Saturday 8 August 2009

V/A - 2nd Juju Anniversary: A Lucky Selection

Mr. Lucky is a veteran in the trade of music-blogging and sonic-sharity. He has created, murdered and survived no less than 13 music blogs since 2006, such as Orang Aural, Squeezo, Cut-Out, Border Music, Infinity in Sound, Cineville, Mr. Lucky and a thousand others, endowing the sharosphere with a million sounds of his choice just for the love of humanity. Currently he is profitably running a psychic hut for the mystic misfits of our era, his longest venture so far.

Mr. Lucky was not only an inspiration for the creation of Bravo Juju but has also been a supporter, an ally and a friend of the Ewing Clan almost since day one. We were thus very happy when one of his secretaries informed us that Mr. Lucky had accepted our little challenge: to make a selection of some of the music he had enjoyed the most in the Bravo catalogue for the past two years, and create a compilation to mark the anniversary - no limits whatsoever. But one needs limits, of course, and Lucky decided to restrict his selection to artists he discovered here over this 2-year span. In the end, he produced a fine, diverse, and very personalized collection of 16 tracks, to which he was also kind enough to add a brilliant cover.

We can't think of a better way to celebrate two years of Jujuness than to invite one of our readers/listeners to offer us this sort of selection/feedback. A warm thank you to Lucky for all the work.
There are no plans to murder J.R. yet.

bravo juju | 2nd anniversary
a lucky selection

♠ 1
Dig d'Diz & Mondriaan String Quartet - Ontaarde Moeders (Unnatural Mothers): Moeder (Mother 1) (1996)
- from "Dig d'Diz meets the Mondriaan String Quartet"

♠ 2.

Rova Saxophone Quartet - Escape from Zero Village (1981)
- from "As Was"

♠ 3.
Alejandro Viñao - Go (1) - tape composition (1981)
- from "Hildegard's Dream"

♠ 4.
Robert Marcel Lepage - Le Sourire de la Joconde (1992)
- from "Ambiances Magnétiques: La Bastringue Migratoire - vol. 1"

♠ 5.
Lata Mangeshkar & Padmini Shivangi - Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973)
- from RD Burman's soundtrack "Yaadon Ki Baaraat"

♠ 6.
Balinese Gamelan - Angklung kembang kirang (1993)
- from "Anthologie des Musiques de Bali Volume 2 - Gamelan Virtuoses"

♠ 7.
Lonnie Johnson (w/ Blind John Davis, Andrew Harris) - He's a Jelly-Roll Baker (1942)
- from "She's Your Cook But She Burns My Bread Sometimes"

♠ 8.

Henry Mancini - Your Father's Feathers (1961)
- from "Hatari!"

♠ 9.
Orkest De Volharding - Misha Mengelberg: Dressoir (1991)
- from "Trajekten"

♠ 10.

Peter Blegvad & John Greaves - Like A Baby (1982)
- from "State of the Union"

♠ 11.

Dhol, Divali percussions at Haridwar (1998)
from "Ganga - Les Musiques du Gange"

♠ 12.
Kaffe Matthews - Skagerrak: The Air Hostess (1999)
- from "cd Cécile"

♠ 13.
Joe McPhee Po Music - Blues for New Chicago (1981)
- from "Topology"

♠ 14.
Jimmie Revard & His Oklahoma Playboys - Dirty Dog (1936)
- from "Doughboys, Playboys & Cowboys: The Golden Years of Western Swing"

♠ 15.
New Winds (Robert Dick, Ned Rothenberg, JD Parran) - St. Louis Thank You Notes (1989)
- from "Digging it Harder from Afar"

♠ 16

Sentiu Dukun - Tari Belian (Benuaq) - a ritual healing ceremony (1997-98)
- from "Bornéo: Musiques des Dayaks et des Punans"

total time: 75'27
Compiled by Lucky.


Wednesday 5 August 2009

Hossein 'Oumomi - Persian Classical Music (1993)

Hossein Omoumi was born in Isfahãn, Iran, and began his musical education singing with his father. At age 14 he began to study the Ney, the traditional reed flute of Iran. In 1962, Omoumi entered the National University of Iran to study architecture, but also played the ney in musical competitions, later entering the National Conservatory of Music in Tehran.
His performance career has included appearances at many of the major festivals and concert halls in Europe and the United States, including San Francisco’s World Music Festival, UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall and Wadsworth Theater the Getty Center, in Los Angeles, the World Music Institute and Asia Society in New York, and Theatre de la Ville in Paris.
Omoumi is a noted scholar and teacher of Persian music, having served on the National Conservatory and Tehran University in Tehran, Center for Oriental Music Studies of Sorbonne University in Paris, UCLA in Los Angeles and the Ethnomusicology department of the University of Washington in Seattle. He is now Maseeh Professor in Persian Performing Arts of music at the University of California, Irvine, UCI. He is also an architect, having received his Doctorate from the University of Florence, Italy.
His research on the making of the Ney and percussion opened new possibilities and introduced significant innovations to the Ney, Tombak and Daf.

01-07. Dastgâh-e Homâyun
08-12. Avâz-e Dashti
13-21. Dastgâh-e Châhârgâh

Hossein 'Omoumi - ney
Madjid Khaladj - tombak, daf

Recorded in 24-25 June 1992
Released by Nimbus Records in 1993

Humbly dedicated to Chris Kenmo.


Monday 3 August 2009

Strings With Evan Parker (2001)

At the start of 1997, Evan Parker invited 23 musicians into the studio to record some large and medium scale improvisations. The most focused result was a performance by the strings with some electronics, heard here as Flying Spark.

A year later, this inspired Parker to just invite string players, some of whom use electronics, to a recording session. The session resulted in about two and a half hours of magnificent music, all of which is heard here in the order of performance. (Less than one minute of music has been edited out.)

Having invited these performers into the studio, Parker basically just let them get on and make music. The results were so good that he did not join in until towards the end of the session. After the first five improvisations, he asked the ensemble for a piece to be used as an accompaniment for an overdubbed saxophone solo. Two and a half years later he did overdub the ensuing piece, and the end result is Double Headed Serpent. Since the original piece is also very fine (and quite different) in its own right, it is also included without the overdubbing as Single Headed Serpent.

Following this extended dense drone-like piece, there was a complete contrast with two short, plucked group improvisations and a bowed one. After this, each member of the ensemble chose a subset of four to six players, resulting in the Sub-Groups. Some of these included Parker playing for the first time that day. The final and longest piece of the day - The Spider's Web - was the only time all ten musicians performed together.

The performances show the influences of both of the great English traditions of group improvisation - those of AMM and SME. Evan Parker had been a member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1967 when the SME method was first put into practice; but he has also been an admirer of AMM since his first exposure to them around the same time, and has been invited to guest with them occasionally in the intervening years. Starting with his work with the Music Improvisation Company in 1968, he has been involved in exploring ways of combining the AMM and SME methods. By now, these two methods, and the ways to combine them, are 'in the air' - lingua franca to most improvisers on the scene, as can be heard here. Martin Davidson (2001)

1. The Sitting on the Roof Series 1
2. The Sitting on the Roof Series 2
3. The Sitting on the Roof Series 3
4. Laughing in the House
5. Another Fire Drill
6. Double Headed Serpent

1. The Ghost Series 1: (Pizzicato)
2. The Ghost Series 2: (Pizzicato)
3. The Ghost Series 3: (Arco)
4. Sub-Group Marcio Mattos 1
5. Sub-Group Marcio Mattos 2
6. Sub-Group Rhodri Davies
7. Sub-Group Mark Wastell
8. Sub-Group Peter Cusack
9. Sub-Group Phil Durrant
10. Sub-Group Hugh Davies
11. Sub-Group John Russell
12. Sub-Group John Edwards
13. Sub-Group Kaffe Matthews

1. The Spider’s Web
2. Single Headed Serpent
3. Flying Spark

KAFFE MATTHEWS: violin & electronics
MARK WASTELL: cello (except C3)
JOHN EDWARDS: double bass
PETER CUSACK: bouzouki, guitar & electronics
HUGH DAVIES: strings, springs & electronics (except C3)
SUSANA FERRAR: violin (C3 only)
PHILIPP WACHSMANN: violin (C3 only)
EVAN PARKER: soprano saxophone (A6, B10-B13 & C1 only)

All recorded in London, 4/1/1998 (except C3, 10/1/1997)
Evan Parker was overdubbed on A6 (5/7/2000). C2 is the same piece without overdubbing.
Released by Emanem in 2001.

disc a :: disc b :: disc c @320

Friday 31 July 2009

Georges Schwizgebel - 78 Tours (1985)

For more than thirty years, Georges Schwizgebel’s images have won over the audience from movie and television screens around the world. With marked brushstrokes, he paints directly onto acetate film. Fourteen images per one second of the movie… amount to his total work of almost 20 short films.

On 78 Tours a subjective camera and a fixed framing alternate to an accordion waltz which triggers a short story recalling the passing of time. The entire film is based on the graphic notion of circles and rings. From the cup of coffee to the children’s games passing through a spiral staircase. The camera itself whirls round following the general aesthetics.

Réalisation - Georges Schwizgebel
Musique - Alessandro Morelli/Patrick Mamie


Thursday 30 July 2009

John Schott - Shuffle Play: Elegies for the Recording Angel (2000)

Notes by John Schott:

I guess I’m attracted to old recordings for the same reason I’m attracted to much New Music: they’re strange, they speak in a foreign tongue. Often more noise than music, they require you to reach into the sound, and be a re-creative partner rather than just a passive listener. That implicit challenge brings with it the promise of unknown pleasures: the familiar made unfamiliar, a glimpse into another world. The earliest recordings are unique in that they are the only recordings uninfluenced by other recordings. Within a very few years, recordings would be everywhere. The world sounded different before recordings; the earliest recordings at once capture that world and kill it.

The nineteenth century

For a brief moment at the birth of recording, before the existence of the recording “industry,” notions of style, genre, and even taste evaporated. Sound was documented pretty much at random, with a quasi-democracy characteristic of the New World. Marches, opera arias, “coon” songs, vaudeville farces, banjo solos, advertisements (thank God that didn’t catch on!), vanity recordings, hymns … the performers all just seem deliriously happy, exhibiting a purity and optimism beyond belief. The first cylinder machines could not record in darkness or night.


While Ellington and Stravinsky certainly shaped some pieces directly for recording, it continues to astonish me that almost no postwar American or European classical composers ever really embraced the record as a basic unit of musical expression, in the way that has been taken for granted in popular music—at least since Frank Sinatra’s celebrated Capitol LPs. How strange that such far-thinking composers as Pierre Boulez or György Ligeti evince little or no interest in exploiting the unique attributes of the recording studio, or the CD as a specific medium. For them recording is a photograph of a sculpture; a picture, as it were, of the art, not the art itself. Whereas for the Beatles, the record itself was the art. To take another example, the great 78s of the twenties and thirties—and I’m thinking here of early jazz, blues, and rural Southern traditions—are typically very carefully orchestrated, as structured as a good sermon, their A and B sides dialectically engaged. What distinguishes the one approach from the other we could call self-consciousness.

Audio vérité

The randomness of old recordings: randomness of what was recorded, by whom, what survived, and in what condition. Random scratches and pops on the record’s surface, in counterpoint with a pinhole view into the past. Just one battered 78 of Cousins and De Moss’s Poor Mourner remains. Of Cousins and De Moss themselves, a complete blank: not first names, nothing. I record, thinking: “That could be me!”

What I did

I started with Poor Mourner. I researched the origins of the song in turn-of-the-century African-American and Southern folk-song collections. I became obsessed, listening to it over and over. I slowed it down, transcribed it, recopied the transcription, elaborated, scored it, scored it differently, slowed that down, multiplied the harmonies, compressed it into a single burst, folded it over on itself, applied distortion, filtered, signified, spiraled. For what it’s worth, every note contained herein is traceable to that spiral, or would have been at one time. The other source recordings were brought in as further commentary, and were likewise thrown in the blender.

The idea

The idea was to develop the material from as many angles as possible: free improvisation, musique concrète, post-war composition, AACM-derived strategies, and pop music, to name a few. Sometimes these idioms are juxtaposed, more often they are integrated, in a sort of polylingual counterpoint. I wanted the tracks to be widely varied as to length, instrumentation, subject, and/or recorded ambience, so as to place in the foreground the listener’s role in making it cohere: What do these pieces have to say to each other? It’s an attempt to listen and talk back to history.The old records are telling a story, but the story is garbled, it cuts in and out, you can’t quite make out what is being said. Each time you return, the message is different; you amass clues, but the piece that would make sense of the whole is always just out of reach. —John Schott

Recordings used in Shuffle Play

* 1. Handel Festival at Crystal Palace (rec. in London)—chorus of 4,000 voices recorded with phonograph over 100 yards away. June 29, 1888. This is believed to be the oldest surviving recording of music (one of three surviving cylinders recorded that day). It is previously unpublished. Unlike other source records used in Shuffle Play, it is presented here without any compositional commentary or interrogation. (Used on 22)

* 2. Whistling by Mrs. Shaw. August 14, Little Menlo. August 14, 1888. (Used on 5)

* 3. Soprano—sung by Teffie Stewart. January 1889. Taken by Theo. E. Wangemann. February 25, 1889 (spoken in announcement on recording). (Used on 5)

* 4. Noel Josephs—Snake Dance Song. March 18, 1890. Recorded by pioneering ethnologist Jesse Walter Fewkes (1850–1930). An a cappella excerpt from a Passamaquoddy Indian religious ritual, in a language that was virtually extinct at the time of its recording. (Used on 21)

* 5. Trumpeter Landfrey—Bugle Call for the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. August 2, 1890. Landfrey was one of the last surviving members of the Light Brigade, who were victorious at Balaclava in October 1854, despite losing 503 of 700 men in battle with the Russian artillery. On this recording he plays the fanfare he played there, on the same trumpet, which was, according to Landfrey’s recorded opening remarks, also used at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 (or have I misunderstood?). (used on 5)

* 6. Probably Emile Berliner—Twinkle, twinkle, little star. c. 1888–90. (used on 12)

* 7. (no artist given) The Spirit of ’76. October 30, 1894. (Used on 1, 21)

* 8. Cousins & De Moss—Poor Mourner. c. July 1897. One of the earliest surviving recordings of African-American music, this disc, of which only one copy is extant, is remarkable for its raw, undiluted African-American vernacular feel. It would be twenty-five years before anything this down-home and wicked would be recorded again. This floating-verse song was extensively anthologized in turn-of-the century African-American folk-song collections. The refrain is: “You shall be free, when the good Lord sets you free,” although in this recording, as in many others, the words “be free” are all but swallowed. (used on 10)

* 9. Richard Jose—Nearer, My God, to Thee. (Mason/Adams) February 2, 1906. From the Broadway musical The Old Homestead. (used on 14, 28)

* 10. Thomas Edison—untitled. c. 1915. This eerie recording, only recently confirmed to be Edison, has been the object of much speculation. Edison’s musical tastes were very pedestrian, and his abilities meager. These facts make this haunting Scriabin-esque impromptu all the more tantalizing; no one has identified just what Edison is playing here, which raises the question: Was Edison “inventing”? (used on 12)

* 11. “Walt Whitman”—America. The attribution of this recording—included over the years in several compilations of poets reading their work—has recently been shown to be spurious (see Allan Koenigsberg, “Walt Whitman Speaks?”, Antique Phonograph Monthly, Vol. X, No. 3, 1992). It is most likely a forgery dating from the nineteen-forties, perpetrated by a down-and-out New York elevator operator. Rosco Haley (1889–1982) claimed to have a number of turn-of-the-century celebrities on rare cylinders. At one point, he was in negotiation with Yale for the sale of his purported collection. However, they grew suspicious when he could produce only acetate or tape transfers, never the originals. But someone’s voice is on this recording (“…every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” wrote Whitman), and that voice is reading Whitman’s America, and he intones it as if he were Jefferson reading the Declaration, which, in a way, he is (Used on 5)

Steve Adams - flutes, alto saxophone

Beth Custer - clarinet

Ben Goldberg - clarinets

Dan Plonsey - saxophones

Tom Yoder - trombone

Carla Kihlstedt, Jenny Scheinman - violins

Tara Flandreau - viola

Matthew Brubeck - cello

Trevor Dunn - acoustic bass

Scott Amendola - drums

Gino Robair - xylophone, percussion, drums

Karen Stackpole - gongs, percussion

Rob Burger - accordion

Myles Boisen - electric bass

John Schott - guitar, organ, percussion

Released by New World Records in 2000


Wednesday 29 July 2009

Bravo Clippings #44

Just a pretext to announce the fact that we have reached 300.000 visits here at Bravo Juju, disguised as a social commentary on the immediate consequences of the present crisis - as if an Oil Baron would care.
Cartoon by Teoh Yi Chie, aka Parka from Singapore, inspired by Frank Miller's 300.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Manuel Mota - Quartets (2004)

Lisbon-based guitarist Manuel Mota raised some interest a few years back with his solo release Leopardo on the Rossbin label. That recital on solid-body electric guitar revealed a young player searching out ways to personalize the vocabulary of solo guitar, with a particular nod to the area charted by Derek Bailey.

This new release on Mota’s Headlights label finds him in the company of three other like-minded players for a set of nine concentrated collective improvisations: trombonist Fala Mariam, bassist Margarida Garcia, and percussionist César Burago. Mota has chosen his collaborators wisely, matching his brittle, spiky lines with Mariam’s grumbling trombone smears, Garcia’s sparely placed resonant bass, and Burago’s chiming metallic counterpoint. (Though Burago is credited as playing carillon, it sounds more like a mallet instrument such as tubular bells or marimba.) The minimalist title and spare pencil drawing on the cover match the music perfectly.

Here are four players well-versed in intimate improvisation built off of linear interplay, cross-cut textures, and the careful balance of sound and space. This is music with roots firmly in the old-school spontaneous collective improvisation navigated by Bailey and company for the past four decades. Each of these players has honed their technique, concentrating on focused attack with little sustain. Jagged shard-like lines are scratched across the sound space with a clear sense of deliberation.

There is always a careful placement of notes into the collective mix, with an ear toward densities and textures rather than propulsive movement or dynamic arc. Mota’s precise finger-picked notes are sounded and damped. Garcia’s electric upright bass projects her plucked and bowed gestures stripped of any acoustic resonance. Mariam accentuates rounded smears, blats, and rumbles, judiciously using mutes to distance the aspects of breath from her horn. Burago is also careful to strike his instrument and then damp or mute the attack, placing the bell-like tones with a fastidious attention to timbre and decay of sound.

The recording balance picks up every gesture and nuance, switching a bit from cut to cut. Some of the pieces are close-miked, placing all the instruments up front in the mix. Others utilize a wetter, more spatial sound, which places the instruments a bit further back in the sonic plane, allowing the sound of the room to enter into the mix a bit more. Though there is a certain sameness that pervades the recording from piece to piece, the clarity of intent and vision is always evident and ultimately prevails. Michael Rosenstein

1. Shield
2. Mean Dry Land
3. Flame Street
4. Downstairs
5. Good Eve
6. Deep in Your Face
7. A Blue Cross
8. Quad
9. Closer

Manuel Mota - electric guitar
Fala Mariam - alto trombone with fh mute
Margarida Garcia - electric upright bass
César Burago - carillon

Recorded 23/06/2003.
Arranged and produced by Sei Miguel.
Released in 2004 by Headlights.

link@320Add Image

Saturday 25 July 2009

Ken Nordine - A Transparent Mask (2001)

To anyone who grew up within earshot of a radio or TV set, Nordine's sonorous baritone is, of course, mighty familiar. As a pitchman, the Chicago-based broadcaster has spent the past half century helping to boost sales of everything from coffee to blue jeans. His is an irresistible voice, drawing you in like a hypnotist's rhythmic drone. According to fan Web sites - and there are many - his experimentation with word jazz began in 1957 and has since been embraced by artists as diverse as Fred Astaire and Jerry Garcia. On his current album, A Transparent Mask, recorded in the attic studio of his Chicago home, Nordine explores topics as wide-ranging as insects, numbers, dreams, love and loss.
Through it all, it's impossible not to be reminded of the once fashionable beat poets. To my admittedly untrained ears, it's like Kerouac set to an Esquivel beat. Word jazz is clearly an acquired taste, and I can't help but feel that I've been invited for drinks while everybody else is staying for dinner. Still, even I can appreciate the free-form finesse of various Nordine riffs. "Hole In the Ego" is, for instance, a delightful deflation of pretentious pricks, and "You Were So Crazy" cleverly suggests that we've all circled Ken Kesey's cuckoo's nest a time or two. A Transparent Mask won't transform me into a rabid Nordine disciple, but has taught me that there's more to my local jazz department than I've been willing to notice. Christopher Loudon

Ken Nordine's witty texts and deep baritone voice reached something of a cult status in the last decade, possibly due to the fact that he has been releasing some of his albums through the NY based avant label Asphodel, and possibly because the industry and the "scene" paved the way for the profusion of cult-like figures of all sorts. But still it is surprising that such "difficult music" as the one Nordine has been producing for the past three or four decades is becoming increasingly popular.
In "A Transparent Mask", Nordine again revisits the long-lost traditions of spoken word jazz, which were so vital for pre-punk American counterculture. Nordine is here backed by old friends who have played in some of his previous records (like Kristan Vaughan and Howard Levy) and is joined, among others, by Paul Wertico (who is mostly known for his contribution to the legendary "Sign of 4" album together with Derek Bailey, Pat Metheny, and Gregg Bendian). 
This is not, unlike some of the stuff you might have heard via Ginsberg, plink-plonk jazz kept in the background merely to simulate the ambiance of a smoky Village club. Rather, these accomplished musicians create themes that stand on their own and adjust to the thematic strands in Nordine's texts, diversifying the genres and "ambiances" accordingly but never subordinating the music to the text. The inclusion of electronic elements certainly adds to the scenic possibilities, and the band easily navigates between jazzy, dubby, and more abstract sounds.
The texts, of course, draw on a wide range of themes, and should perhaps be read as metaphors for more mundane and familiar issues. There are reflections on the nature of spiders, egos and clichés, fantasies on Spanish bullfighters and modern gurus, straightforward narratives about people obsessed with numbers, intriguing parables about cats and birds, etc. Nordine's humor is rampant, for sure, and just as intelligent as always. But this may be one of Nordine's darkest albums so far: there is a certain gloom and bitterness which is not so obvious in his previous recordings, a darkness which the band sometimes brilliantly manages to reproduce, thus making this a much less straight-forward and "fun" record than most others in Nordine's career. Howard Keel

01. As Of Now 
02. Hello
03. Cat & Bird Blues 
04. You Know The Story 
05. For The Birds 
06. A Good Year For Spiders 
07. You Don't Love Me Blues 
08. The Bullfighter 
09. The Guru 
10. The Akond Of Swat 
11. You Were So Crazy
12. Cliché Heaven
13. Truth Mute 
14. A Thousand Bingbangs 
15. Quark 
16. Fibonacci Numbers
17. Hole In The Ego 
18. Miniver Cheevy 
19. A Thousand Dreams
20. What's There To Do?

Jim Hines - drums 
Paul Wertico - drums
Kristan Vaughan - guitar, synthesizer  
Howard Levy - penny whistles, keyboards, harmonica 
Eric Hochberg - trumpet
Ken Nordine - vocals, texts

Check Ken Nordine's website and podcast here 


Monday 20 July 2009

Marty Ehrlich & Ben Goldberg - Light at the Crossroads (1997)

The opening number on this intriguing set, "Texas," almost sounds like a tribute to Eric Dolphy, with Marty Ehrlichand Ben Goldberg both on bass clarinets battling it out for a time. However, Dolphy's influence on the two reed players (who double on clarinet) is much less than one would expect. Much of the music could be considered "freebop," with a pulse generated by bassist Trevor Dunn often serving as the main foundation for the pieces. Dunn is a powerful and sometimes thunderous player who is also expert at using space in the pianoless quartet. While drummer Kenny Wollesen plays quietly and with subtlety, the focus is mostly on the co-leaders.Ehrlich and Goldberg contributed four originals apiece, all but Wayne Horvitz's "Ask Me Later."
The music covers a wide variety of moods, is sometimes melancholic (as on "What I Lost") and at other times heated. Highlights include Ehrlich's haunting "Twos" (the most memorable melody on the date), the unaccompanied bass clarinet duet on "April 4," and the surprisingly upbeat "Hopeless." This date mixes improvising with inventive arrangements and is well worth hearing several times, since a lot of creative ideas are expressed throughout the session. Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

We're in the midst, perhaps nearing the apex, of a jazz clarinet boom or, if you're sufficiently jaundiced, boomlet. Clarinet players are even gracing the cover of JT - hey, Woody Allen has to be good for something, if only for stretching a point. Really, there's an abundance of lively clarinet and bass clarinet music currently being made, and Marty Ehrlich and Ben Goldberg are in the thick of it. Though Ehrlich is known to many as primarily a saxophonist, he is no mere doubler; arguably, his most adventurous work, particularly with his Dark Woods Ensemble, is on clarinet. Ben Goldberg is not only active in the thriving Bay Area improvised music scene, he is also leads the well-received New Klezmer Trio.
Ehrlich and Goldberg prove to be very complimentary talents, both as players and writers, on Light At The Crossroads, a strong quartet album with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Both Ehrlich and Goldberg contribute four compositions to the set, which is rounded out by Wayne Horvitz's flowing, lyrical "Ask Me Later." Of the four Ehrlich compositions, only the sinuous blues "Dark Sestina," has been recorded before; the sing-songy "Twos" is not a recycled version of "The Terrible Twos" from Ehrlich's '88-9 duo disc with bassist Anthony Cox, Falling Man (Muse). While Ehrlich's title piece smartly turns swirling lines inside out without creases or snags, it is his "I Don't Know This World Without Don Cherry" that best showcases his compositional finesse, as it seamlessly melds groove-mining vamps, a bouncy Ornettish themes, and a short soul-plumbing plaint.
Goldberg's "Hopeless" taps Ornette's gift for letting an effervescent theme temporarily lapse into lament; "Texas" evokes the harder-edged contours of the late Atlantic period. While Goldberg's boldest composition is the stark bass clarinet duo, "April 4," his most affecting work is the poignant requiem "What I Lost."However, Light At The Crossroads is as much a forum for Ehrlich and Goldberg's improvisational prowess. Their fluency in a variety of contexts, their tag team-like interplay, and their ability to muscle the music into overdrive, are consistently impressive. Bill Shoemaker,

1. Texas
2. I Don't Know This World Without Don Cherry
3. What I Lost
4. Ask me Later
5. Dark Sestina
6. Hopeless
7. Twos
8. April 4
9. Light at the Crossroads

Marty Ehrlich - clarinet, bass clarinet
Ben Goldberg - clarinet, bass clarinet
Trevor Dunn - bass
Kenny Wollesen - drums, bug

Recorded Jan 20-21, 1996
Released by Songlines in 1997


Friday 17 July 2009

S.Y.P.H. - PST! / S.Y.P.H. (1980/1981)

S.Y.P.H - A German band somewhere between Punk, Avantgarde and Neue Deutsche Welle. Founded in 1977 by Harry Rag (Peter Braatz), Uwe Jahnke and Thomas Schwebel in Solingen, Germany. Thomas Schwebel hit upon the idea of naming the band "SYPH" because it's a dirty name. Harry Rag added the periods to make it look like an acronym and confuse people. S.Y.P.H. was then translated into "Saufender Yankee Prügelt Homo" (Drinking yankee beats queer). After 1986 it stood for "Save Your Pretty Heart" 
When Schwebel said goodbye to play with Mittagspause, the band was joined by Uli Putsch and Jürgen Wolter. This new formation stayed - more or less - stable until 1981, but had many changing guest musicians, including Holger Czukay from Can. In return S.Y.P.H. played with Czukay on his LP On The Way To The Peak Of Normal. Uwe Jahnke also appears on the Wobble/Liebezeit/Czukay EP "How Much Are They?". 
The band paused in 2003 and is now active again. []

The word "krautrock" hardly means anything to me, and it seems to make as much sense as calling all rock made in France as "frogrock"; "outrock" is equally opaque to my ears, and I confess I'm frequently left without words to describe some forms of rock-based music. There is something undescribeable about S.Y.P.H. While they may at first sound like your regular NDW band with some strands of art-rock and a little more sophisticated noise input than usual, their incursions into abstract sonics and the occasional use of concrète-like tactics would draw them closer to so-called industrial scene. Czukay's familiar contributions on horns, bass and percussion will attract fans of Can, and also make this a more palatable experience for less abstract-inclined listeners; but behind his rhythmical acupuncture layers of uncanny and self-contained noise constantly emerge, drawing us into territories rarely covered by the kraut posse. S.Y.P.H are one of those bands that challenge all labels -- a headache for critics, maybe, but a treat for listeners. Steve Kanaly

PST! (1980)
1. Euroton (0:52)
2. Einsam In Wien (Lustlos) (5:32)
3. Moderne Romantik (3:01)
4. Lametta (3:50)
5. Modell (1:47)
6. Alpha & Vieta (1:35)
7. Nachbar (3:15)
8. Regentanz (8:43)
9. Stress (6:45)
10. Do The Fleischwurst (4:26)

Bass - Jürgen Wolter 
Drums - Uli Putsch 
Vocals, Guitar - Harry Rag 
Guitar - Uwe Jahnke 
Horn, Percussion, Bass, Harmonica - Holger Czukay 
S.Y.P.H. (1981)
11. Die Deep (1:18)
12. Haenschen Horror (1:11)
13. Laemmerschwanz (1:57)
14. Nachbar (Long Version) (13:39)
15. Satarasch (2:52)
16. Little Nemo (18:03)

Bass - Jürgen Wolter
Vocals, Guitar - Harry Rag , Uwe Jahnke 
Drums - Uli Putsch 
Horns, Percussion, Bass - Holger Czukay 

Both albums originally released on LP by Pure Freude. 
CD release in 1998 by Captain Trip


Thursday 16 July 2009

Heiner Goebbels - Ou Bien le Débarquement Désastreux (1995)

Heiner Goebbels' and Boubakar Djebate's "Ou bien le débarquement désastreux" (Or the Hapless Landing) is a melodrama, text spoken over or against music. There are three strands of text, spoken mostly in French (Andre Wilms), on the subject of forests: Joseph Conrad's Congo Diary; Francis Ponge's meditative Pinewood Notebook of 1940; and Heiner Mueller's Herakles 2, describing the hero's search for the Hydra ('the forest is the beast').

There are two strands of music: African, or more precisely Senegalese (Djebate), and contemporary Western (Goebbels). The virtuose Djebate plays the kora, a harp constructed from a pumpkin, and a very well-tempered harp it is too, with nothing 'primitive' about it. Sira Djebate sings traditional Senegalese Griots quite exquisitely. Against them are ranged trombone, electric guitar, keyboard-sampler and - bridging the divide - the Daxophon, a small piece of wood sounded by a bow and amplified: the range of jungular noises it produces it simply bewildering.

As in all melodrama there is conflict between word and note: it is more difficult for the human brain to absorb the two when the words are not simply set to music. There is also a conflict between two musical languages. At first I resented Goebbels' jazz-based, somewhat brutal modernism intruding on the less familiar Senegalese sound-world; gradually it became more African, with the trombonist Yves Robert sounding as though he had long been studying the cries of elephants. While nothing so vulgar as a synthesis was achieved, African rhythms eventually tempered and somehow tamed European inventions, just as Ponge's vaguely upbeat musings conversely tempered the terrors of Conrad and Mueller. That is just one reaction: as in all the best journeys into forests, there was no telling exactly where you were going. But at just over an hour, it was a musical journey that gripped the imagination from first to last. Rodney Milnes, The Times 5/7/95

1. Longtemps Il Crut Encore (0:50)
2. Samedi, 28. Juin (3:01)
3. Les Premiers Jours (1:16)
4. Jeudi, 3. Juillet (3:14)
5. Longtemps, Longtemps, Longtemps (0:38)
6. Vendredi, 4. Juillet (1:51)
7. Samedi, 5. Juillet (0:51)
8. Comme Le Vent Augmentait (1:35)
9. Mardi, 8. Juillet (4:21)
10. Cette Forêt (2:21)
11. Vendredi, 25. Juillet 1890 (1:36)
12. Il Eut Du Mal (3:58)
13. Mardi, 29 (2:49)
14. Fili (2:21)
15. S'adapter Et Ne Pas S'adapter (2:38)
16. 3. Août 1890 (1:14)
17. 9 Heures Après (0:20)
18. Dangoma (3:07)
19. Il Comprit (3:42)
20. Mort Aux Mères (1:51)
21. Koulanja (2:15)
22. Haches, Couteaux, Tentacules (4:26)
23. 7. Août 1940 - Après-Midi (2:33)
24. Le Soir (1:40)
25. Manilo (2:03)
26. 8. Août 1940 (1:46)
27. 13 Août 1940 - Matin (2:25)
28. 20. Août 1940 (3:46)
29. Sunyatta (2:45)
30. Dans Le Silence Blanc (0:51)
31. Fin Du Bois Du Pins (0:47)

Moussa Sissoko - djembe
Alexandre Meyer - electric guitar, table-guitar, daxophone 
Boubakar Djebate - kora, vocals
Yves Robert - trombone
Sira Djebate - vocals
André Wilms - voice
Xavier Garcia - keyboards, sampler
Heiner Goebbels - sampler

Music by Boubakar Djebate & Heiner Goebbels 
Texts by:
Francis Ponge (tracks: 23, 26 to 28, 31)
Heiner Müller (tracks: 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 19, 20, 22, 30)
Joseph Conrad (tracks: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 17) 
Released by ECM Records in 1995.


Tuesday 14 July 2009

Ethio Stars & Tukul Band - Amharic Hits and Experimental Traditions from Ethiopia (1994)

Ethiopian popular music is in its very nature multi-national. In addition to strong Ethiopian traditional songs, other elements derive from various currents of popular music - from soul and jazz to Italian hits and Islamic vocal styles. The result is a completely original kind of contemporary Ethiopian popular music. It could be described as "Arabic soul singer plays Amharic-Italian funky jazz."
The origin of popular music in Ethiopia can be traced back to the 1920's when Haile Selassie brought over a group of Armenian orphans from Jerusalem and so formed The Bodyguard Orchestra. They brought new instruments with them, like trumpet and saxophone, and from this and other military bands a night-club scene began to emerge. In 1935, Ethiopia was invaded and though this lasted only a few years Italians stayed and formed some dance bands.
Regardless of the effect outside influences, such as American rock have had on musicians, Ethiopian popular music is still very strongly based on both sacred and secular traditions from different parts of the country. Perhaps more relevant than the question of how western music has affected Ethiopian, is how Ethiopian music might one day influence western popular music...
The Ethio Stars' best known album, Amhartic Hit, was split with The Tukul Band.


Ethio Stars:

Shimeles Beyene, the leader of the Ethio Stars tells: "We chose the name Ethio Stars because we were the best musicians. We formed the group in 1981... ";"We are running our group by ourselves. Privately, you see. We buy our own instruments. We practice every day. If we don't play well we don't live. What I mean is, we cannot continue like we play in Ghion Hotel if we don't improve our talent all the time. So we practise more and attract more people." ...
"Day by day our music is changing. Before it was soul music. Now sometimes rock. It changes, you see. Before it was more acoustic, now electronic instruments are very important." "We call it Ahmaric music because of the language. How does it sound? as you can hear, it sounds good! Mostly we have four pentatonic scales: tizita, anchi-hoye, ambasel and bati. We compose depending on them. The most usual rhythm we play is chikchika. It's the same like in the Eshet Eshet, the song sung by Getatchew. You can write the beat in 3/4, but if you make it fast it becomes the beat of chikchika"...
The Ethio Stars continue to play their infectuous dance music in the hotel clubs of their homeland. Led by saxophone player Shimeles Beyerie, The Ethio Stars have recorded prolifically with their cassettes selling well in Ethiopian music stores. Most of the Amharic songs tell about love. In Amharic you call it fikir.

Ethio Stars are:

Getachew Kassa: Vocal
Girma Chipsa: Vocal
Shimeles Beyene: Trumpet
Girma Woldemichael: Trombone
Bibisha teferi: Guitar
Abiyou Solomon: Bass
Dawit Senbetta: Keyboards
Samson Mohammed: Drums
Mulatu Astatke: Drum Machine

TRACKS: [1-6]


Tukul Band:

Tukul Band plays traditional Ethiopian music in a modem experimental way. Musical director Mulatu Astatke is a well known figure in the modernization of Ethiopian music and improving traditional instruments.
The Krar is a six string bowl-Iyre. Tukul Band uses its modem forms: electric lead krar and bass krar. Krar is nicknamed the devil's instrument (yeseyTan mesaria). According to the legend: God himself made the begena and gave it to Dawit. "Use this instrument to adorn and praise My name", God said. The scheming devil, envious and green-eyed, made the krar in distorted imitation. "Play it and adore all the worldly pleasures", said the devil to mano (Ashenafi Kebede, Krar: The Devil's Instrument. Ethnomusicology Vol.xXI Nr. 3.)
The Masinko is the only Ethiopian bowed instrument, a 1-string fiddle. It is the typical instrument of an azmari, or entertaining bard ("griot"/ "troubadour"). Getamasay Abebe from Tukul Band plays an electrically amplified masinko. The Washint is a bamboo flute, usually with four finger holes. Ethiopian drums used in this recording are hollow-bodied with skins at both ends. Adungna Chekel plays three upright drums with sticks and chimes.

Tukul Band are:
Yohannes Afework: Washint
Kut Ojulu: Bass Karr
Birhane Haile Maryam: Lead Krar
Getamasay Abebe: Masinko
Adungna Chekel: Ethiopian Drums, Chimes
Mulatu Astatke: Arrangements; Musical Director

TRACKS [7-11]

Text taken from CD booklet
Published by Piranha Music, 1994

1 - Tiz Balegn Gize - 5:20
2 - Eshet Eshet - 7:01
3 - Yetentu Tez Alew - 5:10
4 - Kermosew - 3:30
5 - Yekereme Fikir - 5:10
6 - Aderech Arada, Bekfir/Menged Lay Wodike - 4:32
7 - Bugalu - 3:05
8 - Akale Woube - 2:42
9 - Konso Music - 4:33
10 - Sound of Washint & Masinko - 3:38
11 - Wallel Beli - 3:35