Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Nick Storring - Qualms (Never Anything, 2019)

The Toronto-based composer Nick Storring is a favorite around these parts.  He’s active in keeping the Canadian modern exploratory music scene alive and thriving, but his musical interests and activities hover within a great many genres and modes.  Yet his compositional chops and one-man-orchestra instrumental prowess (which we’ve heard dubbed ‘solorchestral’) are truly where he triggers the most pleasurable of pressure points.

Qualms finds Storring continuing to work in the ‘solorchestral’ sphere, in which he composes a work and then plays every instrument involved in the composition.  There have been times in the past – such as on Gardens – where Storring has deployed over sixty distinct instruments in the realization of a work.  With this release, the arsenal is a little more stripped down (you’ve got cello, bass, voice, mandola, violin, guitar, sarangi, piano, percussion, duck/goose calls, and a bunch more) but the atmosphere is tremendously more sinister.  Composed to accompany a choreographic work by Yvonne Ng, the piece – which spans two sides of a cassette – is a slow-burning but heightened exercise in building tension.

The moodiness of the piece works incredibly well.  Although on the surface it appears very environmental – almost like a backdrop to a series of emotional vignettes – when one dives into the music, there are many incredibly intricate elements that slowly take shape and burst forth from their surroundings.  Mid-way through the first half of the piece, a veil of violin and cello barely allow what appear to be flutes and plucked strings to dance around melodically, until it all tumbles into a multitude of rubbed sticks and percussive clangs.  Similarly, at the mid-point of the second half, an almost military-style percussion, melodica and kazoo marching band (I’m sure there are dozens more instruments in this part) meanders down a blind alley, only to collide into a brick wall without missing a beat.

There are many evocative moments to be found on Qualms, and it’s the joy-filled task of the listener to unfold the intricate layers and dive right into it.  It’s this act of beckoning for the listener to explore that makes Storring’s music both fun and adventurous.  I urge you to head over to the Never Anything Bandcamp and experience it for yourselves.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Daniel Klag - True Neutral (Muzan Editions, 2019)

Around here, we’re big fans of Canadian ex-pat Josh Stefane and his Endurance project.  So we were happy when he dropped a line and filled us in about the latest batch of tapes from his Muzan Editions imprint.  There appears to be a common theme across the trio of cassettes, enhanced by the mighty layout skills of one Joe Bastardo.  The stark black-and-white background and snugly-fit text paint a bleak picture, which belies the warm drones that permeate the magnetic tape itself.

Of particular note is True Neutral, the latest from Daniel Klag, who hosts “Dense Liquid”, a bi-weekly radio show hosted by the Brooklyn-based Newtown Radio station.  Klag is new to us, but has released music for labels we love, including Patient Sounds and Constellation Tatsu.  Here, he offers up a pentalogy of tracks that incorporate drones and subtle rhythms in an ever-so-slightly sinister concoction that nevertheless goes down incredibly smoothly.  “Hard Pass” starts things off with a mild shuffling thump over which Klag lays luscious clouds of pseudo-orchestral brilliance.  There is a duel of timbres on “Divine Horsemen”, in which a sawtooth swoon parries the subtle attacks of a synthetic string section.  The effect is rather entrancing, particularly as the two sides commingle near track’s end, when a barely audible pulse appears.

The title track leads off with a repeated snippet of melody that is joined by an ever-evolving tapestry woven of lush drones.  Klag allows this track to set its own direction as the melody drifts away, leaving a rhythmic pattern behind to anchor the tonal soup and provide a sense of locomotion.  With “Mutagen”, he lays down an incredibly emotional drone piece, with a noisy crescendo that will pierce the coldest of hearts with its warmth.  This fundamental limbic-triggering drone wizardry continues into “Ancestor”, which closes out the proceedings.  If you’re not in tears by the time these last two tracks have stormed your hypothalamus, then you must be a sociopath.

To sample these tempestuous drones, all you need to do is visit the Muzan Editions Bandcamp.  Be forewarned: have some tissues at the ready… …you know, in case you get something in your eye… …or whatever.