The wild, the strange, and the seemingly inaccessible meet in our Experimental category, which includes some of the most original music of the season. From silence to spoken word, calculation to improvisation, this is your guide to an unpredictable cavalcade of music. This category is not for everybody, but if you’re ready to expand your horizons, you’re in the right place!
Photography courtesy of Holly Holdredge Bangert of Holdredge Images.
Rich’s Pick #1: Matana Roberts ~ Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (Constellation, October 18)
In 2015, Coin Coin Chapter Three narrowly missed being our Album of the Year. This year the path seems clear for another run. Each chapter in what may become a lifelong project has increased our appreciation for the series as a whole. Memphis locks in to issues of race and gender, and its call for empathy could not be more timely. Snippets of song are interwoven with diary entries to decorate this transportive yet harrowing set, which is wholly unique and vital.
Rich’s Pick #2: V/A ~ STUMM433 (Mute, October 4)
Readers with good memories may recall that this was our pick of the season last winter; a six month delay has bounced it back down to #2. But at least now we know it’s for real! 58 artists reinterpret John Cage’s 4’33” over the course of four and a half hours. Expect a lot of unintentional field recording and a few surprises, especially when looking at the artist list. The vinyl box set comes with a set of candles, but even the label warns that it is exorbitantly priced; if you’re on a budget, the CD version will do just fine. Also on Mute: the intentionally disturbing GUO4, from GUO, a collaboration of Daniel Blumberg and Seymour Wright with filmmaker Peter Strickland and other friends (September 20).
Marcus Fjellström has only been gone two years, but he’s sorely missed. Miasmah is releasing his back catalog on vinyl, beginning with Exercises in Estrangement and Gebrauchsmusik. The listening astonishment is that each of these albums sounds as if it could have been released today. In a short period of time, Marcus released more quality music than most composers do in a lifetime. We’re glad that we have another chance to celebrate his genius, but the reminder is bittersweet (September 20).
Good Things Come in Threes (and Twos and Fours and Sevens)
The reliable Recital label returns with two releases on September 6. On Stones : Dreams, Geoffrey Hendricks tosses rocks across a room while Philip Corner performs on prongs and his shoe while reacting to Hendricks’ art. You can’t get much more experimental than that! Then on Towards a Total Poetry, various LA poets are preserved in live recordings from 1980. Buh Records dusts off some old tapes from Miguel Flores on Lorca: Lost Tapes 1989-1991, dedicated to Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca. And is that a theremin we hear? It is! Continuing their theme of self-explanatory titles, the label then releases VVAA – Interactions: A Guide to Swiss Underground Experimental Music. A wide variety of sounds is on display, spilling into other genres (October 18 and 21).
Over at Trust Records (Vienna), three new releases are popping up on September 27. Brötzmann / Schlippenbach / Bennink pay tribute to the classic Machine Gun sessions on Fifty Years After… Live at the Lila Eule 2018. The THRENODY trio gets raucous and rambunctious on A Paradigm of Suspicion, while Kodian Trio‘s III is a wild ride on sax, guitar and drums, featuring Dirk Serries. The latter artist also appears with Rodigro Amado on the energetic Jazzblazzt (Raw Tonk, September 9).
Gilgongo Records is starting the season early; their first three fall albums were released on the first of September. John Collins McCormick‘s Ad for Nails is an album of rhythm and texture, highly percussive but happy with found sound; Waxy Tomb‘s Imminent Fold is an art book plus a disorienting blend of abstract industrialism and spoken/sideways-sung word; and Tashi Dorji & John Dieterich‘s Midden (co-released with Moone Records) is an album of improvised electric guitar with a member of Deerhoof expanding his horizons.
tsss tapes has two distinct offerings on the docket for September 25. Derek Baron & Zoots Houston‘s A Realistic Morning Prayer is about the joy of found sound, and is described as “Resonating metal surfaces, chains, paper, thin strips of wood, a broken radio, a couple of small battery-powered oscillators, and maybe a floor tom;” while Dominique Vaccaro‘s Overlapped Memories is a bit more liquid, featuring field recordings and amplified tape squelch. Each shares an intricate, investigatory approach. Morphine Records is releasing a quartet of albums this fall, two in October and two in November. Upperground Orchestra‘s Kaigo is percussive and upbeat, featuring swirling sax; Stefan Fraunberger‘s Elegie is pensive and measured, recorded on abandoned church organs; MA‘s Shoqsh sets menacing monologues over gurgling electronics; and Contagious offers a collision of organic and electronic, with a tone of drone.
A New Wave of Jazz tops all the other exploratory/improv labels with a massive seven releases on October 18, marking the first day of their festival. The albums play with space and time, showcasing various combinations of players to create a cornucopia of sound. One can listen here, and save cash by pre-ordering all seven CDs: Traces of Eternity: From What Is Yet to Be (Antoine Beuger – Dante Boon); Air (Asmus Tietchens & Dirk Serries); Segment Tones (TONUS); Now Is the Time to Learn Hope (Antoine Beuger – The Extradition Ensemble); Close | Quarters (Benedict Taylor & Anton Mobin); Boskage (Daniel Thompson & Colin Webster); and Impetus (Serries / Vanderstraeten / Verhoeven).
More Improv, Please!
Piano, violin, shofar, drainpipe and saw can be heard on Café Grand Abyss, from Jon Rose and Alvin Curran, who remain vital despite their combined age topping 150 (ReR Megacorp, September 27). Guitar, objects, tape and minidisc make a miasma of abstraction on Tracking / Racking, from Torsten Papenheim (Tanuki Records, September 25). One cold day, no prior meeting, and what they did is what you hear: acoustic guitar and lap steel duets from Jim McAuley & Scot Ray on Second Earth (Long Song, September 15). Astral Spirits plays host to a lot of trios, including Josh Berman / Paul Lytton / Jason Roebke on cornet, percussion and bass; Trio Discripancies is released on September 20. More clarinet, along with free jazz instruments, can be heard on Kozmik Bazaar, from collaborators Konstrukt + Ken Vandermark (Karlrecords, September 27).
Does The Vegetable Orchestra know that there is a band called the Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra? Comic book artist Mazen Kerbaj is a member, and now he offers a double dose of his musical talent on Trumpet Solo Vol. 2.1: No Cuts, No Overdubs, No Use of Electronics and Trumpet Solo Vol. 2.2: Cuts, Overdubs, Use of Electronics (Discrepant, September 20). Jazz drummer Dan Weiss is now Dan Weiss Trio +1, yielding a variety of timbres from Cuban groove to Led Zeppelin tribute (on “Bonham”). Utica Box is revealed on Sunnyside Records November 8. The piano is enhanced by three percussionists on Sarah Hennies‘ Reservoir 1, the first of three one-hour pieces (Black Truffle, September 27). Drum and bass (not drum ‘n’ bass) can be heard on Forecast, along with piano, courtesy of Stranahan / Zaleski / Rosato. Live at Jazz Standard is released September 20 on Capri.
Laptop/sax duo Binary Canary seem to be having a lot of fun on iterative systems, producing an unusually playful tone (Carrier, October 4). Mark Hanslip/Emil Karlsen perform jazzy improvisations with sax and drums. planish is released on noumenon September 9. On Hypertide Over Kiribati, Lothar Ohlmeier, Rudi Fischerlehner, Isambard Khroustaliov create long, intricate improvisations with bass clarinet, drums and modular synth (Not Applicable, September 6). Gongs, wind chimes, metal, marbles an more form Perpetual Possibility, a creative collaboration between Lino Capra Vaccina and Untitled Noise (Dark Companion, October 25). Tape loops and instrumentation meet on INTERSTAT, which started with instruments poured out on the living room floor. Donoval & Fiala‘s sky blue tape is part of the Cascade Series on Canigou (September 27). Vibracathedral Orchestra make a “joyous racket” on Squeeze the Lids Through Coming Window, two side-long tracks dedicated to the endangered pangolin. All of the proceeds of Oaken Palace Records go to environmental organizations, so this is a clean digital buy (September 1). Members of Sun City Girls, Rangda and more unite as The Clandestine Quartet to present an explosive blend of rock, groove and improvised psych. One for the Fossa, Two for the Wolverine is out October 11 on Thirty Three Thirty Three. Russian jazz/noise band offer High-Time Seizures on Sounds et al, with a fiery, seizure-like cover to match (October 20).
But Wait, There’s More!
We’ve already reviewed Mats Eden | Stefan Klaverdal‘s annual growth rings, which is absolutely perfect for the season. The artists use string instruments and computer to portray not only the life cycle of a tree, but the year in the life of one single tree. The cyclical nature of life is underscored just as the leaves are beginning to turn (September 6). Guitarist Bill MacKay and cellist Katinka Kleijn join forces on STIR, which is partially inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf. Lead single Hermine is dark and moody in sight and sound (Drag City, October 11). Trombonist Peter Zummo isn’t afraid to try new things; turntable, cello and spoken word are all featured on Deep Drive, opening ears to new possibilities (Tin Angel, September 13). A sound artist, a cellist and a prison psychotherapist join forces as Tears|Ov, whose debut album is being released as part of The Tapeworm’s tenth anniversary. The trio may regret the title; it’s impossible to Google A Hopeless Place without landing on Rihanna (The Wormhole, November 1). Also forthcoming from collective The Tapeworm, The Bookworm and The Wormhole: Achim Mohné‘s ritualistic Haitian voodoo tape, Voodoo/Rara (September 27); new works from Aaron Turner, Biting Tongues, NYZ, Cristian Vogel and Jay Glass Dubs; and the debut album from Laura Agnusdei.
Anne Imhof is releasing a fascinating score to the performance / installation Faust. Some tracks offer rough instrumental abrasion, while others include smooth vocals, piano and strings. The variety alone makes it a must-hear, while the photography booklet sweetens the deal for those who purchase the double vinyl (PAN, September 13). Ka Baird returns with the abstract utterances and jutting instrumentation of Respires; preview video Symanimygenic offers but a taste (RVNG, October 25). Eight narrated stories are matched by instrumental versions on The Fairy Tale Factory, the music composed by Gabriel Scotti for a unique exhibition (Musee D’Ethnographie de Geneve, September 27). Voice and field recording feature in Jean-Philippe Gross‘ soundscape Curling, which is based on the sport of the same name, while Reflex is a modular Serge workout (EICH, September 5). A new edition of Ernest Hood‘s Neighborhoods is twice as long as the original, with expanded liner notes; the Portland recordings include his childhood field recordings, and represent “joy in reminiscence.” There’s some really neat gold vinyl, if you’re quick to pre-order (Freedom to Spend, October 11).
There’s beauty among the rocks in the video for Her Presence and Tides, from Joanna John & Burkhard Stangl. It’s an interesting way to introduce Lynx, which has a similarly curious and meditative tone (Interstellar Records, October 4). As part of the One Instrument Sessions, Fahmi Mursyid chose six instruments for his single-mike recordings. Indonesian timbres include the saron, kendang, halaman and more (One Instrument Records, September 6). Iranian composer Cameron Shafli offers electro-acoustic outliers on Pithy & Prolix, an unusual offering on Anòmia (September 20). The Secret Lives of Electromagnetic Transducers sounds like nothing else this season. Hadas Pe’ery worked with a host of musicians to perform duets between the organic and the electronic, then added some poetry to guarantee a uniqueness of tone (Elli, September 10).
Electric guitar partners Álvaro Domene and Henry Kaiser wrote a new abstract score for the classic 1927 film El Tren Fantasma / The Ghost Train, and both electric and acoustic versions can be heard on the album (Iluso, September 3). Aki Onda and visual artist Paul Clipson collaborate on Make Visible the Ghosts, a release that is all the more bittersweet given Clipson’s death last year (audioMER, September 20). “Instrument builder” Pierre Bastien shares well with experimental duo Tomaga on Bandiera di Carta. After all, what are instruments without players? Listen closely and you may hear the sound of rubber bands and paper (Other People, September 20). Richmond Avant Improv Collective (RAIC) brings us full circle with Chance Operations, which was inspired by John Cage’s Silence and is released on Cage’s birthday, but is anything but silent. The project features 20 musicians whose pairings were determined by the drawing of ping-pong balls ~ a very Cageian thing to do (Blight, September 5). Finally, how does one remix an album that features no sound? Maria Chavez treats Stefan Goldmann’s Ghost Hemiola grooves as source material on Plays (Macro, September 20).