Category: Tracks

A Little Lost

Recorded in the mid ’70s, the Orange Mountain reissue of Arthur Russell’s Another Thought is a temporal vortex just waiting to suck you into its gravitational pull. Russell’s quirky tunes are seductive and utterly revealing, as the artist’s heart falls from its perch on his sleeve and onto the floor, landing right near the spike upon which his cello rests. But Russell doesn’t just coast on his vulnerability alone: the album goes astray, digressing into disco beats, barely discernable rants, and instrumental freakouts. Perhaps the best entry point into Russell’s unique sound is the melancholic “A Little Lost.” Here Russell’s electric cello scratches receive acoustic guitar accompaniment as the artist’s voice probingly delivers a simple, yet haunting melody line that will be stuck inside your head long after the CD ends.


Fortnight in Londria

I admit that I approached Savage Aural Hotbed’s new disc with caution. Though this album was released on the Innova label, The Unified Pounding Theory seemed to intimate dudes and aggression and pin-up calendars in the auto shop. That caution morphed into intrigue, however, when a quick peek at their website admitted that they are a group made up of “four people who can’t seem to use containers, auto parts or power tools in the intended manner.” Their ten-track disc actually reveals an ear-opening tour through the sonic possibilities of selected non-traditional percussion instruments. The performers themselves are not a crew of Teamsters, but more likely their artistically-inclined children at play in the garage. Though there’s plenty of testosterone-laced rocking going in, there are some surprisingly sensitive moments as well, and a good bit of amusing exploration from an adventurous crew: The disc was recorded live, “except the part where Bill drove his truck on I-94 while Mark held 3 different lengths of sump pump hose out the window, recording the whistling on a portable studio.” Mothers, lock up your kitchen appliances.



Nina Assimakopoulos, flute and recitation

Just as poetry is perhaps the most intimate form of literature, solo flute music is arguably the most intimate form of musical composition. Flutist Nina Assimakopoulos has cleverly explored the juxtaposition of these two media as part of Points of Entry by pairing readings of poems with short solo flute compositions inspired by them. It’s all the more effective as a result of Assimakopoulos being as persuasive an interpreter of words as she is of tones. Whereas most of the composers she asked to create pieces for her took their inspiration from the work of other poets, Terry Winter Owens created an original poem as well as a musical composition inspired by it. The result is like gaining two completely different perspectives that are ultimately manifestations of the same perspective. In both the poem and musical composition “Supernova,” Owens creates an otherworldly environment that is simultaneously unsettling and alluring.


Lion’s Tale

Carter Scholz, sampler

If nothing else, Pauline Oliveros has cornered the bliss-out market. Her latest Deep Listening release, Lion’s Eye/Lion’s Tale only reinforces her reign over the land of laidback. Working with the dreamy timbres of the Berkeley Gamelan Ensemble, Oliveros combines live performance with electronic enhancements to create large expanses of tranquility. For the shorter of the two pieces, Lion’s Tale, the composer goes completely digital, culling from samples the group created for the sample library of the late-’80s vintage Emulator III. Comprised of layered patterns that repeat at speeds up to 1800 cycles per minute, Lion’s Tale is a hallucinogenic roadmap marked up with the most convoluted route to Indonesia imaginable. Enjoy the journey.


A Portrait of Frederic James

Virgil Thomson was not generally characterized as a man of few words. Apparently the painter Frederic James was drawing Thomson’s New York apartment, making notes for a stage set design he was working on, and the composer decided to do a little sketching of his own. In the resulting 1:42 musical portrait of James, Thomson definitely aims for brevity while still managing to get in an ample amount of musical color from the cello and piano.


Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho

Oral Moses, vocal; Michael Bierylo, electric guitar and programming; Ken Field, flute; Erik Lindgren, piano; Rick Scott, synthesizer; Jason Marchionna, percussion

One of the most off-beat ideas to come across my desk in a long time is a collaboration between electro-prog band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic with Oral Moses, who is a singer of spirituals. At times it approaches the chamber of horrors dimensions of recordings that never should have been made, but you’re so glad they were anyway—like country singer Don Gibson’s late-’60s session with Los Indios Tabajares, a pair of easy listening mariachi, which finally resurfaced more than 20 years later on a German import. But this is precisely what makes this music interesting to listen to for me. There’s never a moment I’m listening when I’m not questioning why they chose to do this: it’s very unsettling, which is at the heart of what a truly new sonic experience is.



Daniel Rosenboom, trumpet and electronics

Daniel Rosenboom’s trumpet and electronics tour de force Evolution captures all the gravity of ’70s prog rock with a dramatic flair of Freddy Mercury-proportions. If the sampled electric guitar intro doesn’t get your adrenaline going, time to holdup a little mirror in front of your mouth—are you breathing? Seriously, Rosenboom goes for the jugular both rhythmically and melodically, running through time signatures like a box of Kleenex at an AA meeting. It makes me wonder what this would sound like as a concerto for trumpet, ditching the electronics for a live death metal band. And why not? The piece already comes with the obligatory three-movement construction. Someone get Bolt Thrower on the phone.


Chromatic Canon

Round and round we go. Pianist Jenny Lin teams up with a recording of herself in this duo version of James Tenney’s Chromatic Canon. Dedicated to Steve Reich, the line of the piece gets caught up in a dizzying sonic spiral, yet Lin manages to keep her seat and her equilibrium. Her performance here hints at the world that opens up when dialogue between a performer and a composer, not just a piece of paper, results in musical expression.



Andrew Russo, piano; Cristina Buciu, violin; Felix Fan, cello

After you get beyond the somewhat disconcerting titles of both individual movements and overall compositions—e.g. “Mechanically Separated Chicken Parts,” “Lizzie’s Stomach,” etc.—and the rather provocative cover which prepares listeners for a sonic experience that’s more akin to Veruca Salt, Common Senser Marc Mellits’s brand of post-minimalism is both immediately appealing and an inspiration for deeper analytical listening. If the totally serene “Blue” from his otherwise frenetic piano trio called Fruity Pebbles is not really illustrative of the rest of this disc, it’s still wonderful proof of the ever fertile possibilities of one of chamber music’s most common sonic combinations.


Ink Pin

Mark Feldman, violin; John taylor, piano; Anders Jormin, bass; Tom Rainey, drums

While there have been jazz violinists almost since the beginning of recorded jazz, the violin always seems to be an interloper from classical music. Maybe it’s that bow, which double bassists involved in jazz typically eschew. Mark Feldman, however, uses that bow to great effect, making the fiddle ring out like a saxophone. On Ink Pin from a new quartet recording where he is accompanied by a standard jazz piano trio, Feldman is the lone horn, so to speak. But that doesn’t stop him from making music that is still completely cooperative with his adept group of sidemen.