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    Chris Campbell – Things You Already Know

    June 23rd, 2014

    Chris Campbell - Things You Already Know

    For his third camping trip up on the peak of Mt. Innova, where he works as the operations manager, the young whipper snapper of a composer Chris Campbell dips his feet into the wading pools of two different musical worlds–avant-garde classical and indy almost-rock–and blends them stitchlessly. On this new CD, which is called Things You Already Know, Chris presents a loosely organized collection of sounds you never even knew belonged together…until now. Instrumentally, he achieves this by combining the unusual: propane tank drums, bowed psaltery and singing bowls, with the usual: guitar, cello, piano and drums. Opening with a brief overture called “Form = Emptiness,” Chris establishes an incredibly mellow mood with nothing more than a sparse, lyrical theme on piano accompanied by a bit of plaintive singing far off in the background. “Lord Byron” kicks it up a huge notch as it segues back and forth between oddly rhythmic woozy workouts on stringed instruments and percussion that coalesce into busy blurs, only to lapse into quiet, tinkling contemplation. Then, on a wooden nickel, some super lyrical violin sweeps you away into Swoonville for a while until–bam!–it’s off with your head as you’re sent packing back to that gray area of shambling oddities. This track perfectly encapsulates Chris’ aesthetic of “accumulation and punctuation,” which artistically reflects how the outside world gets inside each of us.

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    Christoph Gallio + Beat Streuli – Road Works

    May 27th, 2014

    Christoph Gallio + Beat Streuli - Road Works

    Watch out for that sign up ahead! You know what I’m talking about: Men at Work. More specifically, it’s Road Works, the fourth album by the two men Christoph Gallio, a composer, and Beat Streuli, an artist. Written for sax, piano, synth, double bass and drums, Road Works, despite its plural name, is actually one long work divided up into 72 extremely short tracks that range from 13 blinks of an eye (13 seconds) up to almost a pop song (a whopping 2:07). The material seamlessly moves from pensive chamber jazz to field recordings of birds and dogs barking to upbeat jazz rock to melodic sax with synth drones to quiet stuttered electronics to cool melodic jazz to more field recordings combined with prickly improv to free jazz screams to drones with tinkles to melancholy piano ambience to free drum / fart synth workouts. My favorite part is the cool jazz with a gentle thunderstorm crackling in the background, which is an obvious yet perfect combo. Overall, Road Works is quite a quirky, fun little album chock-full of interesting aural nuggets suitable for fans of jazz and experimental music alike. Note: This package also contains a DVD, but unfortunately, it would not play in my laptop.

    Label: Percaso Catalog Number: percaso 28 / 29 Format: CD / DVD Packaging: Mini-LP Gatefold Tracks: CD: 72 Total Time: CD: 48:54 Country: Switzerland Released: 2013 More: Official, Vimeo

    Text ©2014 Arcane Candy

    Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe

    April 24th, 2014

    Laurie Spiegel - The Expanding Universe

    Laurie Spiegel (born 1945) is primarily a composer of electronic music best-known for the pieces she created in the 1970s at Bell Labs, which was also the home of James Tenney’s groundbreaking computer music of the ’60s. Originally released as a single LP in 1980, The Expanding Universe contains some of the work Laurie made in that time period, and has since been, uh, expanded into a double CD with a bunch of bonus tracks tacked on. Employing such archaic equipment as a room-sized Control Data Corporation DDP-224 computer console / keyboard, GROOVE (Generating Real-time Operations on Voltage-Controlled Equipment), a magnetic tape drive, a music keyboard, a 3-D joystick, a touch tone keypad, punch cards, three 1/4″ reel-to-reel two-track tape machines, analog synths, a washing machine-sized disk drive, sawtooth oscillators, voltage controlled amps, a plate reverb unit and a mixer, Laurie really had her work cut out for her. Yeah, I know you could do the same thing so easy on your iPhone now, but Laurie accomplished it all back in the days when it was a very labor intensive process. These pieces were composed then stitched together over a period of weeks or months in a situation that required Laurie to repeatedly walk up and down a long hallway and flights of stairs between the computer room and the analog equipment room to make the gear talk to each other. It’s safe to say the results paid off, as Laurie’s hard work birthed a music of such mesmerizing beauty,

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    The Bowed Piano Ensemble – Ice and Fire

    March 22nd, 2014

    The Bowed Piano Ensemble - Ice and Fire

    Founded way back in 1977 by composer Stephen Scott, The Bowed Piano Ensemble conjures up the myriad sounds of a chamber orchestra miraculously while employing only one instrument: the grand piano. On the back cover of their sixth album, Ice and Fire, the nine members of the ensemble look like a bunch of black-clad doctors hunched over the operating table performing surgery. And that’s precisely what they do: open up the wound (lid of the instrument) and tease out its guts to produce an array of aural pleasantries that nurse our sullied psyches back to health.

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    Matthew Burtner – NOISE Plays Burtner

    February 21st, 2014

    Matthew Burtner - Noise Plays Burtner

    The harsh environment of Alaska, where composer Matthew Burtner grew up, has exerted quite a big influence on some of his musical works. Take, for example, “Snowprints,” the second of three pieces on his new album of chamber music–featuring the ensemble NOISE on flute, violin, cello, guitar, piano, percussion, sax and computer–called NOISE Plays Burtner. Employing the sounds of recorded snow as a droning counterpoint to the acoustic instruments, this 15-minute centerpiece maintains a subtle web of minimal ambience that ranges from pastoral to squeaky to homely to ominous to outright intense. The ensemble maintains interesting playing throughout.

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    Keeril Makan – Afterglow

    January 19th, 2014

    Keeril Makan - Afterglow

    Following up his excellent Target CD from 2011, the young avant-garde classical composer Keeril Makan (born 1972) returns with a smorgasbord of works spanning the years 2006-2010 that were at least partially derived from his dealings with depression. The meal begins with a Caesar’s salad known as “Mercury Songbirds,” a subtly wheezing, minimal / maximal time-stopper chock-full of droning alto flutes, cellos and violins peppered with occasional piping flutes and piano outbursts with lyrical Bacon Bits sprinkled on top courtesy of clarinet, plus some cool piano knocks. It’s quite strange the way this track combines dissonance and consonance in such an odd, unsettling way. The title was inspired by the increasing level of mercury found in Hudson Valley songbirds. You know that startled feeling you get when someone wearing a fright wig unexpectedly jumps out from behind a corner and screams at you? That’s what the beginning of “Husk” sounds like. And to think it was produced by a simple, dissonant harp strum and flute cry. Then, suddenly, amid a sustained web of tense oboe drones, the piece gets all Psycho shower scene on you as it continues to occasionally stab your ears with fabulous bursts of atonality.

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    Juan Blanco – Nuestro Tiempo / Our Time

    December 18th, 2013

    Juan Blanco - Nuestro Tiempo / Our Time

    Who would ever imagine that electro-acoustic music could thrive in a place like Cuba? Not me! Alas, in the mid-20th century, Juan Blanco (1919-2008) became one of the earliest adopters of experimental music production in that small Caribbean island country, which surprisingly harbored quite a scene of avant garde painters, writers and composers who went on to put their stamp on the international stage. Not surprisingly, this scene coalesced into Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo, an actual group that was started and funded out of pocket by Blanco himself. After inventing the first sampling keyboard in 1942, a good two decades before that instrument came into popular use, Blanco got inspired by the musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer and started composing electronic works in the early ’60s on some low-end tape decks that he ordered from Sears! As if that weren’t cool enough, Blanco then became the director of Instituto Cubana de Amistad con el Pueblo, where he staged concerts featuring artists ranging all the way from Luigi Nono to Pink Floyd! In the ’80s, after becoming “involved with multimedia performance, theater ballet, film and environmental sound pieces,” Blanco started the International Festival for Electroacoustic Music in Cuba, followed by the ’90s, when he began composing pieces on a NeXT computer. Collecting pieces from 1961-1993, the Nuestro Tiempo CD spans a full three decades, which formed just part of Blanco’s even longer and illustrious career. Collector scum may note that a few of these works previously appeared on LP on the Egrem label back in the ’70s and ’80s–very rare records which change hands for big bucks now.

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    Chris Watson – In St. Cuthbert’s Time: The Sounds of Lindisfarne and the Gospels

    November 15th, 2013

    Chris Watson - In St. Cuthbert's Time: The Sounds of Lindisfarne and the Gospels

    In St. Cuthbert’s Time: The Sounds of Lindisfarne and the Gospels is a set of conceptual field recordings made by noted wildlife / BBC sound recordist Chris Watson. Employing nothing but captured soundwaves and photographic images, Watson transports the listener far away in space and time. The place is a tiny island off of Northeast England containing a Christian monastery. The time is the seventh century, smack dab in the middle of the Anglo Saxon Period. While the bishop of Lindisfarne, Eadfrith, sits snug inside the monastery writing a richly illustrated book of the Christian New Testament called the Lindisfarne Gospels, the sounds of the natural world ebb and flow all around him. As a steady drone of crashing ocean waves roars in the background, “Winter” really brings on the birds in the form of ducks, Greylag geese, Brent geese, whooper swans and wigeons–all of which warble and chirp away. Spurred on by a stalking fox, the bird and ocean sounds coalesce into a hectic and strange sonic web.

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    Mika Vainio + Joachim Nordwall – Monstrance

    October 8th, 2013

    Mika Vainio + Joachim Nordwall - Monstrance

    According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, in the Roman Catholic Church, a monstrance is “an open or transparent receptacle in which the consecrated Host is exposed for veneration.” Outside of the Roman Catholic Church, Monstrance is a compact disc by Finnish electronic musician Mika Vaino, whose name sounds like a cross between Mickey Mouse and Keiji Haino, and Joachim Nordwall, a like-minded artist whose last name is not to be confused with a small Arctic whale. Kicking off the album with the perfectly titled “Alloy Ceremony,” Joachim grabs his bass and bakes a big ol’ wedding cake in the form of a slow, low-pitched pulse, accompanied by Mika, who slathers on a hefty helping of Sonic Youth-like behind-the-bridge picking and droning feedback guitar icing. Martha Stewart would be proud–even more so if she rocked out to this in JAIL (again).

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    Cristian Vogel – Eselsbrucke

    September 13th, 2013

    Cristian Vogel - Eselsbrucke

    Cristian Vogel is a composer of electronic music who has been at it since the late 1980s, pumping out a seemingly endless amount of tracks full of avant grade-influenced techno and pop, as well as music for dance, film, sound art and whatever else strikes his fancy. His latest album, the depressingly atmospheric Eselsbrucke, opens with “Invisible Planets,” which borrows a few lines from the movie My Dinner With Andre that describe the pretty good possibility that artificial intelligence / robots will take over the Earth, leaving small pockets of savage humanity cowering in the shadows. After a short while, Vogel spritzes the speech with a blanket of gleaming, pinging electronics until it’s totally obliterated. Eventually, the clouds clear and the talking wins out, as the speaker is caught ordering an espresso at a cafe, which completely deflates the menacing mood established at the beginning. Insert a chuckle here. “Caswels Genius Stack” descends into the hazy house of a homely handmaiden, while “Mount the 137″ blows synth bubbles all around your noggin with the help of a lone, muted beat, then treats you to the worst kind of aluminum-drenched hangover that definitely coats, but will never soothe or protect. “Snaker” slithers along, boasting more glimmering, reverb-soaked synth stabs and squeaky percussion knocks. “Ballad” falls further into the handmaiden’s dark boiler room without a flashlight, bumps into walls and knocks over stuff–all with the reverb turned up to 111.

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