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Last Dream of the Morning: Mark Sanders (dr), John Edwards (b), John Butcher (ss)

Schorndorf, October 2023

Rieko Okuda (p), Conny Bauer (t), Willi Kellers (d)

Industriesalon Schoeneweide, Berlin. September 2023

Stephen Grew (p) and Trevor Watts (s)

Exploratorium, Berlin. September 2023

The Circle 5.0: Hans Peter Hiby (as,ts), John Dikeman (ts), Reza Askarii (b), Willi Kellers (dr), Shoji Hano (dr)

Schorndorf, Manufaktur. September 2023

Roman Stolyar (p), Camila Nebbia (s), Rocia O'Dezaille Cambours (d)

Kühlspot, Berlin, August 2023

Friday, December 8, 2023

Mark Solborg - BABEL (Ilk Music, 2023)

By Eyal Hareuveni

Danish (with Argentinian roots) guitarist-composer Mark Solborg’s BABEL takes the biblical myth of the Tower of Babel when God created a communicative discord to control man and asks if God actually intended to nurture a fertile diversity. “A disruption of a self-perpetuating echo chamber, to stimulate a more varied and complex perspective of the world? Maybe she (God) wanted to show us that we will find the strength to solve the planet’s problems in our differences and multiple talents, not in uniformity and polarization”.

BABEL, in a way, is an extension of Solborg’s previous work, TUNGEMÅL (meaning idiom or tongue) (Ilk Music, 2021), a platform concerned with the guitar as a voice in contemporary chamber musical contexts. In BABEL Solborg wanted to collapse the self-perpetuating tunnel vision of these echo chambers and to investigate, illustrate and raise awareness of the continuous cross-cultural interhuman debate, and, obviously, to show how words, our idioms and mother tongues are deeply connected with our view of ourselves and the way we resonate with the surrounding world. And furthermore, to suggest a better, compassionate conversation that may become increasingly important if we are to solve the challenges of our society and species.

Solborg composed music for a chamber ensemble of trusted, long-time collaborators - Portuguese, Stockholm-based trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, Italian, Copenhagen-based clarinetist Francesco Bigoni, and Danish reeds player Anders Banke, pianist and keyboards player Simon Toldam and drummer-percussionist Peter Bruun, and Solborg himself on guitar and electronics. Solborg asked the musicians to “attack” the music and to approach it in ways they wouldn’t normally do. Then he added tapes of 18 interviewed voices, speaking in multiple languages, integrated into the rich textures of the music.

This work demands, naturally, deep listening, but its lyrical and intimate, patient, multifaceted and multi-layered nature also radiates a strong sense of freedom and compassion. Solborg says that this work creates a warm and unique garden of fables, a sonic haven to trust the listener’s affections, fears and dreams. And if I may add, a beautiful work that challenges simplistic, binary narratives of social media and demands more complex and thoughtful attention and sensitivity to the sonic details, languages and perspectives of these gifted musicians, as well as of the others around us. It certainly guarantees a powerful healing effect.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Saowakhon Muangkruan and Manop Nakornchai - The night of an animal ย​​​า​​​ม​​​ว​​​ิ​​​ก​​​า​​​ล (​​​ข​​​อ​​​ง​​​เ​​​จ​​​้​​​า​​​ส​​​ี​​​่​​​ข​​​า​​​) (Ramble Records, 2023)

By Nick Ostrum

The night of an animalis a collaboration between two Thai musicians, Saowakhon Muangkruan on cello and Manop Nakornchai on guitar. All six tracks are improvised and together they form something apart from other improvised string duo recordings. You might be able to chalk this up to my own unfamiliarity with Thai and southeast Asian music. The night of an animal does use motifs and melodies that sound like they are from the region, even if on western instruments. That said, the spaces, the slow and unpredictable development and the clearly unscripted nature of these interactions make me think there is something different going on between these two musicians.

First, the folk melodies. Muangkruan and Nakornachai are not out to shred, but to envelop in, at least in the first track, what is a plangent but beautiful world. The tunes are different, but the guitar adds elements of Noël Akchoté’s Loving Highsmithproject, complete with that nostalgic, blurry polaroid sustain. Subsequent tracks bring us closer to the beast, as it were, as they layer presumably guitar body percussion with nervous beeps and uneven blocks of arco. The tension and menace rise, as does the tremolo, as Nakornchai’s wandering ostinato that slowly falls in and out of various winsome motifs. Things get noisier at times (track 5 is a case in point), and Muangkruan and Nakornchai answer each other tit for tat.

There is something glittery and wistful about this, though stylistically I cannot place it in the past or present. In that, and in its deceptively simple melodies, which similarly transcend space as they meld western and eastern traditions, The night of an animal is absolutely engrossing.

The night of an animal is available as a CD and download here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Maria Valencia - Compendio de Alfonías Abisales (Relative Pitch, 2023)

By Jury Kobayashi

Compendio de Alfonías Abisales is a recent release from multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser, Maria Valencia. It was recorded at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The notes accompanying the album suggest that it “was imagined between the town Sutatausa (Colombia) and the mountains of Banff (Canada).”

The album opens with a breath of air and a slow build of a scraping sound, accompanied by little whistling sounds that squeak through the texture of the music. I discovered that Neuston (the title of the track) is a name for organisms that live on the top or attached to-the underside of water surfaces. A fitting title for the track and a perfect example of the playfulness and depth that this album has to offer.

The second track follows suit this time titled after a species of jumping spiders. The solo clarinet bobs and weaves as if to trace the web of the Marantus Volans. Valencia has a beautiful personal vocabulary on the instrument and her tone is phenomenal. The track is followed by the blisteringly fast paced and fiery Cernicaloide. Valencia, now playing alto saxophone sounds equally at home on the sax as she is on the clarinet.

Many of the pieces are quite short on this album and often are no longer then 2 minutes. The range of the works are huge from the growling multiphonic madness of Variaciones de Parientes, to the bass clarinet march of Intermedio, the woodwind choir of Amarillos, the beautiful lyrical bluesy Medallas de Copas Arboreas. Each track on this album is a gem.

The final track is a complete surprise featuring toy piano. The melancholic sound of the toy piano is turned into a jubilant celebration with the insistent rhythmic drive of the chords propelling the music forward. It is followed up by a gorgeous woodwind and percussion anthem.

This album is beautifully done, conceived, and performed. Each track has something special to be discovered. The names of the tracks illuminate fascinating threads that weave them together. Fundamentally though this album sounds beautiful. Valencia’s sound is captivating, intimate, ferocious, and compelling.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Ambrose Akinmusire – Beauty Is Enough (Origami Harvest, 2023)

By Matty Bannond

The Church of St. Eustache in Paris has a complex character. Built between 1532 and 1632, its exterior and interior design reflects Gothic, Renaissance and classical traditions. Ambrose Akinmusire stepped into that slippery space to record a solo trumpet album in 2022. It’s a revealing and visceral fourteen-track snapshot that offers fresh insights into a well-known artist.

Akinmusire won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition in 2007. Now, he has released his first album as a lone player. Beauty Is Enough presents the trumpeter’s phrasing and tone in deep detail, with each note bouncing around the church’s cavernous stone interior. There’s captivating tension between the stripped-down instrumentation and scaled-up acoustic context.

On the first three tracks, Akinmusire feels out the contours of this holy studio. There’s a toe-in-the-water quality to the way the trumpeter starts slow and low, observing how the instrument’s voice behaves before venturing faster and higher. Listeners may benefit from playing this album at loud volume to get a sense of the cathedral’s interior. There’s intimacy in the fizz of Akinmusire’s breath escaping his embouchure. At times, he even grunts and clears his throat. It’s possible to hear each flurry of notes rebounding off ancient stone like a sonic boom or a comet’s tail.

Call and response patterns are another key feature. Akinmusire often explores multiple personalities, repeating a low phrase and answering with more varied high-pitched shapes. There’s a two-note call on “-Ann_” that receives no reply, followed by a three-note call on “Rio” that provokes rapid-fire backchat. Three tracks have titles beginning with “To:”, and they are all constructed around the same low-range setup.

Beauty Is Enough lets listeners see the skeleton beneath Ambrose Akinmusire’s robust body of work. It showcases the trumpeter’s versatile and multifaceted style with lucid clarity. Like the Church of St. Eustache, this album reflects a range of ideas and traditions. It’s a slippery record. But rock solid.

The album is available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download here .

Ambrose Akinmusire - Beauty is Enough (Origami Harvest, 2023)

By Stef Gijssels

The title says it all: "Beauty Is Enough", an astonishing solo trumpet performance by Ambrose Akinmusire, who is usually more active in what we could call 'modern creative' jazz, and member of several bands that we reviewed over the years, but never as a leader. 

On this album, he strips away any reference to any musical genre, or using his incredible eclectic knowledge of music, ranging from classical to free improvisation, to bring us sixteen relatively short pieces, in which he creates a fascinating musical universe of crystal clarity and deep emotion. Austerity and masterful discipline on his instrument are merged with feelings and compositional complexity. There are moments when his sound is closer to classical than to jazz, with a purity of sound that is uncanny in its resonance in the open space. In stark contrast to classical musical are acoustically distorted and fractured sounds, bended notes, expressive and exploratory moments. It sometimes sounds like a merging of Bach and Lester Bowie. Bach also comes to mind in his use of structural repetitions, that get slightly altered each time. For most pieces he manages to introduce thematic patterns acting as a foundation for this improvised flights of sound, as if he is accompanying himself without overdub. 

I have listened to it for months now. I have put the album away, and listened to a lot of other music in between, but then you need to hear it again. It is calming, soothing, comforting, it shines, it brightens the room, the space, the day, it jubilates and moans, it energises, it baffles by its incredible virtuosity. It is majestic, solemn, magnificent, yet equally sensitive, personal, intimate, lightfooted and playful. And not one after the other. All these things together, at the same time, and as you notice, there are not enough adjectives to describe my enthusiasm. At the same time it is also authentic, unassuming, humble in its approach. 

Akinmusire was already known to be an excellent trumpet player, but he has outdone himself, propelled himself into a different league altogether. 

He does not seem to want to prove anything. It is not self-centered or designed to break boundaries. It just says: listen to this. This music. Beauty is enough. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Monday, December 4, 2023

Kresten Osgood, Bob Moses and Tisziji Muñoz - Spiritual Drum Kinship (Gotta Let It Out, 2023)

By Paul Acquaro

Guitarist Tisziji Muñoz is a somewhat under-the-radar player in improvised music. Perhaps better stated, he is more of an open secret, and those in the know, know that his fiery Coltrane-like approach to his instrument should have him cresting the top of any "fiery-guitar" music fan's list. He also happens to be a teacher of spirituality and combines his teachings with his music to reach some incendiary peaks

On Spiritual Drum Kinship, Muñoz is joined by two percussionists, music legend as well as long-time student of Muñoz, Rakalam Bob Moses and legend-in-the-making Kresten Osgood. Together, they create a rhythmic force that is as knotty and complex as it is accessible and comfortable, and over which Muñoz plays with an inspiring rawness. In fact, it's this rawness that really makes the music work so well. As the tracks evolve, Muñoz makes deviations from one path that may or may not lead to the next one, always leaving some aspect to be explored. Adding to this adventurousness, there is his tone, which is raw and crackling with the energy of an overheating Fender tube amp. Take, for example, the opening moments of the album, the track "When Purple Bangs True." Within its effectively simple melody, there are incomplete notes and an uneven volume, all of which makes it - to my ears - sympathetic and gripping. It's like being the soft side of the Velcro and the music is the other piece. How those little hooks latch on as that simple melody simple builds to anthemic heights in short order.

The interaction between Moses and Osgood is another reason why the album flows so well. One example, on "Bone Rolling Moans," we get a real dose of their pulse-heavy and textural approach. The track begins with Muñoz playing a double-stop melody that seems to be purposefully just on the edge of falling apart, and we hear the drummers building, lightly at first, a fluid, textural bed. Maybe it's more of a water bed, it's surface contours shifting as the weight of the notes change, but always in proportion and supportive of what's above. Mid-way through the track, Muñoz is hoping on this metaphorical bed, while Moses and Osgood are playing along, perfectly in sync with all of the fantastic commotion. Then, Munoz lets the two percussionists duel it out as his guitar feeds-back and fades. The second half of the album is even better.

Spiritual Drum Kinship is an thrilling collection of improvisations, and one true to every word of its title.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Ignaz Schick - Sunday Interview

Ignaz Schick - Photo by Nuno Martins

  1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

    There are different joy moments, one definitely is when your primal intuition proves to be right. This can be the idea for a line-up, or a musical/material decision you make while playing. In both line-up and material and in improvisation generally speaking we take risks. Like does it really work if I put player A and Player B together in a trio with myself. Then you go on stage, and it comes out exactly as you imagined, or different but even more beautiful than you expected. Similar for musical material, sometimes it is clear what the situation needs, but very often it is a very intuitive decision making process, and when this decisions work, it usually is a big moment of happiness and joy. Another level of course is when you find the new or unexpected. When you don’t expect anything and it just happens. When I found out for myself that objects vibrate and sound just beautifully when being played on and animated directly by holding them onto the rotating platter of a turntable, I found this magic toy by a pure random mistake, and a whole new cosmos of sounds opened up to me. This are the moments you look for! I still remember and I will never forget this exact instant, it was a revelation, this are moments of pure joy and they usually have a long lasting big impact on your work. This moments are rare and thus so valuable. And of course sharing music, with the colleagues while we make it, and with the audience and friends, for whom we make it ...

  2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?

    The ability of (deep) listening, the ability to only play if the music asks for it, and the ability to play the right thing in whatever situation. Plus the curiosity for the unknown or unexpected and a general openness to whatever music or situation. For me it is always an amazing and magical moment if I play music with musicians from completely different styles or geographical/cultural background and when we come together and we find a way to communicate and play music together. This happened to me when playing with Mwata Bowden, with African musicians like Amine Mesnaoui, or recently on many occasions with musicians from Vietnam, Indonesia or India where many were from classical Indian background. Still we were able to play together and create something beautiful as we were all open and ready for it. Another feature I really admire is the type of musicians or improvisors, who really invest themselves, like in musical situations which are complicated or may it be just during a bad and difficult day. There is this type of players, who will lean back and say, oh, this won’t work, and they pull out and let the music fall down. But then there are this other players, who really invest and give everything, who will always try and never give up no matter how difficult the situation or constellation is. They really want to play the music, they want it to come out and unfold, they want to have a good time, so they will do everything to make it happen. I love this type of players. Paul Lovens was such a player, Burkhard Beins, Oliver Steidle and Ernst Bier as well. All of them are drummers, interesting, no? And I admire players who will surprise me, either with unexpected sounds, or crazy decisions, where you have to be on your toe all the time, you have to stay wake and alert and be ready for anything any time. Don Cherry was a master of this, also Charlemagne Palestine and Limpe Fuchs. And, there are this musicians, where you never need to worry, you just start to play, and they have this amazing skill of making you forget all technical issues, cause they are so accomplished, and at the same time generous, the music just comes out and you don’t have to think at all, almost like autopilot, you just let it flow...

  3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?
    (see below, these two questions were inadvertently mixed together when the questions were sent out - FJB)

  4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

    From Jazz and my personal history and even though I played with him, Don Cherry of course. I was too young and not ready in those days when he asked to sit in with them. Now it would be super interesting and with what I do now to play with Don would be a dream. I think I could really challenge him now. I know his mindset would be wide open, he would be absolutely up for it, even the most crazy noise stuff, he would love it. With his immense openness he would completely understand and embrace what I am doing. He just lived too fast for me, in double triple tempo… From that period, maybe also Lester Bowie with his more abstract phases. I always loved his vocality and super beautiful extended sounds on trumpet. And another trumpeter, Bill Dixon !! But as I live in our time, it is more about catching up with all those amazing players who are all around now, especially the young ones, so many interesting musicians are around, it’s just wonderful! And from the living legends, one player who we wouldn’t need to resurrect: Wadada Leo Smith, that would be another dream!!

  5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

    Oh, wow, big question. I have never been the person who wanted to play with famous people, or win one of those stupid prizes, like a Grammy, or those ridiculous jazz prizes. It seems some people need those to reassure that they have some importance, because it seems that their music is not enough (for them). I could have aimed for such career paths, but it would have also meant to compromise my music and ideas, to adapt to the business, and to those mafia type opinion makers, and this was never my scope. I am always trying to bring into life the music I hear in my inner ear. And it is quite crazy stuff, anti-career sound so to say ! I think I still want to write more music, and this music is dense, energetic, almost orchestral, weird and mystic stuff. A music full of unheard sounds. So right now I am working on building a community of musicians who a interested and ready to go this path with me, and the nice thing is, there are more and more colleagues who support me and my vision in a very loyal way, that is really a big gift for me. Plus I am building my own sound makers/objects/instruments to bring this sound out. I am not sure if I can achieve it with existing instruments. Partially maybe, but I need to go deeper to dig it out, … I am getting closer, but it is still along path.

  6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like?

    Not really, I went into avantgarde music when I was 11/12 years old, and I always felt quite fulfilled in that zone. I don’t know much about Pop music, I do not really follow what is happening there, and if I get to hear stuff, it is quite random how it comes to my ears. I do like some of it sometimes, I think Prince was a genius, or I highly respect Michael Jackson for his music and performance. I am not interested in his Yellow Press trivia and scandals, but I think he was an amazing artist. I love James Brown, Funk, Soul and good HipHop. I really like it most when it is raw, pure, honest. And I like a lot of the old stuff from the 1960ies, the Beatles, some of the early Stones, Hendrix of course, The Who, … At the same time there is a lot of crap, especially since MTV came on, or this brainwashing Autotune stuff. I just can’t take it, it is like a big stinky rubbish dump, and as we are polluting and destroying our planet by exploiting it and not caring, we also get polluted in our brains by the consumerist mass media and what bullshit music they throw at us nowadays. So it has been really quite rare that I hear some really cool stuff that manages to pull me in. It is always very random, like Björk and Tricky back in the day worked for me, funny enough also Amy Winehouse. There might be a lot of great stuff I miss out on, but I do not follow Pop, I know nothing about it, seriously, it’s not my field, in another life hopefully, but not now, we only live once and I am still busy catching up with all those other histories of music ...

  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    A lot of things, first thing talk less when I am amongst people, … Focus more on one thing maybe instead of doing so many things in parallel, … Hard to say, we are who we are, and I have learned not to worry so much anymore and to simply accept who I am. Feels not that bad eventually.

  8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

    Perlonoid from Perlonex, It Aint Necessarily So from Perlonex & Charlemagne Palestine, my solo Rotary Perceptions, ILOG2, Now Is Forever, … It is hard to say, I am generally not so proud of my albums, they are (transition) documents of a long and painful process, but generally speaking recently I am quite ok and in peace with what I am doing. In composition I am slowly getting there. I enjoy to improvise with different folks and types of players. I love playing very physical solo vinyl sets, and I am usually having quite a blast playing saxophone with some well selected rhythms sections. So let’s see, hopefully soon there will be more albums that I can be proud of ...

  9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how often?

    Not so often, but more for time reasons, so many new things are happening, maybe one day when I get older I hope I can re-listen everything.

    Some years ago a good friend and respected colleague of mine who I didn't know that well at the time played me different albums over a dinner and we talked about it. He wanted to hear my opinion, like in a blindfold test. I think I was highly critical about everything and so at some point he played me my own record, a duo with Andrea Neumann. I did not recognize it in the beginning, and I started analyzing and commenting. "Oh it’s this and that, like a drone, oh, interesting sound, ah, it is prepared piano, oh, it could be inside piano, oh, this sounds like Andrea Neumann. Damn, this is Andrea Neumann. No idea who the electronics person is, Oh, why did he do this, and that, oh, interesting how he decided to place this harsh noise." And then suddenly "Oh shit, that’s me, it is my own record with Andrea, I haven’t heard that in ages. Man, you really got me here." He smiled at me and we burst out in laughter.

  10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

    In no specific order:
    • Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come
    • Alber Ayler Quartet – Live in Hilversum
    • Don Cherry/Colin Walcott/Nana Vasconcelos – Codona 2
    • Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell - El Corazon
    • Old And New Dreams, all three albums on Black Saint and ECM
    • Abdullah Ibrahim – The Journey
    • Abdullah Ibrahim/Johnny Dyani – Echoes from Africa
    • Don Cherry – Complete Communion + Brown Rice
    • Art Ensemble of Chicago – Urban Bushmen
    • Archie Shepp & The New York Contemporary Five - this albums and a few others were spinning in nonstop autoreverse mode when I started getting into music in a serious way.

  11. What are you listening to at the moment?

    The music of the composers Pierluigi Billone, Jani Christou, Georg Friedirch Haas, Klaus Lang

    Plus various stacks of vinyls I bought recently including traditional music from Sudan, Africa, Tibet, Turkey, ...

    Stack 1 includes amongst others
    • Graham Moncur III – Evolution
    • Dewey Redman – Look For the Black Star
    • Dieb13 – synkleptie no 1044
    • Dollar Brand – Cape Town Fringe
    • Lester Bowie – Gittin' To Know Y’All
    • Field – Someone Talked
    • Wayne Horvitz-Butch Morris-Robert Previte – nine below zero
    • Zazou/Bikaye – Guilty!
    • Die Vögel Europas – Best Before
    • Senyawa – Alkisah
    • Don Cherry/Jean Schwarz with Michel Portal, J.F. Jenny-Clark & Nana Vasconcelos – Roundtrip (1977) Live at Théatre Récamier Paris
    • Alterations – My Favorite Animals
    • Dewey Redman/Ed Blackwell – Red and Black in Willisau
    • Austin Buckett – Grain Loops 1-30, 30 Works For Sandpaper and 4 Snare Drums
    • Mei Zhiyong – Live in Switzerland
    • The Scorpions & Said Abu Bakr – Jazz Jazz Jazz
    • Night and Day – Live 15.Juni 1984 „FIRST“ Nightclub ehemals FOFIS, Berlin
    • Otomo Yoshihide/Steve Beresford – Museum of Towing and Recovery

      … I hope you don’t wanna know what is in the other stacks ! :-o

  12. What artist outside music inspires you?

    So many, it is an endless list of visual artists, writers, film makers, better don’t get me started. Interests and attention constantly shift here luckily, … In the moment I am reading different books and texts by Roland Barthes about phenomenology, for study and analysis reasons. And I am re-checking the photography of Alfred Stieglitz and some others. Also I saw a beautiful documentary on Arte about Mark Rothko, just to name some ...


Ignaz Schick's music reviewed on the Free Jazz Blog:


Saturday, December 2, 2023

Naaljos Ljom - Naaljos Ljom 2 (Motvind Records, 2023)

By Sammy Stein

Norway is sending a lot of good things to the world. Naaljos Ljom comprises Anders Sundsteigen Hana on jaw harp, langeleik (Norwegian stringed instrument), fiddle, and guitar, and Morten Johan Olsen Joh on analogue synths, drum machines, and SuperCollider. The duo has played at a number of festivals including the Rewire Festival in The Hague, Unsound Festival in Krakow, Fri Resonans in Trondheim, Elevate Festival in Graz, Sonic Protest in Paris, UH party in Budapest, Motvindfestivalen in Oslo, Tuvas Blodklubb at Riksscena, Wonderful World in Stavanger, Fanø Free Folk Festival, and more. They release Naaljos Ljom 2 on 1 st December on Motvind Records.

The music is a fusion of microtonal folk music and electronic sounds and noise. The musicians used materials they found at recycling stations and antique centres and united the sounds created by these old, discarded, misshapen objects, with tonally asymmetrical and rhythmically straight angles. Well, this is what the PR notes say anyhow. What Naaljos Ljom has actually done, and which comes across in the music, is to create layered, textural, and multi-dimensional layers of sound that form a collective mix that feels as if it draws elements of ancient Nordic culture and modern musical nuances together.

They have dived deep into the meaningful side of objects and sounds and merged them. They have taken phrases of folk music, elements, and textures from a variety of sources, and from the eclectic nature of their findings – both sonic and physical, they have developed music that makes sense, yet contains surprises and unexpected textures and shapes.

Throughout the music, a connection to their origins and the origins of the music that influences this release is prevalent. There is a sense of desolate, windswept mountains, boulders rolling, deep, grass-layered valleys, and sheer cliffs where a turn in the wrong direction may see you plummeting hundreds of feet toward a rock-strewn floor. It is difficult to put into words, but the music seems to create its own environment and landscape – rather as if the elements have come to life – these dark, cold, imperfect, tossed-away objects, somehow have united with sonic ideas from the past and present and found new lives, and purpose. Using folk music means the musicians seek atonal nuances usually only present in vocal numbers because of the imitations of instruments (and players) but here, they find those microtones using a variance of electronic and physical means.

The album opens with music under a statement from Eivend Groven, a Norwegian music theorist and composer with a background steep in folk music. The statement is from a radio program broadcast in 1966 with the title "False or pure in our folk music? Lecture by Eivind Groven with musical examples". He explains (approximately translated as it is in Norwegian). "Today we are going to hear music, not performed on an ordinary organ or piano. These are folk tones, containing pitches or intervals lying outside the usual tonal system." He is honoured later in the release on the tracks, Tolvtalsvisa" and "To visetoner etter Eivind Groven og Ola Brenno (Two songs after Eivind Groven and Ola Brenno).”

They use different rhythms, repeated often as in ‘Fiskaren’ and over these, the electronic music adds textural levels and percussive variations. Or they use a mix of rhythms and patterns, most taken directly from folk songs, and create a new way of hearing the music.

Traditional tunes from different villages, inspired by musicians such as Andres K. Rysstad, Torleiv H. Bjørgum, Ivar Fuglestad, Gunnar Austegard, Sigurd Brokke, Daniel Sandén-Warg, Anders E. Røine, Thov Wetterhus, and Kenneth Lien, follow with twists using electronic and sounds created on different surfaces. They even include their take on a folk dance – or Halling - inspired by Trygve K. Vågen. They copy the melodic material from unique 1930s recordings by Groven and Brenno, (more of which the label (Motvind Records) promises next year.

The release is neither folk, jazz, or classical Norwegian music but free, improvised in many places, and wholly inspired by the unique culture of Norway and its historical music.

From the weirdly ethereal ‘Foss Fugelstad’ (Fugelstad waterfall) to the folk imbued ‘Rammeslatt,’ the album is original, different, and a journey that links modern music perception to the historical music of the past.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Rupp/Kneer/Fischerlehner - Puna (Klanggalerie, 2023)

By Martin Schray

When you have a well-established outfit like Olaf Rupp (guitar) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums, percussion) with XENOFOX and you add a new voice to it (in this case Meinrad Kneer on bass), it’s always a question of whether you call it a real new trio or whether it’s just an extension of the old format. The three musicians have decided to treat it as new, because on the one hand, “it’s just a fact that with a new musician there’s always a new composer, a new personality, a new chemistry. Everything is always different somehow“, as Olaf Rupp puts it. On the other hand,“there’s not that much difference because a lot of what Rudi and I have worked on remains the same“, he explains. This is actually good news, since especially XENOFOX’s latest album The Garden Was Empty (audiosemantics, 2023) and the 2020 EP, Maconda (also on audiosemantics), presented outstanding music.

Luckily, Puna makes it clear from the very first notes that Meinrad Kneer is able to supply Rupp’s and Fischerlehner’s already elaborated style with a very interesting timbre. For example, he often challenges Rupp’s harmonics and trills with his pizzicato lines, which he likes to play in the very high registers. The bass thus becomes an additional melody instrument, refusing any rhythmic work and acting like a kind of songbird hovering over the musical landscape, that Fischerlehner structures with bumpy rhythms. This musical landscape, especially in the opener “Puna 1“, is like an echo of wacky alternative rock bands such as Tortoise or Sonic Youth, because Rupp repeatedly intersperses the improvisation with open guitar chords. Beyond that, he uses his typical creative means: Flamenco chords, thunderstorms of sound, feedback orgies, staccato passages, movement clusters, spectralistic sound fields - the whole Rupp arsenal we’ve known and loved.

One can describe his agglomerated sound as a mixture of the styles of Derek Bailey and Glenn Branca. Coming back to the bass, it’s not as if Kneer remains in pizzicato mode the whole time, and if you expect that as soon as he starts plucking the music would fall back into a pumping and grooving pattern, you’re wrong. Kneer’s contributions remain in the leading melodic section, turning the classic alt-rock outfit on its head, because in these passages Fischerlehner also becomes less interested in rhythmic support and starts bringing in more sound-exploring elements. In the end, the landscape has transformed into a machine and stomps forward, the contemplative moment has become a dynamic one.

Quite often the pieces implode - like “Puna 3“, for example - but before this happens they are mostly preceded by extensively improvised avant-jazz-rock passages that jerk and rattle so hard that they sound like acoustic fracking, which is very often due to Fischerlehner’s drumming. At the very end of the album, on the fourth track, which otherwise concentrates more on rhythm than the ones before, the musical spectrum even opens up a little towards soundscapes, so that the trio even reminds me a little of GodSpeedYouBlackEmperor.

Puna is a consistently excellent album because it exemplifies the musical and aesthetic aspirations of the three musicians, combining beauty and monstrosity. You have to imagine it as a very beautiful noise form. But the beauty is not easy to find, it is hidden between harmony and turmoil, structure and disorder. However, if you look beyond the dissonance and the feedback, the scratching and shuffling, you will be rewarded with a glorious fever dream, a huge friendly sound monster. Definitely in my top ten this year.

Puna is available as a CD and a download.

You can listen to it and buy it here:

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Anna Webber - Shimmer Wince (Intakt, 2023)

By Gary Chapin

Anna Webber is well liked here at FJB, and it’s easy to see why. Her compositions vary per project, but have an intriguing mix of autre jazz and autreclassical aesthetics — along with her own personal fascinations. Shimmer Wince grooves, but it grooves over alluringly repetitive, minimalist-informed charts. She is considered a “central figure in the New York jazz scene,” and her downtown roots are showing.

This quintet sounds bigger than a quintet. It’s only the prescribed five people — Webber on tenor and flutes, Adam O’Farril, trumpet, Mariel Roberts, cello, Elias Stemeseder, synths, and Lesley Mok, drums — but the arrangements, orchestration, and performance create a sense of depth, moment, and theatrics. Storytelling. Specific instruments are used to amplify this. The cello, for example, shapes the envelope of the sound in a unique way, as does the synth. But the voice is the ensemble. There’s almost an element of sound design to the compositions, here. The group creates an ecosystem with all the implied structure, process, and mutuality. The instruments are tiered and stacked so that the ensemble floats through its subsets over time, but never stops laying ground. The forest-trees relationship is very cool. Every individual line is worth focusing on, but they disappear into the whole and we only gain by their confluence.

The liner notes tell us that these are explorations in just intonation, something I find very interesting in the abstract (really, I’ve read books about temperaments), but I have a hard time pointing to any portion of the music and saying, “There it is!” But the outcome speaks for itself. As with Pauline Oliveros — another just intonation advocate — Webber draws you in with an ensemble that is somewhat more harmonious than you find in nature, except that she’s using “natural” tuning relationships to achieve it.