Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Northern Exposure Will Be Right Back

Hey folks, apologies on the lack of post last week.  I spent Tuesday night at the Burdock in Toronto having my socks blown off by the inimitable Seymour Glass of Glands of External Secretion and Bananafish fame.  So needless to say, my week was a write-off - literally.  Stay tuned for regularly scheduled programming later this week, but in the meantime, check out this vid of Mr. Glass shaking cerebellums in the best way possible, courtesy of my bud Ayal Senior over at the Youtube channel dreamweaponfilm.  Cheers,  Hazy

Monday, April 15, 2019

Nate Wooley - Columbia Icefield (Northern Spy, 2019)

Improvisational trumpeter Nate Wooley is joined by a cabal of similarly adventurous musicians on this ode to the largest field of glaciers in the Rockies.  Electric guitarist Mary Halvorson, pedal steel player Susan Alcorn, and drummer Ryan Sawyer – along with Wooley – endeavor to employ their instruments in honor of the mammoth feat of Mother Nature known as the Columbia Icefield.  Producing three gigantic pieces of intertwined chords, sidelong melodies, and skittering percussion, the quartet have juxtaposed their innate humanness against the spiritual nature of this chilling and chilly monument.  What they’ve created cannot compare with something so immense, but they’ve done their damnedest to try.  And what an effort Columbia Icefield is.

Opening with the twenty-minute-long epic “Lionel Trilling”, which at times feels like the efforts of a trio in the mode of the minimalists due to the sparse employment of Wooley’s trumpet, the quartet wind an invisible coil spring to near breaking point.  About a third of the way through the piece, the group releases the pent-up tension that has been brewing but then move to turn the screws ever tighter until track’s end.  “Seven in the Woods” is another slowly brewing piece of music, but this time the quartet are in a languid mode.  Sawyer’s drums churn and bubble, while the other three players waft in and out in a smoky haze.  The piece closes out with a few searing moments of guitar/steel interplay that really stand out.  On “With Condolences”, Wooley and company take a few minutes to usher in a dirge that gives way to all-out sprays of notes, chords, and noise.  This heady brew is quite fiery, complete with both untreated and completely distorted vocal passages that are definitely unnerving.

With Columbia Icefield, Wooley and his bandmates have done a fantastic job attempting to replicate the outright chaos, the unnerving bleakness, and the sheer monolithic nature of one of our planet’s most expansive locales.  In order to even begin to fathom these glacial forms, you’ll need to head over to Wooley’s Bandcamp or the Northern Spy imprint’s website.  Tune in, turn on and chill out.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Peter Evans and Sam Pluta - Two Live Sets (Carrier, 2019)

These two gentlemen are heavy hitters in the exploratory improv scene, both in the US and abroad.  Sam Pluta is actually both an improviser and a composer and focuses on using his laptop as a performance instrument, having written software specifically for the unique interactivity of playing live.  The Chicago-based sound artist is heavily credentialed, and among the activities in which he participates, he is often found working alongside trumpeter Peter Evans.  Evans is focused primarily on improvisation as a means to engage in both solo sonic exploration and collaborative composition.  He is a member of many co-operative ensembles, and as a leader fronts the Peter Evans Ensemble (of which Pluta is a member) and Being & Becoming.  As you can probably imagine, together these two are dangerously good.

Released on Carrier Records (which Pluta co-runs with synthesist Jeff Snyder), Two Live Sets exemplifies the hydra-headed set of modes with which these two top players tackle improvisation.  Evans’ trumpet playing is stretched to the limits of human possibility, matched perfectly by the super-human abilities of Pluta’s software.  When Evans brays in the unholiest of timbres, Pluta meets him with sinister modem tones; when Pluta unleashes ropes of disfigured sound, Evans sprays forth colorful threads of rapidly weaving melody.  The two players wind around each other, sparring jauntily, and then separate into opposite corners before meeting up again in a delicious collision of explosive potential.

Comprising two extended performances (the CD only contains the set recorded at the De Singer club in Belgium) that stretch out to a lengthy forty-five minutes each, Two Live Sets is sure to please those looking for boundary-pushing sound art.  There is enough variety in tone, timbre and energy – although the proceedings stray mostly within fiery territory – that a hungry listener is sure to find something delicious to chew on.  Take a spin over to the Carrier Records Bandcamp and explore for yourself.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Lunaria - Mist and Light (Aural Canyon, 2019)

Here we have our second investigation into the mystical world of the Texas-based Aural Canyon label.  This time around, we are probing the nocturnal wanderings of Spanish sound weaver Daniel Guillén, who records as Lunaria.  With Mist and Light, Guillén expresses a thoughtful nod to the space our mind inhabits when it is hovering between wakefulness and sleep.  The four pieces he offers were realized over the course of three years as he explored what he refers to as the “harmonious relationship between darkness and clarity, mist and light, unconsciousness and lucidity”.  Each is a unique take on this inward journey toward nocturnal rest, an encapsulation of deep introspection into how our consciousness drifts toward unconsciousness.

The tape leads off with “Lullaby for the Clouds”, a drifting piece of ambient bliss, complete with lilting melodies, lush synths, and a deep heartbeat of a bass line.  Layers of sound roll in like a welcome fog over a pristine body of water, the sense of tranquility being enhanced by each element.  This track is love incarnate.  “Numinous” takes on somewhat of a darker tone, with uncanny melodies that feel suspenseful.  The thick synths are woven together with a cinematic sensibility that is quite intense.

On the flip is the eponymous track, a slightly alien but ultimately angelic piece of music.  A sprightly rhythmic element is played against elegiac chords and a delicate melodic lead.  Choral pads emphasize the heavenly nature of this gorgeous track.  “Secret Path” is also quite beautiful, but in a somewhat mysterious, almost playful way.  Droplets of melody are sprinkled gingerly across cascading waves of synthetic chords, which emanate like contrails from Guillén’s delicate fingertips.  This wave-like undulation seemed to sync up with my own brainwaves, lulling me into an almost hypnagogic state – but I guess that’s ultimately the intent here.

You too can explore inner space with Lunaria; head on over to the Aural Canyon Bandcamp and prepare to be entranced.