Monday, October 7, 2013

Giuseppe Ielasi & Kassel Jaeger- Parallel // Grayscale (2013)

Parallel Grayscale
Over the past couple weeks, Parallel // Grayscale has become a late-night favorite of mine.  Some people get ready for bed by drinking warm milk and read, others re-watch the same DVD from their collection, but for me this album has become a great way to unwind.

Maybe it is because the doctor has me taking opiates very 4-6 hours until this kidney stone passes, but Ielasi and Jaeger have a way of making even the softest of sounds feel intimate.  While the first few minutes of 'Parallel' may only focus on minor sound changes, the end result is still a lush, texture filled opening to the almost 20 minute track.

'Parallel' feels almost reserved in its sound, as though there is more to it that isn't being shown but hidden beneath it.  When the song shifts gears around the 8 minute mark, a burst of sound quickly escapes, only to be quickly tamed and restrained back into the quiet ambience it was making before.  After this point in the track, there is a constant churning as if the sound is going to eventually boil over, but it never quite does.  While the sounds presented on the surface are soothing, beneath is a tension by how they are arranged which results in feelings of anxiousness and anticipation amidst the ambaince for the listener.

The start of 'Grayscale' is why I really enjoy this album at night. The crackle of tape with the occasional echoey bloop; this is a sound that is overwhelmingly calm and it comes after the long buildup 'Parallel' creates before it.  The loops in 'Grayscale' stack up nicely, in a way that one could easily not notice the numerous layer of loops unless paying close attention.  The electric guitar samples at 12:30 feel evanescent with their short bursts and delay effects, and it's not until the loops start fading out that you realize that the album is already almost over.

Having heard Ielasi's other 2013 outputs (solo album Rhetorical Islands and collaboration with Andrew Pekler Holiday for Sampler), I can safely say this is his strongest work of 2013.  Go into this album expecting long, quiet ambient tracks, and you will come out of it with a fond appreciation for the duo's work.

The two tracks can be heard Here, and the album can be purchased Here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bill Orcutt- A History of Every One (2013)

A History of Every One
Bill Orcutt has always played with his own unique style, be it his out-there electric guitar jams with fellow noise makers Harry Pussy or drummer Chris Corsano, or his acoustic guitar spasms of notes.  Personally, while I do love Harry Pussy, I feel that Bill's sound is best with an acoustic.  I really enjoyed A New Way to Pay Old Debts when I heard it last year (I was a little late to the party), and I think I enjoy this release even more.

On A History of Every One, Orcutt plays renditions of classic songs throughout modern history like 'White Christmas', 'Black Betty', 'When You Wish Upon a Star', and others; all while making them incomprehensible from their original versions and crooning like Keith Jarrett while doing it.

One reason I like this album more than A New Way to Pay Old Debts is that it tends to have slower song tempo's yet maintain the ferocity of Orcutt's play style.  This allows for times where actual strumming occurs to mix with the hit-every-note-now play style Orcutt has become known for.  This makes for an album that is better paced and for songs with better structures to them.  Additionally, tracks are more memorable than compared to those from his previous solo efforts (except for his version of The Star Spangle Banner).

Really though, there isn't too much to say about A History of Every One.  If you have heard Orcutt on an acoustic, know simply this is him at his best, doing his thing.  Either that interest's you or it, or it definitely doesn't.

Editions Mego are nice enough to have the album on Youtube.  Listen to it Here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lasse Marhaug & Bruce Russell- For Your Pleasure (2013)

For Your Pleasure
This noise album is a tribute album to Roxy Music.  On listen you will probably find that none of it will remind you at all of Roxy Music.  Nonetheless, if you are a fan of noise music, this album could become one of your top albums of the year.  Probably the best way to decide whether this album is for you is to read this review.

If all of the negative points mentioned in that review sound like they were either strengths or things which could be easily misinterpreted by the reviewer, than this album is for you.  I noticed that this review takes the exact opposite approach to this album that I do.  Where reviewer Doug Mosurock finds a lack of method, I look to tracks such as 'For Your Pleasure', where the person playing the bells takes great patience in their playing, allowing the notes to linger in the air over the static filled atmosphere the other member is creating.  Where Mosurock sees absent-minded noodling I do not.  Many of John Cage's works could have been called absent-minded noodling upon a quick listen, but closer examination of such works coupled with Cage's proven performance of them has shown otherwise.  After multiple listens to this album I feel that there is much more composition to it than first meets the eye.  Finally, I disagree with Mosurock's statement that none of this album has any personality.  To me, this album has more personality than many other noise albums I have heard in recent years that have garnered much more critical acclaim (see Songs About Nothing).

Noise music is definitely not for everyone, and if you haven't ventured into the genre, this album is not the best place to start.  Still, if you do enjoy noise music and want something less harsh than the new Sissy Spacek album, this album is probably right for you.

The album can be purchased Here, and I will try to update with a sample shortly.

CavityFang-Urban Problems (2013)

Urban Problems
Last year, the small label Table and Chairs Records gave us the great King Tears Bat Trip album.  This year, they released an album by the group CavityFang, a sextet consisting of three drummers, a pianist, a guitarist, and a baritone saxophone.  The nine compositions on urban problems are dark, broding, and filled with enough drum hits to make on think Zach Hill is a member of the group.

The album's opening track may be the worst track on the album, but it is by no means 'bad'.  Rather, it felt as if it served more as a hype piece to prepare the listener.  The track showes off some abstract drumming and improv. guitar as if to say 'this is what the album is about', but the music never really comes to gether as a piece and ends up being nothing more than a hype track for the rest of the album.

Once the listener gets to the second track though, they begin to get an understanding of the sound of the album; a sound that is very hard to describe.  'Dreamzzz' is a jazz groove in a diminished key(if I still remember my music theory accurately, which I almost certainly don't).  It keeps an upbeat pace which completely contradicts the actual sound being played.  This song is strange and slightly unsettling, but it is a good showing of the things to come from CavityFang, who's music always seems to be at odds with itself throughout the record.

Even at their most minimal, CavityFang keep their sound busy.  To them, minimalism is merely turning the volume down lower while playing the same amount.  Even the ambient soundscape made in 'Armadillos' is still filled with shakers and rainsticks.  At their most minimal I would say CavityFang is it's weakest, but fortunately this sound still isn't bad and is very short lived.

CavityFang are at their best when they let their drummers explore different sounds simultaneously.  'Average Shopper' showcases this perfectly.  All of the drums together create an intricate rhythm that works great for the slower baritone saxophone to dance around.

'Prelude to Rara' and 'Rara' both continue to show off how well the drummers can work together.  As my fiance put it, 'Rara' is a "mess of sounds".  To me, this track is a mess of sounds in all the best ways possible.  It is tribal sounding in the drumming and has a focused repetition in the saxophone and guitar which help push the energetic sound that is created, making this track one of the highlights of the album.  It is really a shame this track is so short.

Overall, Urban Problems was a strange trip, but one that I would recommend taking if you are a fan of free jazz or were a fan of King Tears Bat Trip.  CavityFang are able to make contradicting sounds work well together, and the music created for this album shows this.

The album can be both bought and streamed Here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Diamond Terrifier- The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow (2013)

The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow
Zs member Sam Hilmer's second solo album,The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow, takes a few more risks than his debut album, Kill the Self that Wants to Kill Yourself, and it really pays off.  With his Diamond Terrifier project, Hilmer runs his saxophone through various pedals and effects to achieve a wide array of sounds, from synthesizer to grainy drones.  His latest album takes his saxophone's sound even further, exploring various synthetic sounds and even some repetition of industrial tones.  Additionally, this album's songwriting is more unique; while I would still make a comparison of this to Colin Stetson, Hilmer's sound has become more of his own.

The Subtle Body Wears a Shadow opens and closes with computer read text discussing how one should deconstruct themselves and their material wants to achieve spiritual growth.  This is a continuing theme from his first album, but the robotized lyrics really press this theme into the music.  While this may seem almost preachy in theory, in practice Hilmer's music fits this eastern theme.  The Subtle Body is the type of album to be listened to as a whole, and is one that is more suited to listening alone at night rather than with a group of friends before going out.

The four tracks of the The Subtle Body flow well and make the 33 minute album go by quick.  Often it is hard to tell where saxophone loops end and samples begin.  Normally, much of what I hear I would assume to be samples/ synthesizers had I not seen videos of Hilmer's live performances, but after having seen such videos I assume much of what is heard that doesnt sound like a saxophone still is.  One of Hilmer's main strengths is his ability to create saxophone loops that are varied both in sound and style.  No other saxophonist is working with pedals so intricately as Hilmer right now and his creation of such a unique style really shows.

While I found myself slightly disappointed with Colin Stetson's 2013 output, Diamond Terrifier outdid itself with this release and outshines Stetson's work from this year.  The Subtle Body is composed in a way that is very spacial and emotional.  It mixes ambience with drone while remaining unclassifiable.  It is these characteristics that make this album worth listening to and make it one of the most under-appreciated albums of the year.

The album can be streamed in its entirety Here.