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    Various Artists – The Frog Peak Collaborations Project

    February 24th, 2017

    Various Artists - The Frog Peak Collaborations Project

    The Frog Peak Collaborations Project is a 2-CD compilation of experimental sound put together by Larry Polansky back in 1997 containing 115 pieces, each one minute long, by 62 composers. All of these micro compositions were realized using only a single sound file containing abstract poetry on the subject of collaboration as written and spoken by Australian composer, poet and performer Chris Mann. “The sound file was distributed freely worldwide over the Internet. The resulting compositions were mailed from participating composers from all over the world to Frog Peak Music for the compilation. It is an astonishing set of one-minute variations that explore a universe of artistic and technical ideas.”–Frog Peak

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    Melody Sumner Carnahan – The Time is Now

    January 24th, 2017

    Melody Sumner Carnahan - The Time is Now

    Considering the fact that Frog Peak Music sent me this CD, The Time is Now, way back in 2003, it’s safe to say the time is now for me to review it. Released even earlier, in 1997 to be exact, the album contains avant-grade spoken word pieces originally penned by writer Melody Sumner Carnahan from 1979 to 1981 for a book of the same name published in 1983. The subject matter of many of the pieces covers the ubiquitous topic of love, sex and relationship problems, while others proffer a more surreal stream of consciousness. Subsequently combined with sound by various musician and composer friends of Melody’s (including experimental music luminaries like Robert Ashley, Maggi Payne, Larry Polansky and several more) from 1983 to 1996, the words emerge from the speakers and hit the air via strange, layered up vocals and myriad jarring musique concrete-style sound effects.

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    David Demnitz – Gamelan as a Second Language

    December 16th, 2016

    David Demnitz - Gamelan as a Second Language

    Released in 1996, the appropriately titled Gamelan as a Second Language CD features six pieces written for Javanese gamelan by American composer David Demnitz. All of the pieces are played by Gamelan Son of Lion, a new music repertory ensemble formed in 1976 and based in downtown New York City. We’re talking some serious cross-cultural pollination here, folks, via minimalist process pieces combined with Afro-Cuban rhythms. In the first track, “Pick Your Notes,” GSOL tick-tocks out layers of austere, pinging, clanking Western rhythms that sound nothing like their Balinese or Javanese counterparts, augmented with truncated filigrees of a distorted electric guitar which veers sharply from melody to freely improvised noise clouds.

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    Larry Polansky – Change

    November 30th, 2016

    Larry Polansky - Change

    Three-and-a-half billion years of evolution of life on Earth have finally culminated in the ultimate collection of atoms: Larry Polansky! First appearing in the Holocene epoch within the Quarternary period of the Cenozoic era (or 1954 to be more precise), Larry is a composer, theorist, teacher, performer, programmer, writer, editor and publisher who has been working since the 1970s at places like Mills College, Dartmouth and the University of California Santa Cruz, where he is currently gainfully employed. He’s also the Emeritus Strauss Professor of Music at Dartmouth College, co-director and co-founder of Frog Peak Music (A Composer’s Collective), and was a good friend with–as well as a student of–James Tenney, not to mention a tireless promoter of the latter’s music.

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    Sublime Frequencies Celebrates 100 Releases!

    October 31st, 2016

    Sublime Frequencies celebrates 100 releases.
    Sublime Frequencies celebrates 100 releases.

    Sublime Frequencies complete LP collection from SF 001 up to SF 102.
    Sublime Frequencies complete LP collection from SF 001 up to SF 102.

    Sometime back in the latter half of 2003, I was boning up on the latest weekly email list of new LP and CD releases from music distributor Forced Exposure, when I noticed that a new label called Sublime Frequencies was being launched by world travellers Alan Bishop and Sir Richard Bishop of my favorite ethno psych folk improv art damage spaghetti eastern throw-it-all-in-a-blender band of all time, the Sun City Girls. Along with label co-founder and fellow hardcore traveller Hisham Mayet, the Bishops began to disperse the massive amount of international music and video they had collected on their frequent trips around the world over the previous two decades. After reading the descriptions of the first batch of releases, I completely creamed my jeans! I had always wished I could dive into and look through / listen to the legendary and massive archives of other-continent goodness compiled by these guys, and finally the day had arrived. It was like a dream come true.

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    Eighth Blackbird – Hand Eye

    September 7th, 2016

    Eighth Blackbird - Hand Eye

    Formed in 1996, contemporary classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird “combines the finesse of a string quartet, the energy of a rock band and the audacity of a storefront theater company.” Their latest album, Hand Eye, is comprised of six instrumental pieces written by members of a composers’ collective called Sleeping Giant and influenced by pieces of contemporary visual art. Inspired by the artwork of Astrid Bowlby and Edward Gorey, Timo Andres’ “Checkered Shade” starts off with a simple piano-led orchestral riff with lots of minimal pinging and moods alternating between light and heavy. Sections of low rumbles and sparse strings lead into a mellower mass, which gets cut by an unexpected acoustic explosion, finally ending on a super mellow note.

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    Eighth Blackbird – Filament

    August 22nd, 2016

    Eighth Blackbird - Filament

    Formed in 1996, contemporary classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird “combines the finesse of a string quartet, the energy of a rock band and the audacity of a storefront theater company.” Their album Filament was inspired by and a tribute to composer Phillip Glass. The first 19 minutes of the CD is taken up by Bryce Dessner’s “Murder Ballades,” a collection of seven traditional murder ballad-inspired tracks full of baroque chamber pop with elements of folk and blues. The proceedings range in mood from frolicking and galloping to erratic and pensive with occasional stiff acoustic punches.

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    Point and Shoot: Arcane Candy Photo Book One

    August 21st, 2016

    Point and Shoot: Arcane Candy Photo Book One

    Published in 2009, Point and Shoot: Arcane Candy Photo Book One is a small booklet featuring photos of many avant-garde and independent rock musicians, including:

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    International Contemporary Ensemble – On the Nature of Thingness

    July 17th, 2016

    International Contemporary Ensemble - On the Nature of Thingness

    “Since its founding in 2001, the International Contemporary Ensemble has been dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, ICE advances the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. ICE redefines concert music as it brings together new work and new listeners. ICE is a new model for a new century: a contemporary, innovative, modular, artist-driven organization that transforms new ideas into new music, and new music into new ideas. By dissolving the lines between the artist and the producer, ICE empowers the artists of its generation to create groundbreaking new work.”–ICE

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    Elliott Sharp – The Boreal

    June 17th, 2016

    Elliott Sharp - The Boreal

    For decades, Elliott Sharp has been filed away in my mind as a downtown New York improv guitar guy. With the release of the present CD, The Boreal, however, I was surprised to learn that he has also been working as a composer of avant-garde classical for quite some time–a field in which he has collected numerous accolades. Who knew? Comprised of four works spanning the years 2004-2009, the CD’s program gets underway with the title piece, in which the strings of the JACK Quartet’s violins are scraped with rewound bows, spring bows and bows fitted with strings of metal balls. The overall effect ranges from sparse scraping sounds reverberating inside a giant cheese grater, proceeding on into a wide array of very insistent sawing motions. “JACK is a fearless ensemble and took to the alternate bows with great enthusiasm, tearing into their valuable instruments with abandon to yield the beautifully vicious sounds that I envisioned.”–Elliott Sharp

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