Daily Postings
music : review

The Endorithm 4

by Keith Connolly

A selection of recent and reissued music by Elysia Crampton, Brother Ah, Anom Vitruv, C-Schulz, and Frans Zwartjes

A film fetishist's acquired taste with little more than an unverifiable Susan Sontag pull quote ("the most important experimental filmmaker of his time") tethering him to an historical abstract, Dutch polymath Frans Zwartjes is a curious figure to say the least. His fifty some-odd films—running the gamut from proto-selfie-stick masterpiece Living, to the genuinely disturbing feature-length Pentimento, to goth-mannerist vignettes like Anamnesis, Spare Bed-room, and Visual Training—would seem to have had a clear influence on the likes of David Lynch, Guy Maddin, Chris Morris, and Calvin Klein, assuming, that is, that anyone outside of Holland had a chance to see them at the time. In these films, a generative (rather than associative) music is combined with the filmed images and actors' trance-like performances in such a way that the scenario seems predicated on the soundtrack, creating an uncanny effect of suspended immersion. A slice of this music, consisting of minimal instrumental passages collaged with found sound and voices created by Zwartjes (at times with fellow countryman Michel Waisvisz) has now been made available to the record-buying public via Trunk Records on the first of two proposed LPs entitled Tapes 1. Culled from Zwartjes's original tapes and assembled unexpurgated by archivist Stanley Schinter, the resulting sequence takes on a life of its own and begs the question: What is this music, and what does it do? As far from nostalgia or reminiscence as it is from adornment, its effect, disembodied, is startling. In listening to these thusly repurposed tracks it's as if Zwartes's weird scenarios, now in combination with our own, somehow continue to be made.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Byron Westbrook

There are two recordings here, made many months apart and then superimposed on one another. For me, each would qualify as play—as both scenarios only involved turning on a recorder in a particular space, without any intention of producing a proper piece. More than anything, each was straight documentation.

In the first—made in upstate New York—I activated a large concrete grain silo with sticks, voice, and whistling. I leaned my microphones into a portal on the edge of this silo and sang into it, singing overtones related to the pitches I heard inside.

The second is a stereo recording made while rehearsing at Phill Niblock's loft. I don't play synthesizers live and was trying out a performance setup that I never ended up using. I sustained separate tones from different speakers, resonating the room. The choice of pitches was arbitrary, probably just reactions to the rattles in Phill's congested space.

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music : review

The Endorithm 3

by Keith Connolly

In the spirit of all Augusts, endured and half-remembered, some music-memory beach reading from two parallel realities.

Mail-art pioneer, scarlet woman, "Blue Mover," Sleazy's mum... and all this before inter-combining to establish the indelible band/brand Throbbing Gristle, whose transgressive stance would come to permanently alter the playing field of late twentieth-century popular culture, for better or for worse. In her recent thorough and down-to-earth memoir, Art Sex Music, Cosey Fanni Tutti unpacks a life less ordinary with tact and aplomb, even when things get ugly. Beginning in postwar Kingston-upon-Hull in East Yorkshire, she recalls, somewhat sardonically, her father finally switching from toy-soldier to rose wallpaper in her bedroom when she was ten. (He'd expected a son, and she’d preferred the soldiers.) Hull, in its pale splendor, is itself a main character in the first third of the book, with Cosey showing an almost Selby-like sympathy for real-life rabble—as well as passing mentions of Hullensian rock royalty Mick Ronson and Michael Chapman. It was here in 1969 that she would partner with Genesis P-Orridge and form the notorious COUM Transmissions, the Dada-hippie performance troupe which would beget Throbbing Gristle some seven years later.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Alan Courtis

When I'm on tour, I always try to have a recorder ready to go in my pocket. There's nothing special about this, but you just never know when an interesting sound will appear. The funny thing is you can carry a camera around for hours and go totally unnoticed, while somehow people get intrigued or even disoriented if they see you recording audio. Sometimes the best sounds come from unlikely places, so you might need to put yourself into some unconventional positions to get the right results. In fact, a few times, I've been stopped by the police and interrogated. So it seems you can take tons of silly "selfies" without any problem, but things are different when it comes to sound.

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music : review

The Endorithm 2

by Keith Connolly

A selection of recent and reissued music by Madrigal, Ulver, Royal Trux, and Bill Orcutt

A seemingly irresistible trope to hard rockers in particular, there are no fewer than fourteen bands called Madrigal listed on Discogs, so one might reasonably be excused for overlooking the sole eponymous offering from one Morristown, New Jersey iteration. It's not as if anyone today has actually seen a copy of the original Madrigal LP, "released" as it was in 1971 in a micro edition of 100 copies, mostly sold or given away by the band directly. While it's not unique that a privately pressed, small-edition album goes on to become a sought-after collectors' item, the relevance here far surpasses your garden-variety record scum snobbery. Not hard rock by a longshot, the music contained herein is rock music of a sort, though the first two tracks set the stage so far afield that any conventional genre boundaries are erased pretty much immediately.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Bill Orcutt

When I began playing guitar again in 2008, after more than a decade away, I had the idea of making solo music that would incorporate all my weird stuff—all my various oddball rhythms, tics, repetitions, stims, and stutters—and use them as the basis of a new idiom for the guitar. It seemed like a way to make something that would be truly personal.

I started working on an LP to explore these ideas in 2009, approaching the process like field recording—not suppressing any "extraneous" sounds, whether involuntary vocalizations I might make while I played or the noise coming in from the street outside my Mission District apartment—just letting things happen. [ Read More ]

music : portfolio

Field Recording

by John Fell Ryan

The electric meter at the corner of President and Bond—in the industrial area of Gowanus, Brooklyn—is usually silent, but on this April afternoon it was emitting a synthesizer-like drone that caught my ear from across the street, just as I was leaving work. With its many small vents, this particular type of meter also happened to be identical to one that had been on the street of my childhood home in Seattle. So, I made a quick sample of this drone with my cellphone, hoping to use it for this assignment. However, upon reviewing the recording on studio monitors, the tone that had attracted me was lost, totally obscured by surrounding sounds in the background.

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music : review

The Endorithm

by Keith Connolly

A selection of recent and reissued music by Don Cherry, Pierre Henry, Dominique Lawalree, and Phew

Free jazz, so to speak, has long been the province of initiates. At the fringes of popular music discourse at best, it's barely understood by those outside its oft-insular ranks. Few have done more to dispel this anathema than the late, great Don Cherry, whose boundary dissolving music, though rooted in the post-bop and free jazz movements, develops in the long run into something else entirely. Beginning with the Eternal Rhythm sessions in 1968, Cherry's fourth-world mindset ushers in an amalgam of deep-set exotica hitherto only touched on by his peers. Combining living musics from various cultures with esoterica and the avant-garde, the sophistication and poetic immediacy of Cherry's music at this time is startling.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Aakash Mittal

When riding the New York subway I'm captivated by reflections of people in the dusty window glass. Suggestions of the human form against a speeding backdrop appear ghostlike and spectral, reminding me of an apparition caught between life and death, or between music and noise. But more often, while in transit, my focus is on the arrival rather than the incremental, crowded, and perhaps boring commute. I'm largely unaware of the music that surrounds me as I count down the stops to my destination.

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music : interview

DeForrest Brown Jr. & Bill Kouligas

"How do you draw information out if you aren't involved and in love with it."

Berlin-based record label PAN has become something of a premier platform for multidisciplinary sound and visual art projects. Working with conceptual artists like Mark Leckey and James Hoff or various avant-garde and club producers, this expansive catalogue releases both vinyl and interactive browser-based works. Bill Kouligas, who runs the label, chats here with DeForrest Brown Jr.—a New York-based music writer and media theorist who has worked with Triple Canopy, Rhizome, and ISSUE Project Room, where he will be curating events this upcoming season. Brown's first program, Quantum Natives: Grace Nexus, premieres this Saturday, April 15, 2017.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Lea Bertucci

On a crisp morning in March, we approach the site. It appears in the distance on the windswept beach just as the sand gives way to dunes. The ocean roars to our right. The structure itself is buried beneath decades of sand accumulation and covered with seasonally dormant plant life. The point of entry yawns in the dunes—a square black aperture interrupts the otherwise organic landscape and leads us underground.

We enter the structure, which appears as one long corridor initially. As we explore further, we realize there are auxiliary chambers off this main corridor. Four rooms of distinct sizes and shapes reveal themselves as our eyes adjust to the darkness.

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music : interview

Stephen O'Malley

by C. Spencer Yeh

"There might be more passion in amateurism than with much of the known, famous stuff. Those are the kinds of energies in music I've always found attractive, regardless of quality, expertise, or skill."

Based in Paris, Stephen O'Malley is a musician, composer, graphic designer, and head of the Ideologic Organ record label, among other robes past and present. While incredibly active both individually and collaboratively, he's most commonly associated with the "experimental metal" project SUNN O))). He's one of those artists who exude a genuine devotion to what they do, thoughtfully probing various practices and obsessions.

We conducted our conversation this past fall, many harrowing months ago—"slow music," O'Malley succinctly notes, thinking back to this chat. [ Read More ]

music : interview

Leo Svirsky

by Michael Pisaro

"Activism always involves a kind of coalition building, but the kind of community art is capable of building extends further, to the dead and the unborn."

"Mysterium." This was the answer Leo Svirsky gave me some time ago, when I asked what his end goal with music was. Began by Russian symbolist Alexander Scriabin in 1903, Mysterium, is an unfinished musical work that the composer worked on until his death in 1915. The piece included an orchestra, a large mixed choir, an instrument with visual effects, dancers, a procession, and incense. It was to be over a week long, take place in the foothills of the Himalayas, bring about the end of the world, and replace humanity with "nobler beings." Listening to Svirsky speak about the present state of music, politics, and culture, one senses that such a spirit of upheaval is alive and kicking. Born in 1988, this young composer—much like his interviewer, guitarist and composer Michael Pisaro—pursues Mysterium's reconfiguration of the world, but by opposite means: quietude. Eschewing Scriabin's dreams of bombast in favor of meditative privacy, Svirsky searches for what can be heard in the unheard. With works for piano, orchestra, and ensemble, Svirsky lights corners of hidden musical worlds with a palm sheltering the flame.

—Britton Powell

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Aki Onda

Burn, burn offerings... the fire will purify your body and mind...

This recording was made on January 1, 2013. My wife Makiko and I enjoyed going to an annual New Year's Fire Puja held at artist and poet John Giorno's house on Bowery Street. Our friend Marcus Boon, a writer and the editor of Subduing Demons In America: The Selected Poems of John Giorno, took us there for the first time and we kept going for several years. The ceremony is a Tibetan Buddhism tradition in the Red Hat Nyingma school, where lamas and worshipers (and perhaps a few visitors like us) gather around the fireplace, chant mantras, and meditate for long hours. The room gets smoky at times since lamas burn offerings such as oil, butter, grains, honey, sugar, spices... And each ingredient pops with a slightly different sound, scent, and color of flame. I'm smitten with watching the ever-changing fire burn. It's such a powerful and hypnotic experience for starting a new year. No wonder Giorno has kept hosting this event in his living room for three decades.

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music : interview

Ghédalia Tazartès

by Lawrence Kumpf

"I was spooling cassette tape all around my room in a big loop, running it around and through things. At the time, I got the impression I had invented the loop."

Developing his own idiosyncratic approach to voice and tape, Ghédalia Tazartès has remained relatively unknown outside of Paris, where he has worked in dance, theater, and film for many years—and only occasionally released recordings on smaller labels, like Cobalt and Ayaa. While Tazartès' methodical approach to making music could be considered an ad hoc bedroom version of some of the more well known avant-garde practices developed by François Bayle, Pierre Henri, and Michel Chion at Groupe de Recherches Musicales, it also radically diverges from these traditions, leaning more toward the impressionistic and expressive. Tazartès records hours of material, keeping only the best moments—a working method he calls impromuz, wherein rough tape collages are looped and layered with the sounds with his own voice, synthesizers, and various other instruments. In 2004, after a career of relatively few public appearances, Tazartès' returned to the stage as a solo performer and has since toured Europe, collaborating with a number of musicians in live settings.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Chris Watson

Orford Ness on the eastern coast of England is the longest shingle spit in Europe. For twelve miles this lichen-colored tongue of shifting sand and pebbles curls out into the North Sea. The Ness is a remote and isolated place, an uninhabited no-man’s-land, for decades occupied solely by the military for practicing the dark arts of war.

Paradoxically, Orford Ness is now a nature reserve where the buildings of the British Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, abandoned during the 1960's, are now being allowed to decline and decay—a controlled ruination, withered by the forces of a westerly wind blown in from Siberia. The Ness has been shaped and shifted by the tides over millennia, and brackish water creeping into the creek pushes curlew and redshank inland toward the marshes.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Crys Cole

This recording was made in June of 2013 in Lisbon. It was my first time in Portugal and I was completely entranced by its beauty and vibrancy. When I'm in a new place I find myself constantly tuning into its unique sonic character. I often do recordings from hotel windows and on trains and subways. This particular recording was made from the window of a beautiful B&B that my friend (and fabulous musician) Margarida Garcia was running. It was in the old quarter near a small public square. 

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music : portfolio

Free Exercise

by Marina Rosenfeld

Using a hybrid orchestra of military and experimental musicians, the most recent iteration of Marina Rosenfeld's large-scale composition, Free Exercise, was staged at this year's La Biennale de Montréal. Drummers, percussionists, wind players, and others—including les Fusiliers du Mont-Royal (an enlisted band based at the Cathcart Armoury) and luminaries from Montréal's rock, contemporary, and free/improvised music scenes—mounted the collective performance on October 19. The hour-long performance is presented here in its entirety.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Eve Essex

I find myself recording frequently, usually at practice sessions. I use these documents like a notebook, pulling out pieces to rework ideas later, but they often don't go much further. Capturing sounds outside the studio, out in the world, was something I seldom considered. After being prompted to do field recording for this project, I went into nature, looking for novel sounds, and was surprised to find that, in the end, what really caught my attention were my most immediate surroundings—my home and practice space.

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music : interview

John Wiese

by C. Spencer Yeh

"If I were to ‘play something,’ I don't think I'd ever feel satisfied. What I really want is to take that thing and transform it, process it into something else."

Without putting any further wear on tired, cursory, (even desultory?) artistic qualifiers like “prolific” and “hardworking,” I’ll say that, having known him for quite a while now, I’m still awed and enthused by the commitment and drive of John Wiese—the Los Angeles-based artist, composer, publisher of books and records, graphic designer, typographer, and many other things. Recently, Wiese has been in residence at the hallowed electroacoustic music center Ina/GRM in Paris, on tour with his grindcore unit Sissy Spacek, and then immediately on tour again solo. He also made a stop at New York’s Anthology Film Archives to present a program of his video works—a medium rapidly and vigorously incorporated into his practice over the last few years. Our conversation began shortly after Wiese had interviewed me for a new project of his.

C. Spencer Yeh Tell us about this film you're working on.

John Wiese It's a talking-head oral history of a noise label from Los Angeles called Troniks, which had a heyday in the mid-2000s.

CSY Because noise had its heyday in the 2000s? (laughter)

JW Well, Ron Lessard [who ran the label RRRecords in the '80s and '90s] would contend that noise has a resurgence every ten years or so, which seems rather true. That would indicate there should be a boom right about now.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Patrick Higgins

I've been working with the concept of remixing my own classical compositions for a number of years. In 2013, I released an album called Glacia, which treated a recording of my "String Quartet No.2" by warping, stretching, layering, and reprocessing audio stems from the original tracks. The idea was to create a new style of musique concrète, wherein the source material was an original musical composition, but distended and transformed into something like an iceberg, or a glacier—monolithic, slow, dense, and apparently static but, in fact, really dynamic, always moving.

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music : interview

John Mills-Cockell

by Robert Beatty

Electronic composer and synth pioneer Mills-Cockell on his genre-defying work with Syrinx and Intersystems—early forays beyond pop and psychedelia.

Over the span of five years and as many records, Canadian composer John Mills-Cockell was involved in two of the most idiosyncratic, unclassifiable, and consciousness-shattering groups to rise out of electronic music obscurity. First as part of the multimedia installation and performance art group Intersystems (1968–69), who were among the first to use a Moog synthesizer in a live setting, and then with the otherworldly synthesizer/saxophone/percussion trio Syrinx (1971–72). There's been a retrospective of Mills-Cockell's work recently, which started with the boxset release of three Intersystems albums (Alga Marghen, 2015) and now continues with Tumblers From the Vault (RVNG Intl, 2016)—a collection of Syrinx's two albums, along with unreleased material.

Robert Beatty I wanted to start with an eye-opening little story about how Syrinx is maybe better known than I'd thought. I was at a wedding reception, seated with strangers, and one turned out to be a music professor at the University of Kentucky, where I live. He asked what I do, so I told him about playing experimental electronic music. The very first thing he said was, "Oh, like Syrinx?" It blew my mind, because I assumed Syrinx was very obscure. But he used to go to shows in Toronto as a teenager and had seen you all perform many times. His first frame of reference for experimental electronic music was not Stockhausen or Cage, it was you guys.

John Mills-Cockell There's an odd irony here because I seem to have this ongoing thing, not an argument exactly, but just a thing with the academic community for electronic music in Canada. We don't quite meet somehow.

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music : review

All Is but Circuitry

by Steve Dalachinsky

On the 50th anniversary of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, an intergenerational concert series celebrates the technological innovations of the 1960s New York avant-garde. Times have changed.

The nine concerts of 9 Evenings + 50 —which ran earlier this September at Fridman Gallery on Spring Street—were an homage occasioned by the 50th anniversary of 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering which took place at New York’s 69th Regiment Armory in 1966 at the incredible price of $3 per ticket. The fundamental idea of the original series was to bring art and science together to see how various musical and non-musical components, i.e. radios and TV monitors, could literally be taken apart—“deconstructed” as the Fridman catalogue states—and put back together to create new means for artists to create “sound.” Some of the original participants were David Tudor and John Cage (both represented at Fridman with performances of their work), as well as Robert Whitman, Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, and Lucinda Childs. Billy Klüver, an electrical engineer at Bell Labs, developed the 1966 concerts and invited the artists to perform.

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music : interview

Helen Money & Jan St. Werner

"Once a sound is released it's out there, and you can't do anything more with it, but I have this weird obsession with continuously shaping it somehow."

I've spent a few months listening to Jan St. Werner's most recent album, Felder, which is a beautiful record and also a concept album. This is very hard to pull off as a composer. He's writing music that is quite heady, but at the same time inviting, even moving—which is even harder to do. 

Having just completed my new record, Become Zero, it was great to connect with another musician who was not only comfortable discussing the process involved in creating, but  someone just as excited as myself by the visceral aspects of our art—playing, creating, and listening to sound. 

—Alison Chesley, aka Helen Money

Helen Money There are some artists who want an audience to come to them, and others who reach out—and all shades between, I'm sure. As an artist and performer, what is your relationship to the audience?

Jan St. Werner My work is, in a weird way, a combinatorial game or system. It's turning and there are different levels of orbit. Sometimes things really line up, and I feel everything is perfectly aligned and of one thought. But then sometimes it really feels scattered—almost total chaos.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Zaïmph

The piece develops as a process of observed phenomena. To start, I make some marks, improvise. Forms exist outside my direction. Black shadows, deep cracks. I document, combine, distort. Composition is created through points, parallels drawn into a relational map. Meditation on a snapshot of the everyday. A motif, a theme emerges. The city as a gateway to the subconscious.

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