29.12.10

Lawrence English 'A Colour For Autumn' LP (Sweat Lodge Guru/Digitalis, 2010)

Ahh... Lawrence English. I couldn't possibly take a stab at how many times I've listened to his 2008 album Kiri No Oto. The magic of that album has carried through onto A Colour For Autumn, also obtaining perennial status around here (and by 'here' I mean my bedroom). Originally this was issued on CD via Taylor Deupree's 12k label, then eventually materializing as this lovely vinyl co-release. Outside of his personal exploration in sound, English also runs the fantastic and refreshingly unpredictable Room40 imprint (recent 7"s by both Grouper and Tim Hecker).

Because of the nearly year-round temperate climate in Vancouver, any miniscule seasonal spike, whether it's a few degrees higher or a few degrees lower, suddenly becomes the talk of the town. This is always noticeable in the winter and summer months. The other eight months of the year seem to take on varying shades of grey. But, when the time comes around–and it always comes around–we are again reminded of the subtle beauty of seasonal change, like in spring blossoms or reddening autumn leaves. It is the subtleties of the evolving and decaying of seasons that is so evocative. The textures found within A Colour For Autumn elicit these subtleties as seven cyclical pieces. It's simple enough to draw loose metaphors between shifting ambient music and the changing seasons. That kind of thing can get really cliché really fast, so I'll keep it to a minimum. Clichés aside, I fully condone English's ode-to-the-seasons work, this one being especially worth the effort.

The opening track, Droplet, with its overlapping falsetto is stunning. This is the kind of thing that could give Music For Airports a run for its money. It's also the closest thing on the album to Kiri No Oto's hazy electronics. From here the album emerges from the blur a bit and steers more towards movements of finer texture and microtonalities. The music is left spare, often set around a trajectory of revolving drone fragments, the sounds all fluctuating in-and-around one another. Watching it Unfold, perhaps the most elegant track on the album, finds English incorporating immediately recognizable instrumentation, including horns and an acoustic guitar, into the mix. English's musical approach for the album works solely to his advantage, where crescendos emerge as rolling hills rather than mountains. A Colour For Autumn treads its languid course, with side B seeing the emergence of Ambarchi-esque bass hammering and an overall stronger feeling of decay. The disquieting murmur of ...And Clouds For Company concludes the album. Clocking in at just over half an hour it all seems over far too quickly. My suggestion: flip and repeat.



24.12.10

Rick Reed 'A 4 CD Retrospect Covering 1978-2008' (Self Released, 2008)

Rick Reed moved to Austin in the late 70's from his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. Like many artists festering in the musical realms of sinister psychedelia, Reed takes cues from his days as a painter (John Duncan, to name another). To date, Reed has collaborated in a handful of projects including Frequency Curtain and Abrasion Ensemble, he performs and records solo under his own name and as Careful With that AKS Eugene--managing to reference both Pink Floyd and his synthi AKS.Currently, he hosts the electronic/avant garde radio show "Commercial Suicide" and continues his practice as a painter.

Rick Reed 'A 4 CD Retrospect Covering 1978-2008'

As you should have gathered from the title of this, it is dense. This is an absolute asset to fans of Reed's music, or anyone with the slightest interest in electronic music for that matter. Unfortunately, there are only 50 copies in existence and they are all probably spoken for by now. This compendium has taken a few different forms, one being the 3cd-r set titled Celestial Mudpie, and at least one other that contained 6 discs of material! Also, some of these tracks have been reissued on vinyl. The first two, Dreamz and Blue Polz, happen to be the title tracks of Reed's Picture Disc release on Elevator Bath two years ago. I reviewed that back in March of '09, and realized just now after reading the post again that I referenced this retrospect. Took me almost two years to actually review it though. Sometimes these things just take time.

Discs one and two are of Recent Electronic Music. Disc one begins with the aforementioned Dreamz and Blue Polz, and then slips into the dizzying electric bleeps and ventilator clatter of the third movement: The Fiery Sound of Light. Eventually Reed fills in the sound spectrum as he seems to always do so effortlessly, weaving the highest of high-ends with the crushingly low. Soft focus crescendos break over the existing sound, yielding the incredibly patient concluding track, Mesmerism. The liner notes cite an accordion as one of maybe ten instruments used in the making of these tracks. Odd, perhaps, considering how overt accordions tend to be. If that is in fact what I am hearing on Mesmerism, then kudos to you Rick for using an accordion in good taste (to you and Pauline Oliveros).

Disc two begins with a quick spoken sample not unlike something from an Omit album (see excerpt below), before falling into a series of looped low-end fragments and piercing frequencies. Nice scarcity in the arrangement of sound here. The second track, Capitalism: Child Labor, is a soundtrack Reed produced for a film by Ken Jacobs under the same name. Here we see Reed getting into some heavier arpeggiations of noise and synth-drone. The track is relentless, crushing and completely captivating. The heaviness continues on Hidden Voices pt 1 and 2 where Reed deploys similar psychotropic vibes to those that have come to define the canons of Matt Shoemaker and the Hafler Trio. Reed's control of various synthesizers is tactful to say the least, revealing a continuity and attention to nuance in composition. The final two discs document Reed's recent and historic collaborative work. There is a lot of material to sink your teeth into here, and somehow it all manages to work together in sequence. This is a great compendium of work. Attention labels, more reissues of Reed's work, please.

Each CD comes with a spray painted cover by Reed

14.12.10

Yui Onodera & Celer 'Generic City' (Two Acorns, 2010)

This is the first release on Will Long's (aka Celer) recently born label Two Acorns. Founded this year, Will plans to release material through a variety of mediums, not just formats, including books and film. I'm interested in seeing how this versatile label pans out.


Admittedly, I've never been a big Celer fan, partially because I'm always weary at any artist/band that spits out more than a release per month. I guess you could say that I've never under appreciated the value of quality control. The other reason is that of the handful of Celer albums I've acquired, it's become a daunting task in its own right to tell any of them apart. So I ask, does a band need to make the same album over and over again to get recognition? I like to imagine that if the music can speak for itself, then less is certainly more. But this is a collab, so anything could happen.

When this release was passed on to me (thanks again, Mathieu) I was, needless to say, skeptical. Upon tuning into the shaky opening sequence–an awfully rendered cacophony of bird calls, with no low-end to speak of–my skepticism was nearly solidified. Luckily, that opening sequence is quickly fizzled away by a more than sublime drone. Ever ponder at how amazing it is that an elegant flower can spawn from everyday dirt? Well then, welcome to Generic City. I'd say it's almost an underlying theme here: beauty created from dirt. And the album does have many exquisite parts, all of them in some form or another taking shape as stretched movements of blurred texture, often revealing multiple tiers of sound and hinting at what's to come.

Field recordings are cited as having a big role on the album, and it's easy enough to pick them out: birds, the crunch of ground beneath footsteps, rain, airports, cars, voices, chants and much more. Although there seems to be varying levels of obfuscation in the recordings, sometimes they are left completely unprocessed, while other times manipulated into unrecognizable sources. When an equilibrium is maintained between these two levels, like when a raw field recording is layered beneath a waxing drone, Will and Yui are at their strongest. The extremely wide scope of sounds captured in the field makes for a bit of a lackluster focus. Although, when imagining all the sounds that a city has to offer in a single day's commute, it becomes apparent that our lives, too, are bombarded by the billowing of concrete environments. I like to imagine the quieter moments as an escape from all that, a sudden turn down an alley where the street traffic becomes muffled, a detour through an urban park, or a stumbled entry into a church or monastery, where time and sound lay still for just a moment before you have to face the noise once again.

I can see this album squeezing its way into some year end lists. Good stuff, recommended.

12.12.10

"Quiet City" at Blim. December 17, 2010.

I will be performing with Mathieu Ruhlmann under the guise The Pollen Sisters next Friday for the great monthly music series "Quiet City." Come out to what will surely be a stellar night of understated sound craft.




4.12.10

Concert Review: Tim Hecker + Loscil, Western Front, Vancouver. November 19, 2010.

First Fennesz and then Hecker. Ecstatic to be have been given the chance to see these two contemporaries perform within two months of each other. Below is the complete unedited version of my review of the show. Look for it in Discorder where it will most likely look a little different.
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Another sold out show at the Western Front on Friday night. This time it was for the highly anticipated return of Tim Hecker, whose last Vancouver performance dates back seven years. Hecker is appearing as a panelist for the 2010 Sound Thinking Symposium taking place at the Surrey Art gallery. Luckily, the Front was able to snatch him up for a performance beforehand.

Label mate, and Vancouver local, Scott Morgan (aka Loscil) opened the evening in good suit with his personalized blend of beat sustained minimalism. The non-existent lighting complemented the mood of Morgan's slow burning crescendos, which stemmed from heavily effected (and effective) swells of low-end intonation. However, the bass was often overbearing, effectively drowning a lot of the finer textures in Morgan's music. The diaphanous emissions of a finely plucked table-top guitar nearly saved the set, but the heavy handed bass reared its head once more, eventually giving way to an unrestrained use of piano sampling. Loscil's albums have always shown a patience and intellect to composition, and although the set had its moments, the intricacies of his craft were lost on this particular night.

It is difficult to unwrap the enigma that is Tim Hecker's music. Equal parts instrumental, noise, ambient, and electronic, Hecker smears the boundaries of these genres with a soft focus brush, then aptly blurs his movements into pixelated streams of kaleidoscopic texture. Essentially, he is able to create a music he can call his own. In good form on this night, Hecker strung together album tracks that weighed heavily towards his stellar 2006 release, Harmony in Ultraviolet . As the set rolled on it was clear that the audience was getting a lesson in transition, as the majority of the movements flowed into one another with impressive ease. Impressive when considering the multifaceted anatomy of Hecker's music. Sad to not see an encore, but it was an highly evocative and emotionally satisfying set nonetheless.