Organized Music from Thessaloniki

I watched a bird as it gracefully shifted in flight
and set down on the head of a garden gnome
you shouted out a warning from across the grassy plain
oh, how I wished it was more inviting

[passage found in a personal notebook circa 2006]

Ferran Fages - For Pau Torres

Ferran Fages, whose work I'm only familiar with because of a three-way collab I reviewed a while back (also on Thessaloniki), returns with a solo release of electric guitar and walkie-talkie music. Fages, it appears, utilizes walkie-talkies here more as feedback units, that give an added weight to the tonal sections that bookend the piece. The focus here, however, is on the guitar, which is used in a minimalistic melodic fashion at times, while at other times as a generator of high and low-end ambience. During the former, Fages crawls around the fret board, though mostly picks and strums the strings slowly, resulting in a kind of molasses-paced meditation on the instrument, and a very controlled one at that.

While the mid section is reminiscent of the soundtrack work of Neil Young – I'm thinking Dead Man – the work as a whole reveals a pointillist intent that only a minimalist composer would have. I'd hate for this to be filed as background music, as it's clear Fages put much thought into the form: its blunt yet seamless transitions, and very visually transcribable progression. I love this work; it amazed me in its near fatal simplicity and ability to captivate for over 40 minutes, while simultaneously not relying on constantly switching gears to achieve that captivation.

Unan / Nikos Kyriazopoulos - Mimus /Skua

Nice to see and hear a new (pink!) tape release from Thessaloniki. Here we have a split album from the likes of the mysterious Unan project and a musician named Nikos Kyriazopoulos, who both created pieces that are responses to the subject of bird song. Unan's "Mimus" occupies the A side, tumbling its way through a variety of styles not unnatural to the label. The music is a definite odd-ball mix of sound, presented as a series of short recordings that range from scrambled tape musings to retrograde bird recordings to blistering electronics and more. The way that low and high-fi sounds are layered and the intriguing din that Unan is able to produce is worth repeated listens alone, but there's much more to like here as well. I felt that some of the better sections could have gone on for longer, as there is a slight tendency for cutting things a little short. However, the piece, while being an outright bizarre accumulation of noises, has much lasting quality to it.

Kyriazopoulos's side begins as what sounds like pure jumbled electronics, not unlike what cutting-up and mixing R2D2's voice might sound like – and not really anything like birds either. Eventually things settle and more of the underlying texture starts to take over, the busy foreground taking a back seat. This work becomes far more alluring as it evolves, and I think it would be easy to dismiss it right from the beginning. Not bad, doesn't quite have the appeal of Unan's side, though an interesting take on the bird song nonetheless, through a spastic lens of musique-concrete stylings.

Unan - Mimus (extract) by ScrapyardForecast


Continuation of the Steadfast Path :: 23five

Because the liquor store is there
and I live here
and trains stop in between, I pass them
on the way back I approach slowly
grip the fence like a boy
and listen with intention to remember
the sound of a whale surfacing for air
do I know that sound
or do I only know of tv whales?
do they sound like this bull in front of me
gnawing its teeth and blowing steam?
if only a loophole in this cage
if only not bound by (something)
soon another will take this one's place
acting too, like its tracks curve into the ocean

[inspired by the sounds of trains and current reading: ernest hemingway - the sun also rises]

Richard Garet - Areal

Floating not far from the decayed resonances of Jim Haynes and owing at least a slice of credit to John Duncan's Phantom Broadcast, is the new release by Richard Garet, entitled Areal. The album is a further exploration of Garet's practice with electromagnetic disturbances through radio, and is easily his most realized work in that realm. Through a musical process that is largely dictated by purposeful use of interference and distortion, Areal doesn't succumb to a murky free-for-all psychedelia, nor is it overly pedantic; and one should expect this from Garet, who sculpts his sound within a framework, while rarely truncating it.

Though not psychedelic in any conventional musical sense, Areal does at times share common qualities with the "mutant dronemuzik" psychedelia of one, Matt Shoemaker. The majority of the album is quite fluid, rarely breaking its form, save for a short section near the beginning that quickly introduces some sparkling high-end and then just as quickly moves on. While there's a sense of an undercurrent that is always pushing the piece forward in time, its the disruption in Garet's process that allows one to focus in on the work, adding a brightness, grit, and tactility, while also forming a nice counterpoint to the dark swell. Quite mesmerizing.

Helmut Schäfer - Thought Provoking III

Helmut Schäfer was an Austrian electroacoustic composer who died in 2007. While his recording output is quite small, he was an active performer and collaborator. Notably, he developed a long-time friendship with fellow noise musician Zbigniew Karkowski; the second track on Thought Provoking III – a shorter and far more intense remix – is credited to him. While Schäfer's musical sensibilities leaned more to the noise extremist's side of things, Thought Provoking III employed more eeriness than aggression.

Originally a performance piece, this recorded version of Thought Provoking III is actually culled from rehearsal takes of the work's premier at the St. Andre Church in Graz, Austria. Gongs, percussive bursts, violin drones, and the bellows of an impromptu instrument made from organ pipes and hair dryers, are all heard on the near half-hour duration of the focal track (yes, it's rather short). Emerging from the dissonant scrapings of strings, the piece soon unfurls to include a precise cycling of the aforementioned instrumentation – including the organ / hair dryer contraption, which sounds great. I'm not usually one to boast ad hoc improv work, but this one seems to tap into a grimy electroacoustic realm that really works, albeit there is a fine line that exists there. It's nice to see this work find publication, as it so easily could have gone overlooked. Jot another down for the keen eared and eyed staff at 23five.

Helmut Schäfer : Thought Provoking III by 23five


Invisible Birds Arise

Victoria, seaside
I watch float planes cross paths
a hummingbird hovers above a bush
its wings in figure eight motion
so I'm told and have been told
camera will not focus
microphone out of reach
a gift for mind
I surmise
otherwise invisible

Ingenting Kollektiva - Fragments of Night
(Invisible Birds)

One of two new releases this evening by the ever impressive Invisible Birds label. The one in question tonight is courtesy of Ingenting Kollektiva, a quartet made up of Diane Granahan and Matthew Swiezynski (proprietors of the label) and the mysterious Kirston and Tarrl Lightowler pair, who've chosen to keep nearly nonexistent profiles. Before one even feasts their ears on the music of Fragments of Night, it can be rather enrapturing reading the album notes, which include a passage explaining that the band's name is an homage to Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nykvist, and that the music was partially recorded in a barn, while also being a direct response to music recorded and released in 1969; not the 1960's, we're talking one year here.

The specificity of it all shows an attention to detail that translates into the music. Upon visiting the Invisible Birds website, one will notice a nearly indispensable reference guide to pertinent works of drone, field recording, classical, and jazz music. While it's clear the members of Ingenting Kollektiva have an appreciation for many musical styles, they choose to work more in the drone territory, bringing to mind a few names that appear regularly on those reference lists. Don't get me wrong, as it's obvious that the band brought much of their own to this, I just can't help but hear a work that's in one way or another overly tangled up in reference. It could just be my incessant perusing of the lists, or perhaps that so much about this project seems to be about reference and/or homage. Fortunately, it's not a feeling that's unshakable, and hasn't really affected my appreciation for the album.

"Fragments...A" sets the tone with a low-end wavering drone, prepping the listener for two expansive, slow-shifting sides of vinyl. While the music is made up of a myriad of instruments and sound devices, it sounds almost as if it could have been composed entirely with loops, and not just "loops" as its featured here among a list of 15 or so instruments. The rising and falling path of the music induces a meditative state on the listener, broken only by the end of the run-off groove, which is true for the work as a whole. Field recordings, like that of birds are introduced and allotted enough time to mingle and run their course. I particularly like the midway point of side A that features some rustling and a repeated spring-loaded sound, which plays forward and then reverse in a cycle. I imagine some nifty analog tape work was needed to pull this portion off. There's much to like here and one needn't think twice before acquiring Fragments of Night for their late night drone fix.

Ingenting Kollektiva - Fragments of Night, Side A (Excerpt) by ScrapyardForecast