MAESTRO TRYTONY: “Heart of Gold” ****

Recorded 2004



Maestro Trytony are a Polish band led by Tomasz Gwicinski (guitar) and Tomasz Pawlicki (flute, keyboards).  The musicians grew up on mainstream rock music, but were subsequently exposed to the world of 20th century’s classic and jazz.  Indeed, the guitarist was considered one of the purveyors of the very local, neo-jazz phenomenon labeled as “yass” in the 1990s. 


Initially, the band appeared stylistically hesitant and some clumsiness accompanied their forays into over-generous orchestrations.  The initial ideas were highly engaging, but their eventual development suffered in longer compositions.  Fortunately, in their most recent incarnation they seem to have developed timbral sagacity, generating an undogmatic yet coherent idiom.  Where else could you find seeping interplay of baroque spinet, celestial flute and sharply edged jazz guitar?  On this hitherto unclaimed territory Maestro Trytony offer a refreshing dose of stylistic fence-sitting.





Pristine sound of conjectural spinet sets off, berthed by drum brushwork and cohesive bass figure.  The pre-classic keyboard drops lazy, dilatory notes like anonymous pearls.  Highly adaptive flute legato ushers us into splendid palaces whose gilded stucco should still remember Jean-Philippe Rameau’s premières.  Malgorzata Skotnicka’s spinet harmonics is endowed with quartz-like gloss and spangle-like utility.  Her part is too indeterminate to be classified as magisterial basso continuo.


Van Worden in Sierra Morena

An exercise in sequentially rewritten time signatures, the piece begins with a tone setting guitar and cinematic answer from emblematic flute and fuzz guitar.  A rapid progression of sub-thematic sections follows.  First comes a taut, jazzy run for acoustic bass, wire brush and a constantly busy flute.  This leads into a cul-de-sac, from which Abercrombie-style acoustic guitar fills spaces with ambiguous contours.  As if separated by a large, impervious screen, flute and electric guitar ascend, pairwise.  Thereupon, the two leaders adopt complementary roles.  Tomasz Gwicinski will entangle his chords in David Torn’s categorical manner.  Tomasz Pawlicki will crown the cadence.



The snail-like trail is first blazed by the acoustic guitar serving here as a cue for the fully rounded flute in the main melodic role.  Rafal Gorzycki’s drums splash briefly, failing to deliver on the promise.  The flute advances by leaps and starts, like a shy wallflower, only to recoil in its own introspection.  There are more harmonic opportunities for a portamento liberation.  The flute will digress, but stay trapped in its own image.  Finally, the stately spinet shows up, fuelled by a competent jazzy section of drums and bass (Patryk Weclawek).  Following a fourthfold phrase from the flute, the drummer taps into his repertory of multiplicative flailing.  Electric guitar bursts into spacious, but disciplined solo, audibly raising the tension.  In sharp contrast with the spinet’s graceful candelabra, Gwicinski’s topological exploration leaves behind ashy radio static.  It is as if the venerable keyboard instrument strayed into a damp gutter echoing with calls for help from a quashing guitar.  The pendular effect is further stressed by crashing cymbals.


Snowboarding Alechemysta

This piece flows like a flute hustle in search of speed control.  Pawlicki’s flutterings and tonguings excel particularly in high register.  But it’s only a matter of time before the galloping, jazzy bass/drum section bootstraps the electric guitar.  Against superb bass knotwork, the parabolic guitar hacks, arpeggiates and alternates between vibratos and pull-offs.  The impressive fluency that Gwicinski exhibits here is akin to Nels Cline’s approach.  Then the flute theme returns, menacingly piercing, yet fully flexible. 


Heart of Gold

The title track is a slow-evolving affair for flute and acoustic bass.  Mellow, descending line is oddly stuck in the Technicolor era of ethically dichotomous thrillers.  The phrasing, the tempos and the production make this a docile, relaxing moment.  The overprotective guitar’s noodling perilously approaches Metheny’s early style. 


Tax Collector

Prepared piano punctures an unusually tuned acoustic guitar, resurrecting the ghosts of Davey Williams’s groundbreaking inventions a quarter of century before.  Still, Maestro Trytony remain more potent rhythmically.  The dispersal of isolationist chords from the mistreated guitar and the injured piano appears more stochastic than combinatorial. 


Magic Tiara Part I

Magic Tiara Part II (Cherub. Wand.)

The two tracks are strung together and, at combined 14 minutes, dominate the record.  After an accessible flute intro, spinet tremolos lead us directly into a pseudo-Jamaican electric bass ostinato, bundled by a very modern-sounding percussion.  The beach guitar and melodious, but static flute are poles apart from the rather gymnastic, aerial rhythm.  A less diffuse, planar jazz guitar eventually soars, falling shy of replicating Rypadalian Nordic vistas.  A robotic countdown non-sequitur.  Outside, a discrete gamelan revels in sequined figure (Martin Franken).  Up front, the acoustic guitar stammers and stutters.  The flute is still there, but in a fairly neutral, refractive role.  Short violin scraps are almost inaudible (Lukasz Gorewicz).  By now, “Magic Tiara” could be totally free form, were it not for the bass that has kept the band in line all along.  Mechanical, unemotional female voice recites a text in English and the signals slowly dissipate. 



Dotted rhythms, short rolls, cascades, crosses and chokes vibrate from Jacek Majewski’s tenseless percussion.  His crystalline effects formulate a comfortable context for an ascending guitar crescendo.  The ensuing guitar improvisation unfolds with panache – voluble pitch control and heterodox speed control intersect in perfect timing as Gorzycki unleashes a veritable tornado on his drums.  The initial crescendo recurs, this time distracted by inroads into prepared piano’s intestines.  There is a welcome selectivity in the chosen variables.  While some strings are locked in by felt and strings, other keys remain tonal.  The equiprobable distribution of outcomes – some regular some jangly – is gradually decoded against the fast moving rhythm section.



More acoustic explorations for prepared piano, with a smoothing flute and a tentative guitar stuck in a groove. 




MAESTRO TRYTONY: “Enoptronia” (1996)

MAESTRO TRYTONY: “Heart of Gold” (2004)


European avant-garde jazz legend Andrzej Przybielski guests on the first CD.  The second CD is, however, superior.


Gwicinski had previously appeared in a formation Trytony, but I have not heard any of their recordings. 


Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” ***

Recorded 2004


Prp Group are (were?) a British trio of Ashley Clarke (drums), Richard Riz Errington (guitar, electronics) and Michael Clough (bass).  In the 1980s, all three were active in another formation known as Rancid Poultry. 


Prp Group’s sound is based on a smooth, interactive flow between the three, fully enfranchised musicians.  Often yielding to the lure of rock jamming, the band has been on a continuous quest for definitive sound.  Each recording seemed to tap into different deposits of experimental rock – from tropospheric space jams, through post-punk’s self-regulating ostinatos, to smelting guitar trio feedbacks. 


It is not clear if the band is still in existence.  Their output from earlier in this decade documents well various phases of their stylistic research.  At the same time, their intriguing CDRs carried a promise that they would eventually go beyond the rehearsal stage.




The track begins with a subterrestrial bass vibrato and rim shots from Ashley Clarke.  The succulent bass morphs into a regular ostinato, underlying the contrast with the dissicated drumstick work – in an (unintended?) resemblance to good old A Certain Ratio.  After about 20 turns, cymbals check in, cushioning a cleanly combed electric guitar which reverberates in the distance.  The guitar’s tickle and giggle iterations become brassy, gaining an almost timbales-like resonance, but the high-pitched notes’ call for the timbales answer will remain aperiodic.  A drum’n’bass dialogue walks in spryly, despite Jah Wobble-like bass tuning.  One just can’t dispel the memory of PIL’s “Fodderstompf” from 30 years ago (ouch !).  This is definitely not a space rock jam as we have known it from many talented US bands over the last decade.  Rather, Prp Group stays quite restrained and almost reluctant to engage in disorienting crotchets.  Although the extended, slow moving structure allows the guitar to improvise freely, Richard Errington appears surprisingly constrained, incorporating fairly minimal variance.  Finally, the drumming becomes more forceful and some additional treatments rear their buzzing heads.  This is when additional wooden percussive effects appear – sounding like angklung or a small bamboo xylophone. 


Shatner’s Bassoon

This piece starts with cyclonic electro-fluctuations and an extra-metric drumming hiccup – regular enough to sound like a sample.  The hi-hat is quite lonely in its chore, groping for understanding bass figure.  Some droning cylinders pivot incessantly – now you hear’em, now you don’t.  The repetition is slowly earning a loop-sounding, systemic character and the accent shifts offbeat.  Soon afterwards, it is reduced to pure, sputtering electronics.



Michael Clough’s relaxing bass exposes an obsessively simplistic, 9-note songlike phrase.  Languid drums and dry guitar clang do little to distract us from this self-defeating idea.  Echoing drum rims, acoustic guitar, purring electronic surge, crash cymbals and ratchet will all apportion some non-linearity, but the lack of convincing development is problematic.  Dub treatment selectively tackles drum reverb, but Adrian Sherwood this is not.  Some of the echoplex treatments are even a little childish, and those that do work are overfamiliar – a metallic pipe effect, alternatively extended reverb and damping of cymbals.  This amounts to little more than explorations into sustain and muting.  The listener’s attention is finally rewarded by “chopsticking” on a hard surface – light and multiplied many times over until smeared out into a buzz – a moment worthy of François Bayle or Bernard Parmegiani.  Unfortunately, a marching version of the elementary theme ruins the tail end.  A rocket lift-off noise will lead us directly into the next piece.


Dub Version of the Previous Track

This misleading title picks up where the “Cow” left off, but throws “dub” out of the window.  Yes, we do have reverb and even much of that, but it turns the aural environment into flywheels of electromagnetic buzz, fraught with sizzle, frizzle and feedback.  The pitch control is fairly slow; the amplitude control a little more varied.  The oscillations fingerpoint some blackbird tweets, panning between the right and left channel.  There is some intentional feedback from a speaker that sounds as if it had caught the waveforms from a fluorescent bulb nearby.  With the top range teeming with swarms of insects and the lower end hammering resoundingly, the days of contemporary studio luminaries (Milton Babbitt or Richard Maxfield) seem to be back.  Just the (very acoustic) drumming occasionally adds a non-academic twist to the concoction.  Again, this track will seamlessly sublimate into the next one. 


The Elephant Charmer

The carry-over drumming intensifies, increasingly emphatic and bruising.  Ashley Clarke pounds with abandon to the limit of our Faustian imagination.  It could almost segue into “it’s a rainy day, sunshine baby” as in the recent live recordings of the Diermeier-Peron version of the legendary kraut-band.  Prp Group will instead keep socking, with a riffless fuzz guitar sustaining its chords.




The discography of prpGroup is limited to relatively short CDRs.  Positions 1 and 2 were later collected on one CDR entitled “Penfruit/Babylard”.  Likewise, 3 and 4 can be found on one CDR.  Unfortunately, I have not heard position 5. 


1. PRP GROUP: “Penfruit” (2001)

2. PRP GROUP: “Babylard” (2002)

3. PRP GROUP: “Snib” (2003)

4. PRP GROUP: “Sun Pie in a Custard Pie” (2003)

5. PRP GROUP: “Soil Pipe” (?)

6. PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” (2004)


Aside from Rancid Poultry, Clough had also played in duo with Errington (as Clothearz) and with Clarke (as AMA).  At the moment, Sonic Asymmetry is not aware of any other recordings by PrpGroup.  Are you?


Published in: on July 8, 2008 at 6:06 am  Comments (1)  
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Lars HOLLMER: “Viandra” *****


Recorded 2001-2007


The world would be much gloomier a place without Lars Hollmer.  The Swedish composer, accordionist and keyboard player was the key force behind the legendary Samla Mammas Manna and has over the last quarter of the century developed a unique melodist vocabulary, drawing inspiration from both European folk music and baroque.


Holed up in his “Chickenhouse” home studio in Uppsala, Hollmer has regularly brought to Nordic light series of highly successful accordion miniatures.  Whether in stately fugues and cantatas, jolting polkas and farandoles, rapid scherzos and capriccios or pensive lullabies and bagatelles, Hollmer’s final synthesis remained highly original and instantly appealing.  Despite his frequent references to the traditional dances of the European north, the relative paucity of direct quotations has kept him apart from the Scandinavian folk renaissance of the last 15 years. 


Some of Zamla’s fans reproach Hollmer for not replicating the band’s sound more faithfully.  But Zamla was always more than just Lars Hollmer.  His solo records lack the band’s contorted time signatures, contrary motions, Coste Apetrea’s guitar twitches or extended, mirthful extemporations.  Still, Hollmer’s recordings more than compensate for that with cliché-free emotional content and open minded attitude to a variety of musical traditions. 





This is not the first time that Hollmer opens his record witch such an unassuming, feathery tune.  His accordion knits slow, reedy gables.  Harmonic mellotronics materializes, setting the stage for middle register, consonant melodic line.  But the gracefulness of the piece distracts from the otherwise unstable periodicity of the epicycles carrying not one, but several charming sub-themes. 


Mirror Objects

This time mellotronics invites us to a poignant waltz.  Hollmer’s accordion merely serves harmonics.  The piece stays afloat, eerily tinged with 1940s’ tenebrism. 



The track begins with a low-key glockenspiel, then moving on to a full quartet sound.  Michel Berckmans enters on stately, silicate English horn, joined by Santiago Jimenez on violin and Andreas Tengberg on cello.  The isostatic character of the piece first smacks of distant memories of a music school, save for the seasoned pizzicato.  The band burgeons in an atmosphere of serenity, later carmelizing into decorative baroque quatrefoils. 



In a radical change of pace, “Snabb” introduces high volume, bass-laden digital drum setting for a melodica and accordion line.  In turn, the subsequent transition will draw on Miriodor-like, keyboard-led neo-classicism.  The rest of the piece is be filled by the contrasting alteration between the drum episode (courtesy none other than Morgan Agren of Mats & Morgan fame) and the classicizing keyboard answer.  Towards the end, the robust pummeling will be enriched by tinny, hollow kalimba touches. 



This track was apparently inspired by a Moldavian girl who appeared in a movie to which Hollmer wrote a score.  A short divertimento for accordion, melodica and acoustic piano proves Hollmer’s willingness to constantly refresh his format with new sources of folk inspiration. 



A wistful, songlike cavatina of highest caliber.  It is delivered camminando with the basic bass line from the keyboard bass, and the melody spinning through melodica.  Ulf Wallander on tenor saxophone adds some agility to lower registers, enhancing the bass line.  This is one of the most romantic moments on this record.



The full quartet returns with strings and accordion interplay – a format that can scarcely escape comparisons to Astor Piazzolla’s legendary dramaturgy.  Glockenspiel and keyboards are in clear lead, hosting a concordant, ashy veil of bassoon, cello and violin.  A double of violin and accordion paint a theme that hangs over like cirrocumulus.  This could easily qualify for Hollmer’s another film score. 


Merged with Friends

Piano and melodica open in a gentle, tender, optimistic tone.  This is Hollmer’s well-trodden format – first the exposition without the bass line and then the primary theme repeats it with the support – this time performed by Berckmans’ organic bassoon.  The piano will provide some variation before fizzling out.



A trio with bassoon and violin.  The track’s rhythmic mobility converges on melodica’s excesses – well supported here by the bassoon.  Then, a surprise transition leads to an eerily familiar, ecstatic melodic adventure.  On the way down, the more prominent violin provides a welcome textural enrichment.  The non-linear seams that tie together the hummable refrain will probably exclude “Konstig” from the radio, but otherwise its bold and swinging panache would beat commercial melodists hands down.



A stately, contrapuntal fughetta with Berckmans on bumblebee bassoon.  Its glyptic polyphony is appropriately artful and elegant.



A polka written for accordion and melodica.  It throws us back to Hollmer’s hard-driven folk dances from his early LPs.  Even if the intention is a little facetious, the resulting jumpy repetition is ludic and frivolous.


Lilla Bye

This delicate berceuse cradles us with mandolin and random cuckoo vocals from Hollmer’s three granddaughters.  The multi-focal arrangement of vocalizations and the choice of flocculent instrumentation bring to mind some of Albert Marcoeur’s more lyrical moments. 


Första 05

Violin and cello slog along chained in some doomed pilgrimage.  This is another baroque piece, quiet and solemn.  The initial ricercar sets the key for the bleak string development – somewhat reminiscent of Univers Zero’s metaphysical dirges. 



We wake up from the nightmare into a happy sunrise serenade.  Hollmer’s granddaughter officiates here in a “singing” part, thanks to the author’s innocuous nepotism.  Luckily, Zamla’s Coste Apetrea provides some assistance on mandolin.  It is full of sparkling, youthful optimism. 



Michel Berckmans’ autumnal oboe sobs slowly.  When glockenspiel and violin rejoin, Berckmans switches to harmonic bassoon.  Santiago Jimenez steps to the fore, and engages in a downcast, rueful duet with Hollmer’s accordion.  This brings back inescapable memories of long evenings en el barrio de Boca


Foldron Menad

Hollmer’s introspective string samples set up Jimenez to perform a love call which sounds like a Hungarian gypsy whine.  Somber, cheerless shadows are cast against an unobtrusive sampled chorus and a poignant cello line.  This quiet composition is marvelously evocative but at the same time pleasantly restrained.



This much earlier track has been added to round off the entire set on a more optimistic note.  A simple dance played by Lars on accordion and keyboards possesses parameters of a polka – the quintessential accordion dance.  Yet some of the keyboard developments are unmistakably Hollmerian and when he begins to spin around, it could just as well be Colombian cumbia.  The artist is such an emporium of themes that this array of influences turns each dance into a highly idiosyncratic proposition.  There is only one Lars Hollmer.




Until the very recent appearance of the supreme “Viandra”, it was position 4 that was most often drawn from the shelf.  However, 2, 3 and 5 are equally recommended.  Positions 1 and 8 are live performances of two different bands – extremely lively and brimming with cheerfulness to clear up any gloomy day.  Both 1 and 9 make extensive use of traditional themes.  From position 7 onwards, Hollmer spent a lot of time digging into his considerable inventory and inevitably some peripheral sketches crept into the public domain.  Positions 14 and 15 are artistic résumés transposed onto a micro-Japanese and macro-Canadian context, respectively. 


1. RAMLÖSA KVÂLLAR: Ramlösa Kvâllar (1977-78)

2. Lars HOLLMER: “XII Sybirska Cyklar“ (1975, 1980-81)

3. Lars HOLLMER: “Vill du hora mer“ (1981-82)

4. Lars HOLLMER: “Fråu natt idag“ (1983)

5. Lars HOLLMER: “Tonöga“ (1984-85)

6. Lars HOLLMER & the LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA: “Vendeltid“ (1987)

7. Lars HOLLMER: “Vandelmässa“ (1972, 1983-93)

8. LOOPING HOME ORCHESTRA: “Live 1992-1993” (1992-93)

9. FEM SÖKER EM SKATT: “Fem söker em skatt“ (1987-1994)

10. Lars HOLLMER: “Andetag“ (1993-97)

11. Lars HOLLMER: “Autokomp A(nd) More“ (1982-1991, 1998)

12. Lars HOLLMER: “Utsikter“ (2000)

13. Lars HOLLMER’s GLOBAL HOME PROJECT: “Sola“ (2001)

14. Lars HOLLMER & Yukiko MOKOUJIMA DUO: “Live And More” (2003)

15. FANFARE POURPOUR & Lars HOLMMER: “Karusell Musik” (2006)

16. Lars HOLLMER: “Viandra“ (2001-2007)


Other recordings labeled by Hollmer or his LHO can be found on various compilations from the 1980s and 1990s: “Ré Records Quarterly Vol.1 No.1”, “Festival MIMI 89”, “Hardi brut”, “Angelica’92”, “Angelica’93”, “Haikus urbains”.  He also appeared on numerous recordings of other musicians – Fred Frith, Wolfgang Salomon, Volapük, Miriodor, Guigou Chenevier among them.  Naturally, there are also various other recordings of Samla Mammas Manna, Zamla Mammaz Manna and Von Zamla.  Sonic Asymmetry will return to these one day with great pleasure.


Hollmer is also a member of the international combo Accordion Tribe.  His classic compositions belong to the band’s repertoire, showcasing slightly different arrangements.  The last of the three CDs is more Hollmer-heavy.


ACCORDION TRIBE: “Accordion Tribe” (1996)

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Sea of Reeds” (2001-02)

ACCORDION TRIBE: “Lunghorn Twist” (2005)

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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NON CREDO: “Impropera” ******


Recorded 2006


The duo of LA-based drummer Joseph Berardi and singer and multi-instrumentalist Kira Vollman first surfaced in the late 1980s.  After early experiments for vocal and percussion, they began to explore a richer palette of sounds, incorporating accordion, cello, clarinets, keyboards, viola, marimba, bass and radio.  Such was their thirst for chromatic wealth that the duo apparently tried to broaden the format by co-opting other musicians, an attempt that eventually failed. 


Their strength lies in Kyra Vollman’s capricious vocalizations rooted in the heritage of musical theater and the traditions pre-dating 19th century bel canto.  But her classically trained vocal ability strays often onto operatic arias, haunting siren songs, menacing lectures – all delivered at a clip elusive even for an attentive ear.  The sound perfectionism is achieved through ample access to the duo’s Zauberklang studio.  The textural wealth of their material belies the predominantly improvisation-based musical creativity.


This is musica di camara moderna of the highest order.  It was, therefore, with great pleasure that the globally dispersed audience welcomed the long delayed update on Non Credo’s oeuvre.




Prima Punta

Carried by an orderly harpsichord continuo, Kyra Vollman commences her recitativo secco.  Her classically trained voice, laid against the spiky keyboard strokes, inevitably brings comparisons to Opus Avantra.  But when her clean, lyric soprano goes arioso, she is more dramatic and serious than Donella del Monaco ever was.  The aria decelerates exhibiting her light, flexible tone.


8 Bit Whore

This is the first time Joseph Berardi unleashes his flaring matrix of samples and percussion.  Entering with a snare drum he will refocus our attention like a magician.  This is a blindfold test that even the most attentive listener will struggle with.  First an old, edgy jazz trumpet emerges from Berardi’s keyboard-induced samples.  When exotica congas begin their jabber we are transported to the cigar-filled dens of early 1950s Cuba.  Dark piano arpeggios do not disrupt the quick runs of a damned, wild rumba.  An atmosphere of Santeria jazz is further bolstered by sampled tenor saxophone.  Over this plethora of references, only a live bass clarinet makes some brief, free commentaries.  Do not expect it to sing in Spanish…


Hubris and Greed

An engaging contrast sets in between wild, obsessive woodpecking and indifferent humming.  Vollman whispers a text about a miser bum – formerly a failed stand-up comic.  She conveys this rather sad story with no compassion, on the contrary – there are shades of spite.  The doorway cracks, opening the way to traumatic giallo of groovy Italian films.  These samples approach the innocuous suspension of a vintage Ennio Morricone or Piero Piccioni.  Vollman’s recites the text with a low-pitched, critical, almost perverse voice which contrasts with her trained, clear vocalizations. 


Bella Donna

Dull, deadpan thuds and backwardated buzz reach us from Berardi’s sample bank.  In a display of melismatic virtuosity, Vollman the Witch meets here her operatic persona. 


Trouser Role

For a fraction of a moment, a Philip Jeck-like old record scratching suffocates us with ample color of the bygone era – lupine, vermillion, chamois, ochre.  Vollman’s exuberant vocal show ranges from contralto rapping scat and non-descript coloratura to extortionate theatrical firecrackers.  Her range is so extreme and the transitions appear so latex-smooth that Shelley Hirsch’s early experiments come to mind.


Faux Afro

Vollman’s bass clarinet is left here alone, struggling with sampled, mechanic, piston and cylinder cum bass sample, known from Marie Goyette’s exquisite recordings.  Given the slightly minimalist background, the bass clarinet soundpainting evokes John Surman’s electronic period, even though the sound palette is very different here.  The track ends up on a pyre.


Deep, Deep Down

Again the affected, exorbitantly accentuated story-telling reminds us of Shelly Hirsch.  Kyra Vollman goes guttural, jumps over to fricatives, nearly chokes on ingressives, excels in oval vocalizations, then gargles and regurgitates duck-like semi-diphthongs.  All along an organ sympathizes with the vocal boneless wonder. 


Via Nino

This time Berardi offers us sampled strings.  In itself, such a trite proceeding could almost lull us into somnolence, but there is a novelty here – a    m e l o d y.  The suspense is (again) redolent of Italian film style of 1960s and 1970s.  Even though the rhythmic buoyancy tends to fingerpoint mirth, the actual vocal effect is haunting and intimidating.  Vollman’s vocal strings rise so effortlessly that the texture pleads for some friction.  Graters and metal gongs are au service, bringing back a more terrestrial atmosphere. 


Heaven Help Us

A tight, nervous, mysterious cry for help with Vollman officiating in two roles – a naïve one and an experienced one.  Some metallic clang and a refined basso underpin this modern cantata.


Interval One

A babble arises from a crowd.  A crankshaft volunteers a clank: “Clank”. 



Sicka Siam

This second movement of “Impropera” begins simplistically, with a rhythm machine and a melodica.  Clobbered, marching music depicts a nightmarish vision of person locked up in Bangkok “on trumped up charges”.  A guitar, crawling ad libitum, responds with jangles while the bass clarinet performs over a sampled piano form.  The melodica swishes back.  Despite a very contemporary production, it is here that we recognize Kyra Vollman from her prudish-sounding debuts some 20 years before.  A string-like sample eventually takes over, cut up to pieces by the melodica’s flat-footed, pathetically constrained, plastic improvisation. 


Stock and Trade

Another diplay of vocal Fireworks from Vollman.  Bubbly, gaseous electronics is overpowered by a thorny effect – as if someone let a metal bar hit running wheel spokes.  Jaded warnings echo “nothing new”.  Samples glue distant drumming and a barely perceptible groans.


Sleeping Beauty

This is a depressing story of abandon – with a devastatingly simple, horrifying electronic pulse that occasionally triggers log drumming.  Vollman’s impudent recitativo seamlessly yields to soprano arias.  Her demoniac whisper spits out some macabre lines.  It seems that the bass clarinet parts are little more than an extension of her considerable vocal techniques.  In any case, her staccato tonguings appear to indicate it. 


Odor of Sanctity

More inertial, expansive bass clarinet lays out its dusty souvenirs without urge.  Vollman’s treatment is first breathy, then moves to a fuller tone, particularly impressive in the mid-range.  The samples showcase furtive strumming, augmented by Bernardi on long drums.  The clarinet’s tremolo rides epicycles around sampled Byzantine touches.  This is Non Credo at its most atmospheric and ill-bient. 


Interval Two

In a dreary, industrialized repetition metallic wrenches hit some object regularly, while backward tapes collect distorted voices. 



Faux Cazzo

“Impropera’s” third movement begins with dilated, kimberlite prepared piano chords, ladle-full of Cageian nostalgia (“Sonatas and Interludes”).  Manifold keyboard sheets are overlaid, some muted, some metallic, accompanied by shell-shocked percussive blasts.  Meanwhile, Vollman impersonates a seductive siren from an aquatic, Greek myth.  Detonating rhythms distract her into a baritone-like phrasing, even though her voice cannot reach that pitch. 


Laptop Dance

A tabla sample was clearly picked for the dud resonance rather than intricate Indian meters.  Rotary patterns let the music flow slowly, despite all the fluttering, honking or factory sirens.  Sirens?  Well, not really.  When the sample is allowed to fan out fully, it proves to be a jazz big band.  It is an eerily familiar sequence, but I cannot recognize the source (if you can – please leave a comment below – I am not going to venture a guess that this is Count Basie).  Vollman’s bass clarinet improvises all along, which is formally captivating; bass clarinets usually bend easily and do not have a projection that allows them to come to the fore from a full big band backing.  The prepared piano returns, in an emotional, malleable moment.  So does the washboard. 


Vienna Fingers

The track opens with a marching snare drum.  But the jolt comes from the castanets’ sticky kiss.  Vollman’s detached vocalizations turn into angry complaints about “a lie”.  Then a trio of harpsichord, castanets and snares prepares the ground for operatic soprano aria.  Glockenspiel’s transparent tinge seeps through it all.  In her insolence-inspiring martial whispers Vollman tends to sound Germanic – her consonants are devoiced and stilted, vowels angular and glottal.  Is it a pastiche?  Not more than American actors’ performance in some of the older “Second World War” movies.



This epilogue takes us back to harpsichord continuo and recitativo secco from the opening.  Upon reflection, Vollman’s dramatic mannerism probably brings her reaches an octave higher than the Italian counterpart, referred to at the beginning.  The harpsichord is too busy to be just a classic obbligato.  Rather, its arpeggiated ad-lib facets evoke the instrument’s rebirth parented by modern virtuosi and their partners – the 20th century composers. 




For a ‘band’ whose productions have been appearing for 20 years, the total output has been relatively thin.  Of the three official CD, I consider their last one as the most accomplished. 


NON CREDO: “Reluctant Host” (1988)

NON CREDO: “Happy Wretched Family” (1992-1994)

NON CREDO: “Impropera” (2006)


Non Credo’s tracks can also be found on several compilations, such as “Bad Alchemy Nr 11” and “Poetic Silhouettes”. 


Prior to forming Non Credo, Berardi played in a quirky art-pop combo Fibonaccis.  They have left behind several recordings, the most prominent of which bears some resemblance to Non Credo’s early format:


FIBONACCIS: “Civilization and its Discotheques” (1987)


Both Vollman and Berardi have been appearing in numerous other formations – Fat and Fucked Up, Kraig Grady, Punishment Cookies (she), Double Naught Spy Car, Obliteration Quartet, Eastside Sinfonietta (he).  Although the duo has apparently contributed music to many films and performances, none of this material is currently publicly available. 


Published in: on July 4, 2008 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” ****


Recorded 2006, 2007



The juicy name and squelchy logo hide the considerable talent of keyboard player Dirk Jan Müller who since the early 1990s has been recording increasingly inspired jams in volatile constellations.  But mid-1990s he was joined by guitarist Dirk Bittner, but it took several more years before the core of the currently active band took shape.


Electric Orange seeks inspiration in the long tradition of rock jamming, but often straying from the well-trodden format into unexpectedly hooked arrangements and exploratory parentheses.  For all those who miss the extraordinary inventiveness of German music over a generation ago, Electric Orange brings a whiff of fresh air, albeit with an aura of healthy déjà vu.


Unfortunately, the musicians insist on filling the available CD space with some marginal material, which somewhat mars the coherence of the sets.





We are transported into the unconscious world of childhood memories filled with amusement park hubbub – merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, cheesy itinerant businesses.  Regrettably, this evocative anaphora leads nowhere…  Sudden assault comes from a tribal drumming circle that flails its way indefatigably with the hoof-like precision.  Jagging guitar sound and a Hammond-soundalike localize the ghosts of their stylistic patrons.  An extraordinary power emanates from the band – unwavering, tight and compressed.  When the organ begins to chuckle on its own bobsled ride, the Second Hand’s supreme “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” comes to mind.  The potent chug-along is vibrant and jubilant, quite unlike the title (“delusion”). 


Rote Flocken

Electronic hairpin serpentines open with pre-recorded, tinny voices in heraus-pronounced German.  The organ cradles us in a comfy rut allowing the guitars to explore various registers.  Snippets of distorted recitation probe the über-conventional organ & guitar riffing.  Impotent trumpet, piano strings, unidentifiable samples and percussive glimmer penetrate the herringbone structure of this track. 


Span 5

In a natural segue, a more resonant guitar grit punctures the trippy organ – bass – drumset perfection.  The crystal clear mix allows our senses to tune into the various guitar pitches simultaneously.  On top of the range, distant wah-wah scrambles for attention in a patchy cooperation with eerily evocative organ (Dirk Jan Müller must have grown up on young Richard Wright’s fastidious harmonizing).  Silvo Franolic’s cymbal splashes pile up layers of dense cloud formations.  The rest of the band needs to soar above these vigorous explosions.  And soar it does.



The title track sounds like a tribute to Brainticket’s organ-led vortex, spinning tenaciously with the ease of “Cottonwoodhill” and taking us for a whirring steamroller ride.  Deposits of annunciatory voices are laid behind these gyrations, while a strained, pentatonic recorder bores holes in this cylindrical domain.  A full-scale guitar cum organ convulsion bursts in flames, only to reveal the unstoppable magmatic flow.  Screechy recorders will have the last word.



Initially, the organ, guitar, bass and drums quartet adopts a more leisurely, trotting pace.  In a monumental entrée, the rhythm section veers off towards the ecstasy of vertigo-inducing passages.  Tom Rückwald appears on bowed acoustic bass, doubled on choir-emulating mellotron.  Silvio Franolic treats his plump drums and tinkling cymbals with measured, downy mallets.  Bittner’s voice is full of painful agony, but despite its menacing quality, the uncanny, tubular vocal carries also crosstextual messages from a long-lost pedigree (e.g. Silberbart, 2066 & Then).  Mellotron’s fake celestial strings close this pleasant déjà entendu



Acoustic guitar succumbs to a sound forest of hand drums, cortales, and thrown coins.  A funky interaction arises from the thumping electric bass and teasing soft rolls harvested with brushes by the drummer.  The band unleashes sonic debris – stereotyped ‘Bahnhof’ announcements, flippant effects from someone’s oral cavity, persuasive girls, manual tooth brushing, an old-time alarm clock, an electric shaver.  But underneath, this is but a circular funky rondo – a fairly conventional musical joke.



We are now almost on a midsummer, Latin party terrain.  When the initial frenzy clears, a female voice adapts to the reigning climactic condition.  The hyperactive, but harmless, blithe beach guitars are reminiscent of latter-day Can’s dubious explorations into oases of rhythmic optimism.  Several isolated notes on a Spanish guitar shut this chapter.



After this 2-track parenthesis, the mood turns again, courtesy a threatening harmonium.  This catatonic instrument, rescued from oblivion 30 years ago by Univers Zero, is accompanied here by an intimate guitar, organ, drums and flute.  Electric Orange brings yet other memories of their nation’s formative Blütezeit.  The way the dispassionate recitation has been mixed in brings to mind the declamations by Walter Wegmüller or Sergius Golowin.  Acoustic bass and breathy flute frame the structure, supported by molten organ, much like early Gila – both in gesture and in form. 



First, vitreous sound of unknown provenience.  Next, a very international sound of a noisy schoolyard.  Then, sustained bass notes and mysterious harmonium gear the band to inchoate harmonic trajectory.  All these attempts are instantly spoiled by monorhythmic swelling and an angular organ chord.  This is a disappointing moment – the band creates anticipation that it does not live up to for several long minutes.  The prominence of the organ layer does not allow the muscular rhythm section to generate a punch worthy of Neu’s “Negativland” or Glenn Branca’s “Ascension”.  And even then, the idea would have been epigonic.  When Bittner’s singing breaks in, one is seriously puzzled – not sure if this is a parody, a dance number or a piece of failed space rock trapped in the troposphere and unable to overcome earthly gravity.  The harmonium and synthesizer fail to save the day, as the formulaic, isometric pounding is never too far behind. 



This is a ballad for acoustic guitar and bass, delivered with a slightly distorted, rippling voice.  The apparent ingredients are there (mellotron, and flute), but the tune correlates poorly with the stronger moments on this CD. 



Crippling electronic intro yields to an official pre-announcement worthy of West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.  Fast bongo runs and a pulsating bass leave much space – enough for the organ and guitar to accentuate the beat.  Each time the guitar repeats its two-chord routine, the bongo woodpecker wakes up.  Additional distortion is provided by simmering synthesizer effects. 



Waves of low amplitude electronics wash on a sailboat fitted with organ and bass.  A toned down organ coupled with Josef Ahns’ ascending flute legato has many precedents: Ove Volquartz of Annexus Quam (“Beziehungen”), Herb Geller of Brave New World (“Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley”) or Rainer Büchel of Ibliss (“Supernova”).  This engaging opening gives way to sub-Saharan hand drum and echoplexed guitar, with the organ ensuring further continuity.  In the final bars, a highly pitched guitar improvises until the final cut. 






ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Electric Orange” (1992-1993)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Orange Commutation” (1993-1994)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Cyberdelic” (1995)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Abgelaufen” (2001)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Platte” (2003)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Fleischwerk” (2004-2005)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” (2006-2007)


I have not heard the first three positions.  The general impression is that the band’s inventiveness has progressed on the most recent CDs.  “Morbus” was mastered by Eroc, krautrock’s ultimate studio joker.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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ONE STARVING DAY: “Broken Wings Lead Arms to the Sun” ***


Recorded 2002


One Starving Day stand out among the new league of Italian bands which struggle to find their own musical idiolect in the intense urban traffic of contemporary avant-rock influences. 


The quintet, founded by Pasquale Foresti (vocals, samples and bass), includes Marco Milucci (guitar), Francesco Gregoretti (drums), Andrea Bocchetti (guitar) and Dario Foresti (synthesizer, samples and vocals). 


Critics usually shower One Starving Day with any number of labels affixed by such nifty terms as “post-“, “sludge-“, “doom-“ and such like.  None of these help to analyze the sound achieved on the band’s first full-length CD.  Whatever category One Starving Day falls into, the band reaches the high water mark.  Through the mutually dependent forces of attraction and repulsion, the musicians achieved a rare equilibrium between the aesthetics of abysmal ugliness and intumescent restraint. 




Black Star Aeon

Dario Foresti unleashes sequenced electronic stitches that loom and vanish repeatedly like slowing rotors of an unidentifiable flying device.  Sustained organ coatings and low-range buzz almost transport us to long oxidized Teutonic shores of Sand, Code III and Cosmic Couriers.  Bowed guitar and splashy cymbal overtones eventually hit the road.  An infernal machine awakens slowly from its catacomb, steadily lurching forward with delicate acoustic guitar cupids fluttering around.  Crunching guitars under its paws, the beast sniffs around before advancing further, oiled by sampled strings and achromatic synthesizer.  A repugnant, noctilucent growl penetrates this gruesome, outlandish imagery.  The drummer thumps out liquefied life forms from the monstrous apparition.  Along with deep, intimidating bass rumbles and sustained cybernotes, Francesco Gregoretti is solely responsible for solidifying the stationary bridges between the anguished stanzas. 


Secret Heart

Cello-like scale passages provide a suspenseful invitation into this dusky, pictorial piece.  Phlegmatically and unenthusiastically, a rich inventory of tones is stockpiled by the guitars, the synthesizer and the samples, all dipped into the solution of buzzing molasses.  From the didactic electric static, there emerges a guitar line and a menacing mid-tempo rhythm section.  Mushy surface swivels from the self-serving synthesizer.  Finally, the stately guitars strut forward like larger-than-life totems.


Fate Drainer

Unobtrusive electric guitar plants linear seeds in a frail, vulnerable groove.  The painstaking sowing is observed by sampled strings, and a rising crescendo from the other instruments.  Pasquale Foresti’s recitation is barely audible, but it does add a creepy sense of foreboding.  The band then changes direction, throttling back and eventually locking in the twin guitars in a comforting melodiousness.  Mutated, dissonant shouting and vocal altercations quickly subvert this open-sky ambience until a cosmic pause sets in with abrasive, plasmatic keyboard work and sustained organ notes.  The full band then offers a reprise of the initial theme.  Anguished, paranoid vocal turns this into an unexpectedly traumatic experience. 



Hand percussion and strummed bass tug each other hesitantly, spied on by a synthesized swirl.  The languorous pace and the dulled mix of the sluggish rhythm section here may be responsible for the inexorable comparisons with Godspeed You Black Emperor.  But in stark contrast to the Canadian formation, the Italian band juxtaposes a piano sound and sample strings with the leader’s unnerving, calamitous vocal nihilism.  As usual, the structure of the track is broken and a more introspective section relies on skin caning and birching, with some ruffled synthi sound interwoven into the infrastructure.  Back on stage, Marco Milucci’s and Andrea Borchetti’s guitars slog their way in a more eloquent and less pedantic fashion. 


Silver Star Domain

A frigid, apathetic piano solo struggles with its own parapraxes.  It does not attempt to correct them and for a moment the circular repetition brings to mind Corrupted’s most Pharaonic labyrinths.  Instead, Dario Foresti allows for the theme to evolve naturally, in a liturgic, elegiac fashion.  Raw, uninspired synthesizer peers somewhere from above…




This is so far the band’s only full-length recording.  Other compositions appeared also on samplers – “Emo Diaries 7” and “The Silent Ballet Compilation Series”, neither of which I have heard.  Apparently a new CD has been in gestation for a while. 


ONE STARVING DAY: “Broken Wings Lead Arms to the Sun” (2002)


Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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André DUCHESNE: “Cordes à danser… Suite Saguenayenne” ******


Recorded 2005-2006



André Duchesne is a giant of musique Québecoise.  His breezy, melodic compositions betray his guitar technique – buoyant, gleeful, ludic, even nonchalant.  But his penchant for rich, modern orchestration adds layers of hatched lines, pleasantly distracting the listener from the basic chord structure. 


Duchesne’s art is representational, but also emotional.  Yet for all their intensity, the emotions that his music exudes are never extreme – the melodic narrative is alternatively hurried (but not stressed), uplifting (but not ecstatic), somber (but not depressed), sorrowful (but not distressed), expectant (but not overly confident). 


He first gained fame for his intricate classical guitar interplays on Conventum’s LPs in late 1970s.  To this day, these recordings remain a classic of chamber rock.  Since 1984 onwards, thanks to Montreal’s legendary Ambiances Magnétiques label, Duchesne regularly revisits our unconscious with his ornate instrumentals and impromptu chansons. 



Saguenay Country Club

The track surfaces on a hard-driven, guitar-led jazz run.  The conventional expectations are dashed when Stéphane Allard’s violin sweeps in with fluent touches.  Allard’s tone is brighter than Leroy Jenkins’s and here lies the novelty of this juxtaposition.  We are then served with Duchesne’s trademark, high-pitched electric guitar.  Allard is joined by the rest of the string quartet (Mélanie Bélair, Jean René, Christine Giguère), which complicates things – the strings seem to be gliding across, rather than along the metric advance.  The band pauses shortly for some atonal pizzicato and isolated up-bow fragments.  A solo on a buzzy guitar follows, and a conversation with violin terminates this first invitation to “Cordes à danser”.


Mon pays c’est une shop

A mellow guitar line, supported by strings opens an indeterminate but rosy theme propelled by an agile bass-drum section.  A repetitive pattern sets in, building up tension through string quartet’n’drum interplay, thus allowing the guitar to improvise freely.  Pierre Tanguay will also throw in his precious 3 Canadian cents on skins solo.  The sanguine, tuneful theme then sees some evolution in synchronous lead by the guitar and le quatuor à cordes. 


Cowboy ahuri dans une forêt de cheminées

The high range guitar buzz splashes tenebrous daubings with appropriately contrived sustain.  Slowly, a crescendo rises, hammered up by monometric drum and bass.  The string quartet first contents itself with mere responses, but then Jean René’s viola makes wistful comments on its own.  Buzzing guitar and the violins instill some drama into murky thundering until sampled crackle’n’noise switches it off.


Jumper le train de Robervay Saguenay

The guitar maintains just enough sustain to live up to unison requirements posed by the strings.  Then they bifurcate: the strings slide to and fro and the guitar adopts a more pristine timbre with a sense of a train-like urgency.  One wonders if this is not a quotation from Duchesne’s own “Locomotive”, albeit augmented here by the nimble quatuor.  Once again the rhythm section of Patrick Hamilton and Pierre Tanguay is tight and disciplined.  The “train” progresses smoothly, leaving behind a light, lyrical touch.


Boues rouges (lacs de bauxite)

Enter wah-wah guitar and a harmonic bass.  The violins’ clear, E-string focus leaves the center range unoccupied, which makes the projection of the bubbly guitar so much more prominent.  Tanguay remains very discrete here, surreptitiously bolstered by another rhythm guitar track.  The wah-wah meanders, letting the quartet fall into a succession of serene glissandos. 


Ca serait plaisant si les quananiches étaient éternelles

Tabla and a more insistent quartet drag us into a decisive, forceful combination of repetitive, soft guitar mélange.  The track rides on unassumingly, based on multilayered guitars and violins’ springtime interventions. 


Autant de lunois que de linge sur la corde à linge

Changement du décor: orientalizing strings’ gabled notes wrap around Middle Eastern darabukke’s dry fingerprints.  The notes, bent and mangled are cut halfway through the meter.  The guitars merely add a gossamer web of harmonic perspective.  This the realm of Light Rain minus the frenzy of Levantine skin galore.  Overlaid guitar tracks make it however much more than a Paul Klee-like reminiscence of Maghrebian deserts.  A lustrous guitar alternates with the strings.  A scorching guitar whittles down. 


Des cheminées des cheminées des cheminées

All participants are pinned down by three sustained guitar notes, engraved repeatedly against the evanescent, wavelike string background.  A promissory drumset remind us of Duchesne’s vintage orchestral scores in the late 1980s.  The three-note tidbit echoes on and on, as if sampled.  The restrained, almost taciturn live guitar will test the limits of the format, with colorful, dramatic tones squeezed out from the instrument’s neck.  This research will eventually cede to a fast-picked guitar fragment that closes this track.


Kénogami grisaille

Jean René conducts the string section into a more mobile, tensile performance.  The violins are scored against the duo of viola and cello, or against cello solo (Christine Giguère).  The quatuor advances ably, wheeled on by Pierre Tanguay’s circularly shaped instruments and snappy bass.  A gargling guitar shortly chips in.  Then the drumming stops and the strings plunge into some very contemporary atonality.  It is all clipped much to soon.


Naître jonquière (un vendredi soir, après le souper)

At the beginning, the strings perform a purely rhythmic role, but with none of the manic attacks of early Art Zoyd.  Instead, a rebellious guitar tells a story.  When it begins to sizzle, the motif is instantly taken over by the first violin – hats off to the mixing engineer (the author himself) for synchronizing this effect with guitars recorded almost a year after the strings. 


Route 175 (à défaut de)

The final and longest composition on this record introduces us to a sustained high note from the strings and some muffled drum arrhythmia.  Two guitars – one mellow and narrative, and one incandescent and searing appear somewhat oblivious to each other.  The former will tell a us story, the latter will circulate around us like an annoying insect.  Another guitar track with Arabian overtones procures additional pigmentation to the pleasantly advancing cause.  Suddenly there are more guitar participants – a trembling “mandolin” among them.  It is up to Patrick Hamilton to keep the pace, as Tanguay occasionally forays into intra-meter hand figures on his skins.  The main guitar-led narrative alternates between childlike why-regress, through solitary ruminations to proud harangues.  The stately strings, as if cognizant of the imminent closure, surge like a chorus in a Greek drama, soaring with pathos. 




André Duchesne’s records fall into three categories – richly arranged instrumentals, pensive songbooks and solo guitar excursions.  He also formed a number of guitar formations, the most famous of which was Apocalypso Bar in the late 1980s.  Of his output, I particularly strongly recommend his first, poetic solo LP as well as the guitar quartets and the last two – albeit very different – collections from this decade.


André DUCHESNE: “Le temps de bombes” (1984)

Les QUATRE GUITARISTES DE l’APOCALYPSO BAR: “Tournée mondiale” (1987)


André DUCHESNE: “L’ou’l.  Concerto pour un compositeur solitaire” (1989)

André DUCHESNE: “Le royaume ou l’asile” (1988-1990)

LOCOMOTIVE: “Locomotive” (1992)

André DUCHESNE: “Réflexions” (1999)

André DUCHESNE: “Polaroïdes” (2000-2001)

André DUCHESNE: “Cordes à danser… suite Saguenayenne” (2005-2006)

André DUCHESNE: “Arrêter les machines” (2006)


Duchesne’s music can also be heard on a number of festival sets and compilations, such as: “Association pour la diffusion de musiques ouvertes Vol.1”, “Ré Records Quarterly Vol.1 No.4”, “Festival MIMI’87”, “Une théorie des ensembles”, “Ambiances magnétiques vol.3 Inédits”, “Ambiances magnétiques vol.5 Chante!”, “Super Boom”.  Few of these compositions can also be found on his solo records.




Recorded 2000


Las orejas y la lengua are an Argentine band created around the core formed by Diego Kazmierski (keyboards), Nicolàs Diab (bass, guitar) and Fernando de la Vega (drums, percussion).  On their two recordings they showed a penchant for unconventional marriage of underdeveloped melodic themes embedded in richly orchestrated but highly sequential arrangements.  The succession of pleasantly interwoven topics betrays their hankering toward approachable aesthetics, which sometimes clashes with the more defiant fragments anchored in avant-prog tradition. 


High-quality production and wealth of original ideas have so far protected the band from become a derivative of this international genre.  One can hope that further successful recordings will see the light of the day.



Eufòrico Tribilìn

A powerful flute’n’rhythm section attack instantly awakens our musical taste buds.  In two short sections, the stop-go regularity fades away before monotony sets in.  This is when a retroactive, meaty guitar introduces a starkly nonlinear fragment with highly selective cymbal playing and a thunderous, almost inert electric bass.  Diego Suàrez’s flute penetration is supreme, particularly in the middle range.  Diego Kazmierski adds some bandoneon samples, but they are barely recognizable owing to speed treatment.  Several olas of dilating flute, bass and percussion will close our first encounter with the band.



Carried triumphantly by the excitable duo of piccolo and acoustic piano, the circus-like intro is stripped down to Cartoon-style basics.  Inevitably, the piano penetrates the free jazz land while the Fernando de la Vega’s drumming pre-figures the manual inventiveness of Bad Plus’s David King.  Soon after, the piano and bass figure bring back the memories of Steely Dan’s “Ricky Don’t Lose that Number”, sans the actual theme.  The flute playing, warm and mostly legato is somewhat reminiscent of J.D. Parran immortalized on Anthony Davis’s classic recordings.  Halfway through, another free section kicks in, this time entirely dependent on dampening piano pedals and a snaking flute.  Melodic, high-pitched electric bass and easily legible drumset rescue the track from the morass.  Sharper flute tonguings appear in a-rhythmic combination with the volatile rhythm section.  When the dynamics commences to glow again, the synthesizer turns the hitherto ribboned texture into a more evenly planar arrangement. 



This begins with a clanking, almost ‘North American folk’ acoustic guitar.  But this will not be John Fahey’s tribute.  The drummer and organist join in a now-you-hear-now-you-don’t pattern.  Nicolàs Diab’s bows his acoustic bass martelé style until the incipient melodic figure recurs.



Here we are confronted with an exceedingly lazy, Ry Coodish electric guitar and bells.  By way of contrast, the samples thrown into this idleness could be sourced from an operating room.  But it is dangerous to listen in closely because sudden eruption of guitar pounds forward, Steve Tibbetts’ style (limited grit, measured sustain).  After another intersection with low-key samples, a more ‘doom metallic’ guitar section crashes into an electronic echo.  In a swift progression of astonishing moods, we quickly move over to a bass & rim shot sequence.  In a pivotal moment reminiscent of Metabolist’s LP “Hansten klork”, the tempo accelerates illicitly, though time will run out for another guitar eruption.


Verònica G.

The groove is burrowed here by a stable cooperation of the electric bass, guitar, measured rim shots and hi-hat.  Will the groove erode?  Or will it flick over its momentum onto another structural lattice?  We have already learned the lesson not to trust the quieter passages.  However, this time, the dynamic progression is gradual, almost imperceptible.  A synthesized harmonic glissando expands behind, without affecting the core groove.  The flute swivels with just enough echo, a little like in Dom’s unforgettable “Edge of Time”.  Goofy samples – female backward singing – perfectly wound into the harmony and fall neatly within the beat. 


Ahora sì, chau

Another track which begins with the flavored acoustic guitar.  Its zither-like jangle is almost “pretty”.  Droll ping pong samples and radio static sounds could make it a tongue-in-cheek interlude penned by Albert Marcoeur.


Hermanas colgantes

We first hear car-less street noise samples – multiple human steps, playing children, voices.  This is Nicolas Diab’s tour de force and he appears in three roles at once – on a juicy bass guitar, a melodious Rhodes piano, and the acoustic bass played confusingly high, sul tasto on G-string.  The flute flutters over and above the piano and drum frames.  Dias mistreats his electric bass, testing its low-end capabilities by squeezing the far end of the neck.  Then the Hammond steps in, but its threat is distilled by the flute’s softening presence.  The mood darkens as this 12-note section repeats a dozen times.  Finally, a classicist coda with flute and piano terminates this honest, unpretentious piece. 


Disposable Blood Oxigenator

Hearing a dolorous glockenspiel with bass and a flute, one could be excused for recollecting Nino Rota’s poignant “Casanova” soundtrack.  Here, the band will not dwell on such throwbacks.  Instead, it engages the Hammond organ and acoustic bass con legno, where the strings are tapped with the wood side of the bow.  But the tension is quickly released by the flute and organ theme, saucily contacted by the bent (fretless?) bass guitar.  Rattling xylophone (Fernando de la Vega) will be a belated invitee to this concoction. 


La autopsia de Sandoval

This slow-metered composition first demands a construction of a full-range hexahedron supported by the bass and covered with the flute.  But they no sooner build the structure than it is stripped down to the hi-hat and very quiet bass.  Even this calm is premature.  The Hammond organ adopts a role well known from Italian movie scores by Piero Piccioni or Armando Trovajoli.  The flute now has a lot of space to improvise on top.  Sudden accelerations of the Hammond/flute duo constitute an interesting update on Supersister’s classic sound.  But Diego Suarez is more intrusive than Sacha van Geest ever was and the rhythm section really lives in the 21st century.  The last section is a painstaking rock hymn with piccolo doing its best to live up to the Italian tradition. 


Còrdoba, Oscar

Another heated, crawling entrée, spiced with static à la Fennesz.  This is soon interrupted by a rhythm section and multi-tracked voices of the musicians pronouncing the name of the Argentina’s second largest city.  Quick guitar arpeggios with a military drum roll invite even more diverse vocal versions of “Còrdoba”, each closed by a brief synthesizer section.  In quick succession, Spanish voices cut in, disorienting the listener.  Men and women, old and young appear in dozens of cameo roles, pushing the instruments into the distance. 




The band has published two CDs and nothing new has reached the broader audience for almost a decade.  They are, apparently, still active and have augmented their line-up with a violinist. 


LAS OREJAS Y LA LENGUA: “La eminencia inobjetable” (1996)

LAS OREJAS Y LA LENGUA: “Error” (2000)

Published in: on June 18, 2008 at 3:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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DATE COURSE PENTAGON ROYAL GARDEN: “Report from Iron Mountain” ******


Recorded 2001


Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden were a revelation of the first half of this decade.  Born after the break-up of deservedly regretted Tipographica, DCPRG were a bold idea of part-time Ground Zero reed player Naruyoshi Kikuchi.  For the early sessions he brought along the legend of Yoshihide Otomo, who officiated on the first two CDs.  But DCPRG were much more than another Otomo-related project.  Far from the polymetric intricacies of Tipographica, the large-scale orchestration sought inspiration in electric Miles period of early 1970s, heavy funk music and South American fusion.  If that concoction could sound almost conventional 30 years on, it was anything but.  The innovative use of samples, the enterprising gravity of the swashbuckling rhythm section and efflorescent production set DCPRG apart from other bands keen to capitalize on the unexpected funk revival. 


In the later productions, Otomo was absent and DCPRG expanded its horn section, entering a futuristic jazz-funk territory for adventurous ears.  It is hoped that the band will return to studio at some point.



Catch 22

There is something about the greatest of all records.  This “something” is how they begin.  The eponymous “Faust”, the third Motor Totemist Guild, Area’s “Arbeit macht frei”, Lussier-Lepage “Chants et danses du monde inanime”, Volapük’s “Where Is Tamashii?” are among them…  The unforgettable shock of our confrontation with the sudden agglomeration of ideas compressed into several short sequences…  “Report from the Iron Mountain” rings up in this shortlist.  The spine-chilling “I’m Something Special” thrown into our earlobes by a clueless princess so poorly adapted to life in the real world provides for a startling auditory jolt from which no English-hearing listener will recover throughout this engaging collection.  But the band does recover: an electric piano and a dense percussive equivalent of a musical coral reef will carry us through a lazy, unquenchable funk.  Listeners compare this percussive overgrowth to electric-era Miles Davis and especially his more oriental moments.  There no little doubt that Masaki Yoshimi’s cavalier tabla is the main culprit here.  The groovy figure on the leading electric piano (most probably the leader Naruyoshi Kikuchi) operates at a contrived delay to the reigning rhythmic compressor: tabla, sizzling electronics, bass, drums.  The sampled, clueless voice of a spoiled American female recurs with abandon.  In response, a wild, dingy alto sax lashes out obsessively.  The electric guitar interferes with long sustain, but the futuristic machine advances on a perfectionist tripod of drums, electric bass and the ubiquitous tabla.  Yoshihide Otomo’s solo guitar is slightly gritty, located somewhere in the 1970s transpacific tradition, almost independent of the obtrusive rhythmic, orogenic compressor.  After 6 minutes of this delectable progression, an explosion of free noise alerts us to a different serving from the guitar/organ duo (Kohki Takai/Masayuki Tsuboguchi).  The monstrous rhythm section rushes forward, with opportunistic decoys calling on.  But the machine can be easily immobilized: short drum solos interfere, immersed in sudden, disorienting silence.  After another free noise avalanche, it’s one of those classic guitar moments.  “Tell me when it’s over” declaims the clueless lady.  It is over, though.


Play Mate at Hanoi

What a relief.  After this hard-driven deal, this next track welcomes us with a Latin rhythm clanked up on woodblocks.  The synthesizer improvises on top, heavily dependent on pedal-generated bass lines.  Tinny cowbells add accents off the main beat and the radiant organ doubles, but not quite harmonically.  Only when twangy guitar à la Reggie Lucas pays a visit, does the entire rhythm section fall into a “samba falsa” groove.  Soprano sax is too shrill to compare it to David Liebman’s, but its electronic amplification and slight echo are certainly redolent of the mid-1970s drug-enhanced Davis combo.  Here, the saxophone is very agile and blends perfectly while retaining inductive projection.  When we suddenly jump into a funky line – almost Isaac Hayes’s “Shaft” – Kenta Tsugami’s soprano saxophone goes cyber-jazzy.  Finally a 15-note theme appears on reeds and synthesizer.  The wayward soprano departs from the groupthink as soon as it has rejoined.  In full flight, a Korg/guitar duo takes over the first 7 notes from the resampled theme.  Gosekky’s tenor saxophone will supply here a more ‘modern jazz’ color, but the richly chromatic rhythm section (Masaki Kurihara, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, Nobuo Fujii, Gen Oogimi, Itoken), thickens the texture, especially when reinforced by electronic reversals.  Two guitars (Y.Otomo & K.Takai) improvise separately against Kurihara’s repetitive bass line.  The tabla re-appears, and then we are exposed to a cheesy Korg plunging into a high range hijacked from children’s TV programs.  By now the groove has grown into an excellent dance piece.  If Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” was remade today, the final dance hall scenes would surely require the participation of Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden. 



This enigmatically entitled track is a bossa nova for electric guitar and a groovy clavinet.  I find it astounding how often Japanese avant-garde musicians relate to this musical format.  From Toshiaki Yokota’s “Flute Adventure”, through After Dinner’s “Sepia Ture” to Yoganants’ most recent “Bethlehem”, the relaxed musica da praia has enthralled the Japanese artists.  The cultural affinity is always there, introduced by Stan Getz’s classics 45 years ago and reinforced by the special relationship between the two countries and their reciprocal migrations.  The rhythm section here exhibits none of the density and fibrous precision of the rhythm section as we knew it in the previous tracks.  The bossa nova is sensual and breezy and whenever it hesitates, it restarts form a sample.  Organ and soprano provide a rarefied melodic content for a fleeting love story.  Suddenly, two fuzz guitars change the setting, with the help from Masayasu Tsuboguchi’s groovy clavinet.  The compact rhythm section is with us again.  The guitar and keyboard improvisations are atonal and a-rhythmic, but so much is happening within the rhythm section that one could wonder who grabs in the limelight.  When the percussive forest disappears, a screaming guitar and tabla break through.  After a short break the bossa nova returns.  Lambent flute and an empathetic rhythm section are with us this time, unhurried and old-fashioned in their modernism.  We could just as well join a party at Rio’s Museu do arte moderna…  Only some lustful synthesizer squeals in the background, disturbing the reverie… 


Circle/Line ~ Hard Core Peace

Electric piano commences in an almost “progressive” vein, only to yield to range-bound rhythm guitar, electronic pulsation and the 4-man strong percussive tropic back in action.  When the electric piano theme returns, the pulsating orchestra adopts a mantle of a full-bodied framework for a soprano saxophone.  The interplanetary keyboard is quickly drowned out by a fuzz guitar, but the clatter of the drum-percussion section is never really far.  When the soprano returns, the tinny clacking of Latin percussion will be at the ready, in full swing.  The soprano sax will harvest here the cleanest line yet.  By now, the brass section has entered a bop mood, surrounded by the unlikely tabla and sibilant aqua-color from the synthesizer.  If you bring back the memories of early 1970s, then a mix of Funkadelic and Miles Davis, with a pinch of British progressive orchestration would have yielded the basic recipe before you could fast forward 30 years and find Date Course…  The band realizes this, swinging big time with the guitar playing the chords that back then would have fallen on the reeds.  DCPRG’s evolutionary bravura reaches its apex when the real reed section charges through the percussive, keyboard.  Kurihara’s bass rumbles nimbly and a keyboard solo leads onto another brave horn section and then overlays and some.  The ultramodern big band’s panache reaches here Ellingtonian enthusiasm. 


Hey Joe

Cheesy 1970s electric keyboard makes an entrée, but is this Bill Roberts’ composition?  At first, it does not quite seem so.  Rather, it sounds like a clavinet galore, pushed forward mercilessly by the keyboard/rhythm combo.  The bass rumbles lower than usually.  The inserted turns are of heavy funk heritage, taking us back to the plopping, racy flux.  At the next turn, the heavy part is almost hard rock, softened by the plastic Korg sound.  Only after 6 minutes, do we recognize the terms and conditions of “Hey Joe”, the familiar.  Tsuboguchi’s organ is wheeling and dealing out consistent elements from the unforgettable hymn.  Later, the guitar will improvise within the scale, mostly in the higher register, but more with Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee-like sense of urgency than with Hendrix’ corporeal pyrotechnics.  Either way, the swirling organ will smelt the exchange until the very end.  An easily digested morsel…


Mirror Balls

Remember Mirror Balls hanging from the ceiling of 1970s discotheques?  I can’t recall if this theme relates to any of the era’s soul-funk topics, but the atmosphere is of an early morning dancehall closure.  Yes, it is funky, but intellectually so, in almost Stevie Wonder.  The dented notes remind us of his clipped vocal manner from the novel arrangements of the 1970s.  The horn section and the quacking keyboard loom up in unison to give us a jubilant, vivacious, almost catchy stimulus.  The flute makes its second appearance, slaloming between the rhythm section poles.  But when a polite guitar lays out the same program, we realize that this is little more than a collective tribute to the overall effort, with final statements by each musician.  




The DCPRG’s discography is somewhat confused.  Early stage repertoire was presented on positions 1 and 2 and reprised on 3 and again on 4.  Remixes from 1 and 2 can be found on 3.  In turn, 7 presents other versions of tracks already known from 5 and from 2.  That basically means that you should seek out 1, 5 and 8 as the best introduction to the band and then explore further the variation on the theme(s). 


1. DCPRG: “Report from Iron Mountain” (2001)

2. DCPRG / ROVO: Sino / Pan American Beef Stake Art Federations (2001)

3. DCPRG: “General Represantation Product Chain Drastism” (2002)

4. DCPRG: “Musical from Chaos” 2CD (2001-2003)

5. DCPRG: “Structure et Force” (2003)

6. DCPRG: “Chaos 2” (2003-2004)

7. DCPRG: “Stayin’ Alive/Fame/Pan American Beef Stake Art Federation 2” (2004)

8. DCPRG “Franz Kafka’s America” (2007)

Kikuchi’s constellation seems to be still active and new dvds occasionally surface from more recent live exposure.  In case you heard of new studio recordings, Sonic Asymmetry would like to learn about them…







LE SILO: “3.27830” *****

Recorded 2006


Le Silo is a highly accomplished trio of Miyako Kanazawa (piano and voice), Yoshiharu Izutsu (guitar and voice) and Michiaki Suganuma (drums and voice).  They exploded suddenly in 2003 with a groundbreaking “8.8”, instantly setting a new standard for the avant-prog idiom.  The trio masterfully combined an irreverent attitude to Japanese and international classics with a penchant for sudden mood alteration.  Unlike many bands evolving in this style, Le Silo opted for a skeletal instrumentation dominated by the acoustic keyboard sound.  The pace is often frenetic and the compositions are plagued by calculated discontinuity; chopped up into contrastive subsections.


Among the myriad of ideas ranging from aggressive assaults to disjointed improvisations, there are also unexpected moments of melancholy deriving from the experiences of impressionistic European jazz.  It is not clear if this is an erudite exercise de style, or a convergence of genres, a quarter of century later. 


Undeniably, Le Silo belongs today to Japan’s foremost acts. 




The opening of the record is loud, but rather unassuming.  A robust piano, a defiant guitar, and accretive drums…  A context not heard since the heyday of Cartoon… But we are in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.  We begin to recognize the female and male voices.  After a spell of silence the trio unleashes its raw power, propelled by the vehement piano invasions.  This will remain the band’s signature throughout this recording. 


Miwaku no Hawaii no ryokoo

Aloha, or just about.  If that trip to Hawaii was so “fascinating”, then it must have been one of the honeymooners’ group tours where bored newlyweds are forced to impersonate Presley songs…  The obsessive, ugly tune here competes for Lebensraum with a crackly old vinyl record, but the chorus is thousands of miles away from the Pacific – an impotent, effete, indifferent wailing à la 1980s’ Reportaz.  The mixing is opaque and soupy.  The band breaks free through this self-imposed patina but fails to develop a melody.  Instead, it rushes through a polymetric gallery of constructivist scraps until the main guitar theme returns, calling the absurd chorus back.



After some very Nippon-style vocal interjections from Miyako Kanazawa, we are accosted by a duo of crude, unrefined piano and drums.  The keyboard will intone a simple figure, mellowed down by a jazzy drum.  When the song reaches its dynamic peak, the non-sensical, anti-climactic chorus returns, resolutely shattering the tense build-up.  It is up to the guitar to pick up the pieces.  Miyako’s soprano squeaks down from all the structural bridges. 


Nichiyoo no hiruma ni doa wo tataite okosanaide (ryaku shite nokku)

“Don’t knock on the door on Sunday to wake me up”, proclaims the title, but the knocking is exactly what we hear.  This transmutes into a drum intro for a very competent fuzz guitar.  When it weans itself from the harmonic role for the melo-rhythmic piano, Yoshiharu Izutsu’s guitar can barely escape comparisons with Bondage Fruit’s Kido Natsuki.   It will excise melodic notes with a kamikaze velocity, but then a classicist solo piano and cymbals will calm it with a dose of melancholia.  The nap does not last.  The ‘knock-knock’ is a wake up call for an angry, caustic guitar.  The indignant piano line reminds us here of Miyako’s jazz contemporary Hiromi in her more classicist ventures. 


Ura ru*shi I…

The first of the three improvisations in which, according to the description, the three musicians swap the instruments.  While the drums appear lost for direction (Izutsu), the coincidental vibrations uniting the guitar and the piano are of some interest.


Numazapa II

A first track under this title can be found on Le Silo’s first CD and together they are Michiaki Suganuma’s only compositional contributions thus far.  This one begins with a percussive entrée, followed by a very mystical right-hand keyboard arpeggio.  It approaches us slowly, building up tension while the cymbals remain almost imperceptible.  Before we are forgiven for thinking that this is a Rainer Brüninghaus recording, the guitar theme will be laid out, sketching sluggish monumental scales against those scuttling piano lines.  The piano will eventually take over the lead.  All along, Suganuma’s percussion constructs a four-dimensional structure, busily welding, riveting, filing, piling and forging his cantilevered decorations. 


Ru kusuchiaa

A barely understood English text is instantly exposed to a whispered reaction from a woman.  Soon after, Miyako Kanazawa’s composition plunges into a staccato, reinforced by a Zeuhlish choir.  Several sequences will follow in this tight, perfectly immiscible track.  Here, and here only, Miyako’s voice evokes Jun Togawa’s memorable Guernica moments.  The progression is unstoppable; distorted vocal fragments, smooth guitar gables and pilasters, and zeuhlish choirs all advance like a regiment of condemned slaves.  Impressive.



This “Snake Dance” starts with a very nimble guitar narrative, and a rolling drumset.  The piano is given a lot of freedom for an almost swinging solo against the rattling skins.  The level of complexity rises here, as the guitar chokes, piano hiccups and drums belch at competitive speed.  Miyako’s keyboard enters an atonal territory without ever sounding like a Cecil Taylor’s derivative.  The guitar will waddle in an unusual, heavy bass timbre.  These are spacious, illustrative fragments, as if destined to quote from Bill Frisell, Steve Tibbetts and, inevitably, Terje Rypdal.  But Izutsu’s sustain is shorter and the drummer is far more intrusive than Jon Christensen ever was.  Against the racket, the piano is anabolic, but it becomes very shy on its own.  Eventually, the initial theme returns, despite the attempts to re-phrase it through a brief drum solo.


Ura ru*shi II 

A very abstract piece, more accomplished than “Ura ru*shi I”.  The exact consonance of the guitar and piano leaves some doubt if this is a pure improvisation, or a replay of an earlier idea.


Sabireta machi

Izutsu’s beautiful tune has been scored adeptly for crystalline piano, circumspect electric guitar and brushes.  It is evocative, brooding, sentimental and almost ECM-ish.  This time, Rypdal’s “Odyssey” ghosts are with us for longer.  The texture is sprayed out, undulating and wavy.  When the piano takes over, one really wonders if engineer Norihide Washima grew up on Jan Erik Kongshaug’s daily staple.  The last sequence is a stroll through an abandoned, rainy cityscape – a strikingly cinematic theme.  Asia’s best film directors – from Hirokazu Koreeda to Hou Hsiao Hsien – should take note.


94K2 (kushi-katsu)

This track consists of three spokes, as if wiggling perversely toward the hub.  First we hear the voice of someone asking directions (a food stall?)  A rather shrewish sounding female explains.  Are we in Osaka?  Then we hail Chopinesque chords crashing through the spiky wall of drums – the US band Cartoon comes to mind again.  In another twist, we hear a traditional Japanese song, quickly distorted into an Alboth-like piano/drums attack.  The guitar will reproduce the plaintive song’s theme but will need to ascend and descend against the sonorous grindcore tsunami.  The vocals meddle, hysteric and over-the-top.  Is this Prince Dracula at the piano?  Spine-chilling, bowel-wrenching, frightening!  The short syllables are being belched out by the chorus, reminding us of Koenjihyakkei’s most galvanizing moments. 


Ura ru*shi III

Acoustic guitar only.  Kore de owari desu.  




When Le Silo’s debut was issued in 2003, it was greeted as a revelation.  It remains an absolute classic to this day.  This second opus follows in its footsteps, although I do miss Tatsuya Yoshida’s crystal-clear production at Koenji Studio, so apparent on the first record.  Sonic Asymmetry can’t wait for more.


LE SILO: “8.8” (2003)

LE SILO: “3.27830” (2006)


Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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