new music reviews authored by paul khimasia morgan

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Jason Kahn - Circle


Jason Kahn
Circle
AUSTRIA  Editions  008  DL  (2018)

Voice and resonator guitar from the prolific US-born Zürich-dweller.  But if you’re expecting something like Charlie Parr, you should probably look away now.  Neither is this project bathed in sepia-toned cod-“authenticity”, thankfully.  For those not familiar with Kahn’s activities over the last twenty years or so, his recorded output has most often been concerned with field recordings and associated recording techniques.  He began his music career as a drummer, spent many years practicing improvisation and making field recordings while simultaneously developing his art practice, but more recently has toured using analogue synthesiser, or voice.  (STOP PRESS! I’ve just seen a short film on social media promoting Jason’s current duo with guitarist Beat Keller wherein Jason is perched behind a drum kit!  You heard it here first!)  I attended a recent duo performance with Jason in vocal-only mode in collaboration with master percussionist Christian Wolfarth last year which was absolutely breathtaking, if you’ll excuse the pun.

“Circle_1” is cranking away nicely until at 7 and a half minutes, Kahn’s voice begins to sound like static.  It’s unique, I think, in the field of vocal improvisors; at least I’ve not heard anything quite like it before.  It’s my favourite sound Kahn makes, I think.  On “Circle_2”, his vocal shifts pitch and key; exploring microtones.  Quieter, beautiful.  For me, the beginning of “Circle_3” creates a desolate atmosphere not unlike Nico’s Desertshore.  In mood - not sound or instrumentation, but mood.  This may or may not intend to denote a similar kind of disconnection or disunity with ones surrounding or situation.

On “Circle_4”, “Circle_5” and “Circle_6” I particularly noticed that Kahn plays his Resonator guitar with a slide.  Probably these pieces are the nearest to a “traditional” approach; or at least, the tradition can be heard in Kahn’s playing.  A sharecropper’s blues lament abstracted through the 21st century mind-set prism.  You could almost say it could be an emotional tribute to musicians like Tampa Red and Son House.  “Circle_6” is actually the last piece of recording from this session at Zürich’s Kunstraum Walcheturm arts space.  Kahn utilises the natural reverb of the hall with his skilful microphone placement really nicely.

Kahn talks about Circle in this way: “…Guitar was actually my first instrument, a few years prior to beginning music in earnest on drum set. Returning to the guitar after all these years is in a sense coming full circle for me over my musical lifetime of forty years.

All six tracks have a duration of between nine and ten minutes, so at nearly an hour of material, there’s plenty to get immersed in.  Kahn is as rigorously experimental, perhaps searching is a better word, as is usual on Circles so it’s best to get comfortable and treat this album as an intimate concert in your own front room.  I would have liked to set this album in some kind of context and mention certain other experimental musicians known for utilizing Resonator guitar.  But outside of Sherry Ostapovich, whose superb album The Red Thumb was released under the name Musicforone back in 2008, there aren’t many other avant-resonatorists, at least that I’m aware of.  BJ Cole has used one, I’m led to believe, when he isn’t playing pedal steel.  So, it seems here, Jason Kahn is currently working in a very small field.  Not a bad place to be.  As with all of Kahn’s endeavours, this one rewards careful listening.


Sunday, 7 October 2018

Rapt



Rapt
Rapt
UK  Self-released / Bandcamp 008  DL  (2018)

Brighton Books closed this month.  Hot on the heels of other Brighton institutions such as record shops Borderline and Rounder.  Sticky Mike’s and The Haunt are next.
Before there was Greggs, there was Forfars.  Before there was Graze, there was Real Food Direct and Infinity Foods.  Before Terre à Terre, there was Food for Friends.  Before the Vans Store there was Vegetarian Shoes.  The Eagle was the Eagle, then it wasn’t; now it is again.  Before there was The Eagle, there was the Basketmakers Arms.  Long before Phoenix Residents Association there was The Freebutt.  Before Brighton Pier there was the West Pier and look what happened to that.
Food for Friends abides.  Vegetarian Shoes abides.  Infinity Foods abides.  The Basketmakers Arms abides.  Before the Gladstone there was the Kenny.  Before the Kenny there was The Eagle.  The Prince Albert abides.  Jump The Gun abides.  The Cowley abides.  The Verdict abides.  At The Coachhouse abides.  The Metway abides.  The Fish Brothers abide…probably.  The Labour Party Conference, Sussex Heights, St Peter’s Church, that weeping silver lime tree in Queen’s Park…
I’d like to think that they’ll still abide long after all the Great Escapes, Moshimos, Nero’s, Costa’s, Gresham Blake’s, The Ivy’s franchises and FatFace have all gone.

Before Rapt, there were any number of electronic process/drone-based projects and after Rapt there will be any number more.  “Inspired by music concrete/insomnia/thought loops.  'Rapt' is the product of a search for mental headspace and the desire for a world to get lost in.”  Rapt is the alias of Jacob Ware, a Brighton-based mastering engineer.  His stated influences are “…Wolfgang Voight, Brian Eno, William Basinski, Magnus Alexanderson, David Toop, Phillip Glass, Arvo Part…”  You will hear the Basinski and Voight influences straight away.  This is GAS without Voight’s beautiful aimlessness and nostalgia; Alexanderson without the rigour; Disintegration Loops without the ennui.  An ocean of sound set to the ubiquitous 4/4 beat.  A monumental piece of sound engineering, Ware’s warm production creates an environment I didn’t want to leave.  Five tracks, all seemingly derived from the same sources, considered very differently; simply titled as Roman numerals.  Pressure builds.  Like emerging from the darkness of the labyrinth of Knossos, into the clear bright light of a southern European mountainside, the weighty synth pads of Rapt will cleanse your mind and your soul.  Particularly in the early hours of the average Sunday morning.  It’s a clear day, there’s no clouds in the sky and the sea and the coast seem within easy reach of a day’s walk.  Have fun.


Friday, 5 October 2018

a pair from Infrequency Editions


Lance Austin Olsen and Jamie Drouin have been releasing interesting artefacts on their Infrequency Editions imprint for a fair while now.  At the time of writing, there are twenty-eight releases available via the Infrequency Bandcamp account, mainly the work of Messrs Drouin and Olsen, but also with items by Johnny Chang, Sabine Vogel, Thomas Anfield, Yann Novak, Jeffrey Allport & Chandan Narayan.  Infrequency concerns itself with “…new forms of electroacoustic improvisation and documents of conceptual sound installations”.  This Canadian imprint was established in British Columbia in 2001 “…as a platform for artists to experiment with sound…” and “…focuses on new forms of electroacoustic improvisation and documents of conceptual sound installations.”
Lance Austin Olsen has represented Canada in a number of biennials with his large-scale painting and drawings.  Also in 2018, Dark Heart was released on Another Timbre featuring three of Olsen’s scores realised by Apartment House, Terje Paulsen, Ryoko Akama, Katelyn Clark, Isiah Ceccarelli and Patrick Farmer, plus Olsen himself performs a score by Gil Sanson.
Jamie Drouin describes himself as an “…electronic sound composer and visual artist”.  His minimalist works highlight the unique perceptual experiences which can emerge from reduced palettes, and the confluence of tones over time.”  Drouin has collaborated with several international artists, including projects with Christian Weber, Lucio Capece, Crys Cole, Olaf Hochherz, Karl Kliem, Hannes Lingens, Yann Novak, Mathieu Ruhlmann, and Sabine Vogel.  Also worth a mention is the Simon Reynell-organised concert recently immortalised on disc by Mikroton; The Holy Quintet featuring Drouin along with Johnny Chang, Dom Lash, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga and David Ryan.

Jamie Drouin
Paysage
CANADA  Infrequency Editions  no number  CD-R  (2018)

A drone work, of sorts.  Different elements arrive and depart, ebb and flow, come and go in this single 40 minute piece.  With this kind of “constructed” work, I often find myself trying to imagine how the piece was built.  A clue is given on the inside of the sleeve; “recorded and composed between 2005-2009”.  So, Drouin made the recordings before he composed the piece.  .  Drouin himself describes the piece thus; “Paysage is an album of several viewpoints upon an ever shifting landscape – an ‘exquisite corpse’ of sounds which combine in the listener’s mind to form a singular experience of a place.
Aside from the omnipresent sine tones associated with any synthesiser system, Drouin coaxes some very untypical sounds from his “traditional Moog-style 5U modular” analogue synthesiser.  Gaseous bass-heavy drones, static-y growling, choral whines, hollow tube-like, voltage hum, heavy electrical devices being switched on and off, a waterfall…  Over my shoulder, in the kitchen, the refrigerator is failing; loudly grumbling away to itself for the last four days as I wait for the repair man.  In combination with playback of Paysage, this is the first time I’ve been able to bear it.
At 10 minutes, the piece becomes a kind of slowed down Morse code message, although the transmission of a message like “JOQ90” repeated is unlikely to be deliberate on Drouin’s part, and reflects only my own obsession with looking for hidden meaning in the unlikeliest of places
At several points, the bass information induces rattling activities of objects in the room, which puts me in mind of David Velez’ excellent Unaware from 2015, whose stated purpose was to set up an orchestra of noises derived from the contents of the listener’s space through sound waves when played over domestic hi-fi speakers.  At 27 minutes a series of short hits of bassy static, becoming overlaid.  A propulsive drone paired with drip-like sounds emerges only to be subsumed by a spiky return of the object-rattling bass artefacts, reducing the heat toward the very end.  A grey cloud passes overhead without precipitation.  This is an environment you inhabit.

Lance Austin Olsen
Plato’s Cave
CANADA  Infrequency Editions  no number  CD-R  (2018)

Lance Austin Olsen is a painter who also operates in sound.  On this single piece of music, he presents an intriguing artefact - you could almost describe it as a picture rendered into sound.  The piece consists of a series of interesting bumps and crashes as if the artist recorded himself dropping things while moving around his studio one morning.    Perhaps unsurprisingly, being a painter, Olsen carefully presents the sounds of things you would expect to find in an artist’s studio; paintbrushes stored in tin cans, the ironwork innards of an old upright piano.  A flash of tremelo’d guitar one minute; a minute later Olsen plucks a curtailed staccato out of one of the bassier piano strings.
Olsen supplies the following to put the work in context:
The philosopher Plato posited that, a person chained inside a cave, and unable to see the outside, would formulate their ideas of the physical world based on the shadows projected onto the cave walls.  To a large extent, our individual views on almost everything are based upon shadows and fragments, and each of us constructs a world to our own liking based on the same fragments, yet experienced in endlessly new combinations.  Each moment, or grouping of sounds in a performance, creates a visual map in our mind that would bear no resemblance to the map produced in another listener’s mind. The performance is being experienced in the form of audio shadows, filtered through that individual’s particular life and viewpoint.”
Glassy synthetic washes are gradually introduced.  Seasons change, spiders build their cobwebs in the corners of the studio, life goes on.  Olsen paints.  The piece is dynamic and robust.   At 26 minutes I was left wanting more, but Olsen is prolific and there is plenty more work to explore.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Rhizomes four



Sarah Hennies and Tim Feeney
Nests
PORTUGAL   Rhizome.s # 20  cd-r  2018

Composed and performed by Sarah Hennies and Tim Feeney.  Recorded by Matthew Saccuccimorano at Silo City, Buffalo, NY  August 2016.
An hour of languorous threading together of signal and silence; repeated motifs overlaid against a patchwork of rests.  The signal is reminiscent of droplets, but could be in actuality generated in many different ways – perhaps woodblock hits, or using toneblocks, or claves; even a Max/MSP patch or similar designed for this specific purpose?  Maybe we’ll never know.  There is the occasional variance in pitch, so there’s clearly more than one of the thing the artists are using to facilitate the piece; and reverberation and what could be heavy EQ-ing or filtering of some sort is used at certain points.  Gaps of silence are also employed at critical intervals, seemingly of progressively longer duration.
You’ll need the time to commit to it, but given an appropriate degree of concentration it gives results.  I like it.  A sensitive, sensational appraisal of sound.


Dante Boon
Dusseldorf Recital
PORTUGAL   Rhizome.s # 21  cd-r  2018

Known as a composer in his own right and a skilled interpreter of contemporary piano music, Dante Boon presents his 2016 piano recital at Jazz-Schmiede in Dusseldorf, which was part of Klangraum 2016.  The concert recording was edited and mastered by the authoritative hand of Bruno Duplant.
A beautiful hour of music.  Not the most maximalist of chosen material, but perhaps this is to be expected from a member of the Wandelweiser collective.  In fact, Boon steers clear of anything too “experimental” in his selections; these pieces by Coleman Zurkowski, Gil Sansón, Anastassis Phillippakopoulos, Eva-Maria Houben, Assaf Gidron and Jack Callahan all take a fairly orthodox approach to piano, albeit as orthodox as Wandelweiser gets.  The Wandelweiser link continues: Phillippakopoulos and Houben are also members; Gil Sanson’s Untitled (for Antoine Beuger) is dedicated to the Wandelweiser composer.  Boon’s selection of the running order of the material is effective, keeping an interesting flow and dynamic to his performance as a whole.  For sake of clarity and thoroughness, here is the full repertoire:

Die von Blumen reich ich dir (2013) by Coleman Zurkowski
Untitled (for Antoine Beuger) (2015) by Gil Sansón
Piano Piece (2016) by Anastassis Phillippakopoulos
Lose verbunden (2014) by Eva-Maria Houben
Dim (2014/2016) by Assaf Gidron
Blue Dream Excerpt with Proportional Ending (2016) by Jack Callahan

Overall, highly enjoyable - this is a disc I keep returning to.


affinities selectives
volume 1
PORTUGAL   Rhizome.s # 22  cd-r  2018

Two live recordings on this disc.  The first four tracks are from a session featuring Gaudenz Badrutt, Ilia Belorukov and Alexander Markvart titled “back-feeder i-iv”.  The beginning of this is brilliant – it is mastered brutally loud so that you don’t miss a single decibel of the abrasive feedback artefacts on offer; the kind of abrasive feedback artefacts usually found in an inexperienced teenaged bands’ rehearsal space between songs.  However, if you’re a fan of, say, Seth Cooke’s process works or Henrik Rylander’s feedback obsessions, you are in for a treat.
Aside from a dash of radio, the sounds are characterized by commonly-perceived “mistakes” and “errors” in standard methods of sound reproduction.  Pops, static, blasts of electrical noise, stirrups, jumps, clones, piaffes, contact, no-contact, engagement, flying change, half-pass, leg yield, on and back, piaffe, pirouette, shoulder fore, shoulder in, travers, turn-on-the-forehand and so forth, and in abundance.
For the detail-obsessed among us, Gaudenz Badrutt is credited with “acoustic sound sources” and live sampling; Ilia Belorukov alto saxophone, electronics, field recordings and samples and Alexander Markvart on prepared acoustic guitar, guitar combo and objects.  Recorded march 2016 at espace libre, biel/bienne, Switzerland.
Track five is a piece called “gezeugt” or “Begotten”; recorded at Le Non Lieu in Roubaix, France; this group comprises Quentin Conrate on percussion, Matthieu le Brun on alto saxophone and electronics, Anne-Laure Pudbut on tapes and electroacoustic devices and Frédéric Tentelier on organ and electroacoustic devices.  This second grouping produces one single piece of music of a kind of desiccated drone; it sheds its dried outer layers of sound like an aural confetti.  Most pleasant, and a good complement to “back-feeder i-iv”.


Morgan Evans-Weiler
Iterations and Environments
PORTUGAL   Rhizome.s # 23  cd-r  2018

Two pieces on offer here;
“Iterations” - spiralling cascades of violin; like a drone heard by the unwary, but focus in and the strings fold over each other like a murmuration of starlings or a particularly active beehive.  Like when you are grinding coffee and you watch the beans fall over themselves in slow motion into the vortex, slowly becoming smaller and smaller particles.  There’s a gradual decay to the middle section of the piece, not unlike how the spin of that fresh cup of coffee slows down its revolving after you finish stirring it, the cluster of bubbles marking time as you eventually come to your senses before leaving the house for work.
and
“Environments III” - here Evans-Weiler uses “electronics” – no further detail – to produce waves of bass-heavy pure tone and occasional ear motes in the higher registers, while accompanied by Emilio Carlos Gonzalez on piano.  Interestingly, I think I can still hear violin-like sounds from time to time, which I presume is courtesy of Evans-Weiler’s set-up.
Compared to Iterations, there is far less turmoil over the course of this shorter piece, although the intensity is ramped up toward the end of the piece by subtle shifts of pressure in the bass information.
Morgan Evans-Weiler has previously worked with the likes of Seth Cluett, Sarah Hennies, Ryoko Akama, Antoine Beuger and is director of the Ordinary Affects ensemble who, interestingly, have premiered works by Wandelweiser composers Jürg Frey, Antoine Beuger and Michael Pisaro.

http://rhizome-s.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Distant Animals - Lines




Distant Animals
Lines
SWITZERLAND  Hallow Ground  HG1804  LP  (2018)

New work from the UK-based composer Daniel Alexander Hignell.  There is a previous collaborative album, Bambi with Hákarl under his own name on dsic’s LF Records from 2012, where the drones and distant, distressed vocals were underscored with reverberation and ghostly drum machines; Hignell’s machinations more understated, existing as an environment for Hákarl’s violin to manoeuvre within.  As good as Bambi is, a lot of time separates these two releases, and Lines should be seen for what it is perhaps intended to represent; a starting point of Hignell’s art practice proper.  It takes the form of two pieces of music, each around 17 minutes in duration.  The press release suggests the influence of La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, Eleh, and Mauricio Kagel in Hignell’s work.  It goes on to describe the work thus: “Inspired by a 130 page text-score, and performed upon a modular synthesizer, the work explores participatory approaches to performance, utilising text that leads its performer to undertake emergent and evolutionary changes in timbre and rhythm over extended time periods.”  There is also reference to other aspects of Hignell’s activities; performance/participatory works in particular; in a nutshell – regarding this work specifically - I’d say where side A is about the drone, side B concerns itself with analysis and deconstruction of noise musics.
Side A is A Pure Drone.  Like a cloud of a thousand passenger jets flying overhead simultaneously.  Hignell employs a dense overlaying of sounds to form the drone; quite unlike Eleh’s more recent, singular investigations into the sonic possibilities of electrical currents.  The opening and closing of potentiometers and the fine adjustment of rotary controls becoming more and less raucous over time.  Heavy.  Ideal for kicking off your mid-week psychological excursions.
Side B is named Lines Made By Walking.  Drone plus abrasion?  Subsonic and multi-layered.  A more “composerly” dynamic.  But lighter than A Pure Drone, somehow.  More of a “composition” in the layman’s eyes, perhaps.  The greater variance of sounds; a wider palette, although not that much wider – we’re still barely out of monochrome and considering a trip to L. Cornellissen.  Pitch elements emerge from the fog, reminiscent (to me) of Kaleidophon:’s late 90’s White Dwarf.  There’s immense power here.  The breakdown into ambient hum halfway creates the perfect environment for the loud, bell-like shards of crystal that announce the maelstrom of the second half of the piece.  Even here, buried just behind each façade are unexpected references; techno/rave at 10:20, albeit very briefly; the tone generators of Wendy Carlos a minute later…
Sometimes, it seems to me that we are running back towards obsolescence as fast as we can with our arms open wide ready to desperately embrace aging machinery and formats; analogue synths, reel-to-reel and cassette tape, for example.  But we are optimistically wanting to wring the last, untapped crumbs of beauty out of them before it’s all over for good.  For me, Lines is an exemplary example of this.  Recommended.




Friday, 9 February 2018

A 1000füssler quartet

Straight outta Hamburg, comes what appears to be the final four releases on 1000füssler before Gregory Büttner sadly seems to have opted for an indefinite hiatus.  The back catalogue is full of top-flight names such as Seth Cooke & Dom Lash, Adam Asnan, Birgit Uhler, Asmus Tietchens, Roel Meelkop and Büttner himself.  1000füssler is a label that concerns itself with the sound of objects, activities, ephemera, occurrences, often this is in the form of field recordings, sometimes not.



Goh Lee Kwang
Radio Station EXP
GERMANY  1000füssler  028  3” CD  (2015)

Sounds of rainfall in Kuala Lumpur “re-composed and manipulated” by Goh Lee Kwang.  The connection between rain and radio is not an obvious one perhaps, but there are connections between atmospheric conditions and signal quality so maybe that is part of what is being alluded to here.  Kwang has managed to successfully transmogrify his rainfall recordings into a bleak kind of static.  Echo or doubling effects seem to be employed here and there, generating a brutalist crescendo.  This evolves over roughly two thirds of the piece’s duration; the source material getting more and more saturated with processing until it ultimately experiences a sudden massive boost in the high frequency range which gives the effect of what it might be like to have a massive bag of rice break over your head.  After this monumental event horizon has passed, Kwang allows all manner of sonic detritus to remain; gently swirling around like the flotsam and jetsam of a shipwreck the morning after a storm.


Simon Whetham
Contrivance
GERMANY  1000füssler  029  3” CD  (2015)

Simon Whetham endlessly traverses the world performing, recording and teaching leaving in his wake a respectable quantity of audio documentation on multifarious imprints.  This posits the question of whether “sonic art” is a contrivance designed at the whim or as a by-product of the primary work of practitioners like Whetham?  Or perhaps “contrivance” is simply a handy term for his working method here sounding objects. Which involves a very direct, constructional input from the artist.  The last couple of times I have seen Simon perform, he made good use of objects he found in the performance space – this “accidental”, or latent, palette of sounds.  The material on Contrivance, though, could be generated from industrial machinery or field recording sources or, again, simply the result of Whetham’s actions and interactions inside a gallery space.


Yan Jun
On 3 pipes
GERMANY  1000füssler  030  3” CD  (2015)

Two pieces made up from recordings of the pipework in his home and at The Shop, Beijing.
“Both tracks were heavily modified during the mastering process.  The original materials contain strong noises from the recording equipment.”  This suggests to me that the sounds captured from the pipes themselves were very quiet, and the noisefloor of the recorder is intentionally or unintentionally present.
Nonetheless, the results are very interesting.  Track one sounds processed, by which I mean it is not drowned in a sea of digital effects, rather the accidental artefacts of the recording itself are given equal priority it seem to me.
The start of the second track sounds like my old water heater which immediately brought back memories of making recordings of that myself about six years ago but also the frustration of having to rip it out and replace the entire heating system shortly afterward.  That was a cold winter.  Yan Jun’s recording allows the periodic interruption of the heater pumping water interspersed with calm.  At one point you can hear a phantom telephone ring which gives an idea of the amount of processing during the mastering process – a lot.  It’s not obvious on the loud sections in the same way as on track one, but yes it is heavily processed.



Diatribes & Cristián Alvear
Roshambo (trio)
GERMANY  1000füssler  031  3” CD  (2015)

Cyril Bondi, Laurent d’incise Peter, (who are Diatribes), and Cristián Alvear react in many interesting ways to a score written by Bondi and Peter.  Bondi uses a range of percussion, Peter his laptop, and Alvear his customary Spanish guitar.  I’ve written elsewhere at some length about the amazing sounds Cristián Alvear coaxes out of his guitar, and having arranged a Brighton concert for Diatribes in 2015, you can probably guess I’m a big fan of their work.
The piece ebbs and flows in a fashion reminiscent of a piece from the Wandelweiser group of composers, utilising space to allow each action to fully resonate.  Crests and troughs, like waves breaking in an eternal cycle of energy sustain and release.  What Michael Pisaro’s A Wave And Waves might sound like in super-compressed form, sketched on the back of your library card.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

a Caduc trio




Christián Alvear
HERMIT – Ryoko Akama
CANADA  Caduc  CA10  CD  (2016)

Three more recent releases from Caduc, the Vancouver-based label run by Mathieu Ruhlmann.  I’ll start with HERMIT – here, immediately the listener is thrust into a world of uncertainty; it takes 22 seconds before the first note sounds.  The forty-nine minutes and forty seconds of music that follow is full of suspense, anticipation, with a clear demonstration of restraint, resulting in the spare and economical delivery typical of Christián Alvear.  This is a beautiful acoustic guitar treatment by Alvear of this Ryoko Akama piece.  The inner sleeve has very little production information, but it does feature some text which I presume is all or part of Akama’s score for HERMIT – which is as follows:
“sound. Decay. Silence / Repeat one or two times / Short, soft, / Long and almost inaudible”
Alvear is a master of extended technique and wrings as many different sounds out of his Spanish flamenco-style guitar as he possibly can.  He also manages to convincingly incorporate an electronic ingredient into the proceedings – this could be produced by an e-bow device on the strings of his guitar.  It is not clear if this realisation of HERMIT is constructed – by which I mean multi-tracked – or performed in one take.  It would come as no surprise to hear that Alvear performed all this live in one go, such is his skill and imagination as a player.  Video material on his own website provides plenty of evidence of his commitment to “…the premiere, interpretation and recording of experimental and avant-garde music”, should you care to check it out.
There is also a quote hidden on the back of a folded part of the packaging, presumably from Ryoko Akama:
“what I miss most is somewhere between quiet and solitude
What I miss most is stillness”
This is a very, very quiet record due to its nature, and it needs – I think – a quiet place to hear it, study it and contemplate it.


  
Santiago Astaburuaga
Grado de potencia #1
CANADA  Caduc  CA15  CD  (2016)

The translation of Grado de potencia I found is “degree of power”.  Realised by a large ensemble of fourteen players, it is one forty-nine minute piece which involves environmental recordings being played back, along with the various instrumentation.  The piece was composed by Astaburuaga who also co-mixed the material with Augusto Hernandez.  It was recorded by Hernandez, Alexander Bruck and Jordan Topiel Paul.  Bruck, a member of the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra who has recently branched out into New Music, also plays viola on this recording.  The other performers are Gudinni Cortina, Rolando Hernandez, Enrique Maraver, Axel Muňoz, Alfredo Bojórquez, Jacob Wick, Ramón del Buey, Darío Bernal, Maribel Suárez, Jorge David Garcia, Aimée Theriot, Juan J. Garcia and Eva Coronado.
Grado de potencia #1 has a rich and vibrant textural clarity.  There is a dead stop at the end of the first quarter circa 12-20 minutes where the next sound is recorded conversation in a reverberant location.  A nice juxtaposition.  Circa 25 minutes there’s the sound of a dog barking – it’s so incongruous, it made me laugh out loud.  I’ve had conversations with friends recently about large groups improvising and how it only works in the context of performing a score which calls for improvisation?  For sure, there is a fair amount of recorded evidence of improvising orchestras struggling under the sheer weight of numbers over the years, but here there’s a lightness and fluidity despite the large number of musicians participating.
Christián Alvear has also produced a realisation of another piece by Astaburuaga; Pieza de Escucha. Video on his website.  There are a group of five harvestmen photographed on the rear of the sleeve, which further endears this release to me even more.  I like harvestmen much more than spiders; so much more elegant, don’t you think? 
Mastered by Alan Jones at Laminal Audio.  Santiago Astaburuaga has previous releases in groupings including with Christian Alvear on Impulsive Habitat and Lengua de Lava which on the strength of this, I am now going to search out.
  
Ryoko Akama / Christian Alvear / Cyril Bondi / D’Incise
MADA – Taku Sugimoto
CANADA  Caduc  CA16  CD  (2016)
Made with the requisite care and attention by Akama and Alvear - who have previous releases on the Caduc imprint; HERMIT – and Bondi and D’Incise who are perhaps better known as the duo Diatribes.  Here are two longish pieces and a short “interlude” of silence in between.  Sugimoto is well-known as a guitarist with a singular approach to composition.  Since 1988’s Mienai Tenshi or 1996’s Myshkin Musicu, Taku Sugimoto has moved into writing scores.  This is confirmed by the Improvised Music From Japan website which states, “Currently Sugimoto's interest focuses on composition and its performance, rather than improvisation.”  I first became aware of Taku Sugimoto’s work when, while working at the Circulations multi-media event at Sussex University in the late 1990s, I witnessing a young man quietly abusing his archtop Gibson jazz guitar in a profoundly un-jazz way.  A colleague of mine then informed me that this fellow was clearly a devotee of the Japanese minimalist.

Mada I features a staccato guitar pluck as crisp as a footstep in fresh snow.  Repeated clusters of activity. Nay, flurries.  Occasionally two or more instruments settle on the same note.  Extensive use of pauses.  This piece is perhaps more animated and delicate.  Spread out. A piano note repeats.  Harp?  The interlude is around five minutes of silence and such a long duration is very effective.  When the bassy drum/bell hits that start Mada II appear it is a genuinely disturbing jolt.  All the silence of the interlude acts as a solid footing that anchors one piece to the other like concrete.  Mada II doesn’t even start straightaway.  Sugimoto specifies extremes of pitch.  It’s like the musicians are slowing down time.
One early listen-through was while killing time in a carpark in semi-rural Sussex, England.  Here’s a list of the things in the environment I heard while I was listening to MADA in the order I heard them:
The squeak of a hung metal shop sign blown softly by the wind
Light traffic
The bass rumble of a large motorcycle’s V-twin engine ticking over nearby
A tractor passing
The ever-present drone of aircraft
Church bells
A bus
Crows.  Make of that what you will.

MADA could be seen as a culmination of Sugimoto’s previous solo explorations/approach/practice.  I’m looking forward to the prospect of discovering more.