previously I’ve really enjoyed van Houdt’s collaborations with Michael Pisaro-Liu the last several years and his record with Bruno Duplant on Elsewhere last year was another favorite of 2019. On drift nowhere past (22 march 2020) van Houdt’s playing accompanies a woman’s talking, humming, and singing. The voice is comforting, maternal almost, and complements the plaintive piano melody. Various recordings are juxtaposed, voices, passing vehicles, the tolling of a bell. The mood of the track evolves from a warm coziness into a slight foreboding towards the end. On friction sleep maze (22 April 2020) undulating electronics mingle with piano and percolating rhythmic sounds sourced from field recordings. Dialogue, again a comforting presence ushers out the early drear as screeches and grima provide a tense, decomposing culmination.

The third piece, horizon without traveler (22 May 2020) begins with elegiac, garbled speech, footsteps, bits of orchestral music, all mixed in with the kind of noises that my brain associates with David Lynch movies. The track shifts into a synth-driven haze that incorporates additional domestic recordings, piano, cradlesong, water sounds, and a voice repeating “she was a visitor.” The next piece (and the longest of van Houdt’s contributions) skies waves trails (22 June 2020) begins with thin, high pitched tones that quiver against each other as lower pitched drones encroach causing difference tones and interferences. The sound sources are harmonium and piano played with glass and ebow, but the feelings they are sculpted into are all Reiner van Houdt, as he also wrote this piece as a dirge for his father who passed 18 years ago.

His fifth piece entitled bardo for cor (22 July 2020) is in tribute to the composer Cor Fuhler who passed away this year, and is comprised of what van Houdt “recorded, played, played back, read, and heard in my surroundings after I learned Cor had died.” Included are snippets of Fuhler’s playing among harsh noise, electronics, and field recordings. This may be the most experimentally electronic of his pieces but it still fits within the arc that he has created with his contributions. The final piece is titled mystery of erasure (22 Aug 2020) and closes shop in ethereal fashion, layering all manner of sounds in thin wisps of strata. As the track develops the concrete sounds dim into a cavernous banging before receding into impersonal spoken word, piano fragments, and whining drone. - Nick Metzger

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please note that comments on posts do not appear immediately - unfortunately we must filter for spam and other idiocy.