The world may often seem stagnant, but as long as there is art, there is hope. In every field ~ art, music, cinema, literature and more ~ experimentalists test the boundaries of the expected, breaking through to unexplored territories. Today’s experimental music may become tomorrow’s mainstream, or may not ~ the value is in the searching, striving and finding.
Why play the note as it is written? Why play the note at all? Is music found only in instruments? Can the random be considered composed? These questions and more are tackled by this season’s roster.
Our cover image comes from 8 Things You Can Make With All of Those Acorns on Family Handyman.
The concept of applause is dissected on the two-volume compilation CLAP, which includes works from Scanner, Maurizio Bianchi and more (Unsounds, September 15). On the other end of the spectrum (or so one might think) is the fourth and final volume of ‘ ‘ [blank tape compilation], in which the only sources are blank tapes and the artists submit blank art for manipulation. The results are surprisingly loud and visible (Sleep Gloss, September 2). On Rental Yields: Volume Two, some tracks are electronic, some drone, some experimental and some noise, a true potpourri. The set is a benefit album for Manchester’s homeless population (Front & Follow, September 17).
The Fall of Europe is a fascinating radio play that was constructed by collaging ham radio transmissions. Il Radioamatore was even able to include segments from the war in Ukraine (Eiga, October 10). Gamardah Fungus (recently featured in our Ukraine posts from Gianmarco Del Re) finished recording Metamorphosis just before the invasion, unaware of how relevant the title would become. The album offers music in flux, flowing to match its every setting (esc.rec., September 12). Jérôme Noetinger goes tape to tape, reel-to-reel on Sur quelques mondes étranges. His works for ReVox B77 tape machine were recorded live with no overdubs (Gagarin, September 2). We hope Noetinger is friends with Valerio Tricoli, since Tricoli also uses the Revox B77 (we’re playing match-up) on Say Goodbye to the Wind, an intense work inspired equally by Samuel Beckett, Otto von Guericke and the breath of the artist’s son (Shelter Press, September 2).
With loops, voice, white noise, electromagnetic fields, and samples of string quartet, Adrian Corker‘s Since It Turned Out Something Else is a study in sonic collection. Corker uses many approaches, yet the album flows (SN Variations, September 30). Leverton Fox recorded In the Flicker in the forest; one can hear the animals commenting throughout as the musicians hit their trees for percussion and otherwise incorporate local sounds in a respectful fashion. One wouldn’t mind wandering into these woods (Not Applicable, October 21). A different type of experience is suggested by Hekla‘s Xiuxiuejar. Theremin is melded to moody electronics, producing a sense of being lost in the forest as the sun begins to set (Phantom Limb, September 9).
Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson‘s Landvættirnar fjórar is a complete outlier, an album made with curious instrumentation that sounds like an avant folk tale. The music is inspired by a time when the king of Denmark seized all of Iceland’s sheep, then swam over in the shape of a whale and was driven back by wights. We recommend reading the full story while listening (Carrier Records, October 28). Perhaps one cannot dance to Timothy Sawyer Shepard‘s Long Ago Forgotten, but its sonic nature is reminiscent of Avalanches, with as many as a hundred samples per song. These tiny splices of music are only the tip of the iceberg, as the artist also works on canvas and with 8mm split-screen film. Long Ago Forgotten is released September 9.
Field recordings and synthesizer can be found on Delirious Cartographies; and to sweeten the pot, Richard Scott adds a half dozen drawings to the 12″ package (Arbitrary, September 2). On Hungry Ghosts, Samuel Rohrer plays a swath of percussion, mixing in a healthy amount of synth to deepen his sound (Arjunamusic, September 23).
Philippe Petit drops everything he can find onto a piano soundboard to create a disorienting effect. A Reassuring Elsewhere, Chapter 1 is the first of a trilogy on Oscillations (October 7). Black, Pink and Yellow Noises collects 20 short, distorted pieces for tape and electronics by Marc Baron & Jean-Philippe Gross, tumbling through styles until the listener loses track of which way is up (Eich, September 15, pictured to the right). Kotoka Suzuki mingles all manner of objects on “Automata,” from Shimmer, Tree, including children’s toys, bells, birds, and trains. Another delight is “In Praise of Shadows,” in which all of the instruments are made from paper (Starkland, September 16).
Avant Jazz & Improvisation: So Much Sax!
Inspired by paintings from The Group of Seven, Chet Doxas recruited a quintet to perform Rich in Symbols II. The band leader asks, “What does it mean to be Canadian?” and exudes a sub-theme of winter (Justin Time, September 9). It’s pretty clever to put cute children at the beginning of a music video of avant chamber music, because the images yield an instant accessibility. The music of Maneri / Kalmanovitch / Jacobson / Osgood is far more abstract, as apparent in the title ‘Variations On No Particular Theme – Part 1 (Gotta Let It Out, October 21). Will Vinson collects a “cordless trio” for Tripwire, often giving in to the groove (Whirlwind, September 16). Multiple artists including Walt Shaw are present on the self-titled album from Wasp Honey, heavy on the sax and far from the mainstream (Discus, September 9). Anthony Braxton & James Fei team uo for Duet (Other Minds) 2021, which slightly confusingly is released in 2022. The explanation: it’s a live recording of “Composition 429,” generated in response to color-coded symbols (Other Minds, September 2).
Alto sax and viola are paired on MIROIR, as Cyprian Busolini / Bertrand Gauguet present two side-long tracks titled “Oscillation” and “Vacillation” (Akousis, September 5). Two alto saxes are at the center of Six-ish Plateaus, from Alex Fournier / Triio, which is actually a sextet (Elastic Recordings, September 9). Alto sax meets electronics on BA DI DOOM‘s appropriately titled graceful collision, with other players joining the fray as well (Astral Spirits, October 7). On the same day, Astral Spirits releases Sans Soleil II, on which Patrick Shiroishi plays three different types of sax while Chris Williams shifts between horns. But wait, there’s more! New Astral Spirits imprint cow:Music launches with Blood In My Eye (A Soul Insurgent Guide), which showcases percussion, electronics, synth and (yes!) sax. Konjur Collective‘s sonic density is also a nod to the pioneering work of the Black Panther movement. No Base Trio is led by (what else?) an alto saxophonist. The all-improvised NBT II adds electric guitar and drums, and slides into a comfortable series of grooves (Setola di Maiale, October 14).
Other Instruments, Including a Surprising Amount of Accordion
We covered violinist Maya Bennardo‘s four strings in our Modern Composition section; on two skies she is joined by bass clarinetist Erik Blennow Calälv and kacapi musician Kristofer Svensson, continuing to explore sound and silence, this time highlighting interval (Thanatosis, September 2).
Juno Award winner Mike Downes presents his first solo album, Mind Mirrors, multitracking the bass to sound like an ensemble (September 16). Bass is but one of three instruments on the groovy Finding Light, from Jeff Denson, Romain Pillon, Brian Blade, exploratory yet accessible (Ridgeway, September 23). Double bassist Ross Anderson is joined by a small group of friends on Cubism (including one on alto sax!), but the appeal of the album is that each track starts with a work of Cubist art (September 22).
Trumpet and accordion are a rare, but fine pairing, as evidenced by Eric Vloeimans & Will Holshouser on Two for the Road (V-Flow/Challenge Records, September 1). The instruments also met early on, in recordings from Pauline Oliveros. On Altamirage, flute and percussion join the fray with James Ilgenfritz with Anagram Ensemble (Infrequent Seams, October 21).
Piano and trumpet create a happy sound, almost like the holidays arriving early. MMMMH pairs Masako Ohta and Matthias Lindermayr for the special occasion (Squama, October 21). Wadada Leo Smith / Andrew Cyrille / Qasim Naqvi form a new trio of trumpet, drums and electronics. Two Centuries not only describes their life experience, but what they bring to the table (Red Hook, October 7).
Double bass, drums, vibraphone and guitar are part of Multicolored Midnight, partially composed, partially improvised, available September 30 on Cuneiform. Sliding between jazz and folk, the members of trio Bog Bodies (including sax!) seem comfortable in their own skin, ready to shift timbres whenever it enhances the music’s flow. Their self-titled album is out on MIC November 11. Over a dozen performers join trombonist Alex Paxton on ilolli-pop, which is just as colorful, lively and unusual as its title and cover indicate (Nonclassical, October 6).
Setar and electronics meet on Jamshid Jam, a tribute to the Persian inventor of music. The set documents a live performance from Ramin Rashandel and Jean-François Charles (New Fiore Music, October 18). Eleven years after launching live, Andrew Cyrille, Elliot Sharp, & Richard Teitelbaum‘s Evocation sees the light of day. As with much improvised music, the non-linear presentation disconnects it from time (Infrequent Seams, September 30).
Harpsichord may be the primary instrument on François Couperin / noemienours’ Fåglarnas Närhet, but the selling point is that the vocals are all by birds. Half of the tracks were written by Couperin in 1722, while the other half are original. Proceeds will help to protect Sweden’s avian population (noemienours, September 10). How many clavichord and percussion albums can you name? Tony Buck and Magda Mayas aim to corner the market as SPILL. mycelium marks their twentieth anniversary of collaboration, and is released on Corvo Records October 9 (pictured right). Mayas also appears as 1/3 of Great Waitress on the spacious back, before, teamed with Monica Brooks on accordion and Laura Altman on clarinet (Splitrec, September 16).
Aaron Turner and Jon Mueller‘s backgrounds in metal and rock come to the fore on Now That You’ve Found It, although the pleasantly caustic work does not sound much like Isis or Volcano Choir. Moments of drone are offset by stretches in which the percussion sounds like a herd of rabid cows (American Dreams, September 16). One man ensemble Jarius Sharif tricks the ear into thinking it is hearing an entire band. The rocking, raucous Water & Tools is a work of free jazz, drawing equally from the realm of psychedelic groove (telephone explosion, October 21).
Batterie Fragile is not a metaphor, but a literal challenge, as Valentina Magaletti plays a porcelain percussion sculpture conceived by Yves Chaudouët. One can imagine the anxiety over potential breakage (Un je-ne-sais-quos, September 23). Drummer Jeremy Rose is joined by the eight-strong Earshift Orchestra on Disruption! The Voice of Drums, which pays tribute not only to the power of percussion, but its relationship with protest. On the closing track, samples of street chants drive the point home (Earshift Music, October 14).
Drum and guitar duo Heikki Ruokangas and Landon George offer Devotional as an alternative form of prayer, the twin experience of playing and listening akin to an exchange with a higher power (Ramble Records, October 5). Rhythm and experimentation are both important to Vincent Glanzmann, whose label calls SZSHH “an abstract form of dance music.” Even if one doesn’t dance, it’s a complex and entertaining listen (esc.rec., September 2).
577 Records is ridiculously on top of their game, which is why we always give them their own section. A rather generous nine albums have already been announced for fall, with preview snippets ranging from a few seconds to full tracks. First out the gate is the red vinyl release of SSWAN: Invisibility is an Unnatural Disaster, from Jessica Ackerly, Patrick Shiroishi, Chris Williams, Luke Stewart, Jason Nazary, already out as of September 2. Next up, Spam Likely, an amusing forecast from Jessica Pavone, Lukas Koenig, Matt Mottel (September 16), followed by the Tennessee-Cuba collision of Francisco Mela and Zoh Amba on Cause y Efecto Vol. 1 (September 30) and Eunhye Jeong‘s piano-centric End of Time / KM-53 Project, Vol. 1 on October 7. Stepping Out is a studio album that includes field recordings of ice cream trucks and cicadas, presented by Playfield: Carter, Muhr, Ishito, Plaks, Namenwirth, Takahashi, Swanson, Panikkar on October 21. Violinist Sana Nagano teams with friends on the sprightly Anime Mundi, offering the release on blue vinyl (October 28); Astroturf Noise releases a 45 titled Tennessee Blazes / Prospect Freeze on November 2; Justin Purtill feat. Leo Genovese and Sean Conly offer a Simple Treat on November 4; and Nichunimu unveils Un Cacho de Metal, Un Resto de Vaivén on November 18. And then the holidays will arrive!
Just Add Voice
Melbourne’s Didem Caia and Emily Bennett are showcased on 3×3, a live set recorded at Program Records by I Hold the Lion’s Paw, which includes intriguing spoken word. The release is the first of an ongoing series (September 8). More slam poetry than haiku, Mikado Koko‘s Songs to Our Other Selves starts with Penny Rimbaud’s Acts of Love and stutters, cuts and loops raucous voice over violent instrumentation (One Little Independent, September 9).
Mali Obomsawin‘s Sweet Tooth is a mixture of folk and free jazz, instrumental and sung. The album pays tribute to the Wabanaki people with kindness, empathy and respect (Out of Your Head, October 28). Fourteen musicians participate on In Search of Our Father’s Gardens, including six percussionists and a trio of horns. RA Washington / Jah Nada‘s album is a soulful excursion, with bonus material in the digital edition (Astral Spirits, September 16).
John Cage and John McEnroe have likely never shared space on an album … until now. The parallel albums that comprise L’effet rebond turn quotations into lyrical fragments, courtesy of Pierre- Yves Macé and Sylvain Chauveau (Sub Rosa, October 7). Chris Cochrane / John Thayer make a funky noise on Excavation, joined by a huge cast of contributors. The album is always morphing, yet sustains an energetic vibe(Astral Editions, September 30).
‘A’ Trio (“the oldest free improvisation group to come out of Lebanon”) celebrates its 20th anniversary with Folk, an exciting album that twists and winds and coils (Maslakh, October 7, pictured right). Free jazz, electronics and dialogue samples make DRONE OPERATØR‘s Welcome to Anxiety Group an album of surprises, a statement on current times with a built-in remedy (Participant, September 5).
Budhaditya Chattopadhyay uses sound to describe the displacement of indigenous cultures and destruction of natural habitats. The single track Withering Field is out September 6 on Cronica. Sadly, Ian Rawes passed away last year, but recent work as The London Sound Survey is being published as From Dusk Till Dawn. The recordings were made in East Anglia, including common seals and some incredibly active flocks (Persistence of Sound, September 16). The next release on Forms of Minutiae comes from Diane Barbé, as A Conference of Critters captures the lushness of life in the jungles of Thailand, with occasional, endearing narration (October 21).