Written in Autumn 2012, in Three Fantasies for Cello and Guitar I sought to explore various techniques for playing the guitar and ways that the cello might imitate or replicate them. There are sections highlighting harmonics, pizzicato (plucked strings), single-note melodies, arpeggiated and block chords, and rasgueado (flamenco style strumming). Descriptive terms like misterioso (mysteriously), dialogo (dialogue), birichino (mischievously), and solenne (solemn) locate the motivation for these technical etudes in the realm of character pieces.
Out today on Drag City,Formerly Extinct, the sophomore release from Rangda. Guitarists Richard Bishop (Sun City Girls), Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance), and drummer Chris Corsano (Sunburned Hand of the Man) have enough studio credits between them to earn the designations “formative players” in both the psych rock and no wave arenas.
Below, we’ve included a SoundCloud embed of album track “Majnun.” Its outer sections set up a fulsome, Middle Eastern inflected groove, while the central section includes plenty of crunching guitar riffs leavened with walls of noise.
Kawabata Makoto is best known for his work with the group Acid Mothers Temple, a post-psych noise rock collective that can melt paint off of walls with the amplitude of their recordings. When the guitarist joins forces with accordionist and vocalist à qui avec Gabriel for the album Golden Tree (Important Records), he creates an entirely different sound world.
The album consists of three extended duets; one, “Solid Torus,” lasting in excess of half an hour. Balancing with long held tones on the accordion, the guitar lines provide an uneasy counterpoint that, while less subdued than the torrents of fuzzed soloing one hears on AMT releases, is no less focused. Indeed, there is a sense that the energy Makoto is keeping in reserve could at any moment be unleashed; released like a tightly coiled spring. Instead, most often balance is sought by both parties, with guitar harmonics and the occasional feedback flirtation blending with the accordion’s treble register drones and ephemeral clusters. à qui avec Gabriel also has a beautiful soprano singing voice, which she sometimes lends to the proceedings in sustained lines and repeated tones. Golden Tree is at its most beguiling when vocalized tones, sustained guitar lines, and accordion drones dovetail together in an intense dovetailing of dolphin-like song.
Gamma Graves is a prime example of the kind of release that has helped to fuel the cassette resurgence on the indie/experimental music scene. Produced by a variety of sources, from bedroom DIY collectives and small tape-only labels to established imprints like Ecstatic Peace, the audio cassette format, long thought extinct, is back. Tapes have been unassumingly encroaching their way onto the shelves of connoisseur collectors and music critics (no less than Steve Smith is a devotee): even record sellers such as Insound and Other Music have made room for them again.
The Brooklyn triumvirate of synthesizer performers Nathan Cearley and Erica Bradbury and prepared guitarist Casey Block comprise Long Distance Poison. Armed with vintage gear by Moog, Arp, and Roland, they create experimental soundscapes with a sense of history, referencing everyone from David Borden and early Philip Glass to Keith Rowe, Alva Noto, Ryoji Ikeda, and Derek Bailey. Drone-based foundations are overlaid with coruscating ostinato loops and distressed with pointed interjections.
Gamma Graves is the type of music that would have been just fine to distribute digitally (or via CD). Indeed, some purists might argue that cassette is an inherently inferior audio format to hi-res digital played through good equipment (by no means do most consumers play their MP3s through good equipment). So, why do I like having it on cassette? I find the noise imparted by tape and deck to do no harm to this music: in fact, it adds another, subtle, layer of drones to the proceedings that is consonant with the musical intentions of the work.
The tape as artifact yields something important too. Limited runs of handmade cassettes are often lovingly attired with artwork more expansive and, obviously, more tangible than any JPEG can provide. They are a reminder of a bygone era in which the physical release WAS the release, in which tape-trading and digging in bins for rarities was a hobby to enthusiastically pursue: not something simulated in online forums and furtively grasped at brick and mortar outposts now few and far between. Long Distance Poison (and Ecstatic Peace) acknowledge their debt to history not only via musical reference points, but through the resonances found in a cassette as relic and artwork. Try finding all that in a computer file.
This is a serious super group that delivers on its potential. Besides being session musicians to the stars and leaders on their own projects, bassist Tony Levin, guitarist David Torn, and drummer Alan White have played in countless groups associated with progressive rock, jazz fusion, and improvised music – King Crimson,Yes, and Liquid Tension Experiment chief among them. But this is their first recording together as a trio. And while it is indeed a powerful sound that they make, the music on Levin Torn White is intricately constructed and adventurous in a way that few modern day power trios can hope to emulate.
There’s more than a dash of the spirit of King Crimson – particularly its later lineups – alive in the music created here. Levin, of course, was the Crimson bassist for much of this time period, but Torn and White channel some signatures of Fripp and Mastelotto too. The guitarist’s own atmospheric improvisations are of course distinctive in their own right. But on the ethereal track “Convergence” they can also reasonably be likened to Fripp’s soundscaping. Meanwhile, Torn’s shredding on “Ultra Mullett” emulates the tart dissonances and skronkish squalls one heard from Thrak era Crim.
White propels the action with his characteristically forceful and energetic playing. But he’s able to turn on a nickel with each time change and unorthodox mathy metric configuration on the menu. I’ve long been an admirer of Tony Levin’s work, but he outdoes himself here, laying down thrumming low end and staccato Chapman stick filigrees that crackle with vivacity.
If you’re someone who thinks that fusion and prog – particularly of the instrumental variety – is rife with noodly indulgences and bathetic compositions, this release is strongly recommended as a corrective of your misapprehensions. Those already among the converted will find much in which to delight here. One hopes it isn’t a one-off collaboration: these three seem to be just getting started!
This past Saturday, guitarist Glenn Jones was on NPR’s Weekend Edition promoting his new album The Wanting (out on Thrill Jockey). The upshot of the Jones piece was that he had “stepped out of John Fahey’s shadow.” It’s true that Jones collaborated with Fahey, and is a fellow traveler to Robbie Basho, Jack Rose, Stephen Basho-Junghans and other “American Primitive” acoustic folk string-slingers. But once you hear him, you’ll likely think that his shadow itself looms plenty large.
The Wanting is Jones’s solo debut on Thrill Jockey, although we certainly expect from this relationship than a single release. A point of nostalgia for me: it was recorded in an intimate space: a fourth floor apartment in Allston; a Boston suburb that was my stomping grounds in grad school. While I didn’t hear Jones during my time there, I did get to hear many a stimulating solo guitar set at Beantown coffeehouses and bars. But nostalgic connections or not, the musicality and versatility brought to bear on The Wanting is undeniable. Jones plays all of the instruments himself: acoustic steel string guitar, six-string, 10-string and bottleneck, and 5-string open-back banjo. The tunes are originals, but they contain soulful resonances and folk-inflected affinities that make them seem timeless and, quite quickly, fondly familiar.
Check out the video clip and MP3 below: it will likely make you want The Wanting. Better yet, catch Jones live on his upcoming tour (dates follow).
Oct 14 Boston, MA Villa Victoria
Oct 16 Chicago, IL The Hideout
Oct 17 Iowa City, IA The Mill
Oct 18 Dubuque, IA Monk’s
Oct 19 Bloomington, IN Russian Recording
Oct 20 Lexington, KY Collexion
Oct 21 Louisville, KY TBA
Oct 22 Knoxville, TN The Pilot Light
Oct 23 Asheville, NC Harvest Records
Oct 24 West Columbia, SC Conundrum Music Hall
Oct 25 Atlanta, GA TBA
Oct 26 Atlanta, GA Grocery On Home
Oct 27 Chapel Hill, NC The Nightlight
Oct 28 Takoma Park, MD Potts-Dupre Schoolhouse
Nov 1 Brooklyn, NY Zebulon
Nov 3 Easthampton, MA Flywheel
Nov 5 State College, PA Schlow Centre Region Library
Using a specially strung baritone guitar (with both the lower strings common to the instrument and some higher strings replacing octaves to give things a special shimmer), What’s it All About, Pat Metheny’s latest solo outing for the Nonesuch, imprint inhabits an unusual and evocative sound world.
The material presented is something of a departure as well: for the first time in his recording career, Metheny doesn’t include one of his own compositions on a release. Instead, he explores ten “new standards:” songs from the popular canon, many from the sixties and seventies. Some are iconic, like “The Girl from Ipanema,” which is given an ambling, gauzily ruminative rendition. Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” receives a beautifully hued, impeccably voiced, and eloquently paced performance. Others like, “Betcha’ By Golly Wow” might not be as familiar to listeners, but they make for equally compelling listening.
In today’s record business, glitz and glamor and high volume too often rule the roost. By contrast, this is a gentle and unassuming CD, which reveals its riches with successive hearings.
White Hills tours in support of release this Fall. Maybe they’ll bring their mix of drones, post-psych guitar work, and kraut rock signatures to a venue near you!
UPCOMING FALL TOUR
Sep 3 Brooklyn, NY Aviator Sports Complex w/Psychic Paramount, Pictureplane
Sep 8 Vancouver, BC The Biltmore Cabaret w/Sleepy Sun
Sep 9 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/Sleepy Sun, Kinski
Sep 10 Portland, OR Ash Street Saloon w/Eternal Tapestry, Pierced Arrows
Sep 14 San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop w/Carleton Melton
Sep 15 Long Beach, CA Alex’s Bar w/RTX, Heavy Cream
Sep 16 Los Angeles, CA Nomad Art Gallery w/Sleepy Sun
Sep 17 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
Sep 30 Den Bosch, Netherlands W 2
Oct 1 Leuven, Belgium Het Depot
Oct 2 Cologne, Germany Underground
Oct 4 Vienna, Austria Arena
Oct 5 Feldkirch, Austria Graf Hugo
Oct 6 Stuttgart, Germany 1210
Oct 7 Weimar, Germany Werk
Oct 8 Cottbus, Germany Burning Earth Festival
Oct 9 Berlin, Germany White Trash
Oct 10 Hamburg, Germany Molotow
Oct 11 Bielefeld, Germany AJZ
Oct 13 Olten, Switzerland Quote D’Or
Oct 14 Wurzburg, Germany Cafe Cairo
Oct 15 Darmstadt, Germany 603
Oct 17 Savignano Sul Rubicone, Italy Sidro Club
Oct 18 Rome, Italy Sinister Noise
Oct 19 Quero, Italy Piettro Alternative Sound
Oct 20 Martigny, Switzerland Les Caves Du Manoir
Oct 22 Maastricht, Netherlands Musikgiterij
Oct 23 Birmingham, UK Supersonic Festival
Oct 24 London, UK Corsica