Decay of the Angel

Decay of the Angel by Jeremiah Cymerman
Bandcamp Link: Decay of the Angel

I’ve been following Jeremiah Cymerman and his music for a while.

I enthusiastically wrote about one of his earlier projects, Badlands by Pale Horse earlier this year.

He plays clarinet, I try to play clarinet. He lives with small dogs, I live with a small dog.

When I found out he was raising money to help release a new solo album, I felt like I had no real choice but to support it.

Decay of the Angel stretches what Cymerman had been doing with electronics and his clarinet in Pale Horse.

It is not exactly a solo clarinet album, as there are some overdubs, percussion, and a fair bit of electronics going on, though Cymerman is playing all the instruments, (he also recorded and mixed the album himself).

I’m not exactly sure how to write about Decay of the Angel. A little too close, right? I mean, firstly, I am jealous that Cymerman has made such an amazing record which combines so many things I am personally enthusiastic about. Clarinet, noise, vaguely menacing atmospherics, overtly menacing sounds, electronics, electronic processing of the clarinet, the lyrical quality of the clarinet, bowel loosening sub bass…

It’s an entrancing mix of ugly beauty and beautiful ugliness.

The 20 minute long song, “Decay of the Angel,” is the heart of the album, with Cymerman mimicking the mournful tone of Japanese flute on his clarinet while static fields of sound build and fade around his lyrical playing.

About the name… “Decay of the Angel” is the name of the last book by Kimitake Hiraoka, aka Yukio Mishima. Shortly after writing this book, Mishima and his confederates attempted a coup d’etat by taking over the Tokyo headquarters of the Japan Self Defense forces. He gave a speech to the assembled troops and when they did not exactly enthusiastically embrace his idea of a return to the ideals of Edo period Japan and the divine rule of the emperor of Japan, Mishima went back into the offices and, with the help of his compatriots, committed ritual suicide, rather than live on in a world which didn’t live up to his expectations.

#JeremiahCymerman #DecayOfTheAngel #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Monster Club

Monster Club

Monster Club by Tony Bevan, Chris Corsano, and Dominic Lash
Bandcamp Link: Monster Club

Tony Bevan – Soprano, Tenor and Bass Saxophones
Chris Corsano – Drums and Percussion
Dominic Lash – Double Bass

Everything is in place for me to like this album. Great players, great name, great cover.

Somehow it just didn’t grab me when I listened this morning.

When I put it on again this afternoon, I tried to identify what was off for me.

I guess I’d say, when I listen to a trio like this, as a sax player, I identify with the sax player on the album.

But, this isn’t the sax player’s album. It is the rhythm section’s album, and primarily it belongs to the bass player.

The sax playing is good, but it seems almost beside the point when you listen to what the bass and drums are putting down.

The sax player is just little out of sync, or a little behind what is happening, and I think that’s why it doesn’t grab me.

(Yeah, I’m the guy chasing seagulls with my camera at 7:30am on Ocean Beach. Why don’t you say, “Hi!” the next time you see me.)

#TonyBevan #ChrisCorsano #DominicLash #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

What is Tea, Part 2: Tea Plants and Farms

Tea Plants and Farms

We were recently lucky enough to be able to visit China. I was excited, because the trip was primarily a culinary tour, so we would get to taste a variety of Chinese food I had only ever read about in books.

However, when I looked closer at the itinerary, I noticed, along with other cultural icons of China, we would be visiting Longjing Village, the source of Dragonwell Tea, the green tea I had been drinking for more years than I can remember.

Cha

As I mentioned, Tea is made from the leaves and buds of a perennial shrub or tree in the Cammelia family, Cammelia sinesis.

Tea Field-03

In areas of China, tea plantations run up and down the hills in stepped rows.

Tea Plants–02

Above is a closeup of a tea bush. If you look close you can see the buds and final leaves.

Tea is usually made from the first spring buds and a leaf or two of the fresh growth.

Tea is picked, usually by hand, where pickers go from bush to bush and pinch off the bud and first leaf of the spring growth at a certain time of the year, and a certain time of the day.

Steeped Dragonwell Tea-2

This is a glass of Dragonwell tea. You can clearly see the buds and leaves of the tea plant in the glass of tea. That is what tea should look like in the glass.

Well There You Go!

Well There You Go by Kevin Drumm
Bandcamp Link: Well There You Go

If it gets to be more than a month between Kevin Drumm bandcamp releases, I start to get antsy and think to myself, “Hope the guy is OK!”

Fortunately, this fine new, and well titled, album showed up just in the nick of time, before I called the Chicago Emergency Services!

A shorter release from Drumm, I was actually able to listen to this one completely before getting to work, a practice I am sure he disapproves of, what with the road noise and all, but I think he disapproves more of listening to his music on headphones while doing something else.

In any case, this IS an interesting release.

It starts with modulated shortwave static, moves to sound field work, transitions back to static, and again to sound fields, transitions to shortwave with what sounds like morse code, and finishes with a collaboration with a trumpeter named Greg Kelley.

It’s almost like a symphony!

My favorite section is probably the second, when what sounds like a very lonely prairie dog squeaks every so often during the rolling sound field interactions. Like a rodent accidentally caught up and alone on a massive space ark bound for another galaxy.

Can you tell I just read Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Aurora”?

In any case, if you are more curious about Kevin Drumm, bandcamp recently gave him a “lifetime achiement” feature:

Lifetime Achievement: The Diverse, Idiosyncratic Output of Kevin Drumm

Read and subscribe!

#KevinDrumm #WellThereYouGo #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

UUUU

UUUU by UUUU.

UUUU is Edvard Graham Lewis and Matthew Simms of wire, Thighpulsandra of Coil, and Valentina Magaletti of Tomaga.

Most similar to the somewhat experimental Gilbert/Lewis project Dome.

Junkyard percussion, occasional synthesizers drones, and the odd tune.

More evocative than compelling, it does move from time to time when it needs to. And it did suit my dark mood today.

#UUUU #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #EdvardGrahamLewis #MatthewSimms #Thighpulsandra #ValentinaMagaletti

Praise of Our Folly

Praise of Our Folly by Lisbon Freedom Unit.
Bandcamp Link: Praise of Our Folly

Large group free sessions can first, be difficult to organize, and second, very difficult to record.

The risk you run is everyone just honking away in a sort of undifferentiated mass of noise.

The musicians, and engineers, on this album seem to have taken this into account.

What could have been a honk fest is calmed down, the first piece almost feels like everyone was challenging the each other to play as quietly, and as little, as possible while still maintaining the tension of the piece.

However, what makes this album interesting is that it feels like a true cooperative group effort.

I can’t say I’ve every heard such a large ensemble (nine musicians!) where it feels so free, yet at the same time, restrained and sensitive. These musicians feel like they have spent a lot of time playing with each other and have an extreme empathy for each other.

Smaller groups among the musicians form and dissolve in a seemingly organic fashion throughout the course of the album.

III is probably the closest to a full on blow out and certainly does not disappoint, though, again, I am extremely impressed by how the recording engineers found differentiated space for all the players within the group.

Apparently, I need to bring my saxophone the next time I visit Portugal!

Oh, and it is, maybe, the best ever album name for a free improvisation recording.

#LuisLopes #RodrigoAmado #PedroSousa #BrunoParrinha #RodrigoPinheiro #RicardoJacinto #HernaniFaustino #PedroLopes #GabrielFerrandini #PraiseOfOurFolly #LisbonFreedomUnit #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #PictureADay

Sex Tape

Sex Tape by BRÖTZMANN / LEIGH
Bandcamp Link: Sex Tape

peter brötzmann – tenor/alto-saxophones, tarogato, b-flat clarinet
heather leigh – pedal steel guitar

The cover of this album depicts a naked crucified man embraced by an enormous snake which is biting down on his, well, uh, tool.

While I think the cover image is maybe just a bit sensational, the snake metaphor is apt for BRÖTZMANN and LEIGH’s dynamic. Initially, I was thinking the more apt metaphor would be a snake charmer, with BRÖTZMANN as the charmer and Leigh’s Pedal Steel as the cobra. There is a sinuousness to Leigh’s playing which is very snake-like.

But the more I listened, the less it held up for me. I couldn’t decide who was the snake and who was the charmer.

The way BRÖTZMANN and Leigh interact IS interesting. There is a lot of call and response between them. BRÖTZMANN will play a figure and Leigh will imitate it surprisingly accurately on the pedal steel.

It is more like two tremendously large pythons wrestling each other, writhing in a swamp, fighting or copulating. In the end you’re not sure if one snake ate the other, or, if one got away and the other is now eating its own tail.

#BRÖTZMANN #LEIGH #SexTape #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

sleep like it is winter

“sleep like it is winter” by Jim O’Rourke.
Bandcamp Link: sleep like it is winter

I was going to give myself this week off from writing about music and maybe get caught up in my plans for world tea domination.

But then I got all caught up in remembering I hadn’t listened to the new Jim O’Rourke album.

Decided I had to buy it on Bandcamp and then listen to it.

And it turns out to be good.

Dammit.

Jim O’Rourke is a polymath guitarist, producer, mixer, engineer, etc. Maybe best known for being the 5th member of Sonic Youth from 1999-2005, he has been involved in a very long list of bands including Illusion of Safety, Gastr del Sol, and Brise-Glace. As a producer, engineer, and mixer his list of credits is too long to even get started on. He has also released a string of eclectic solo albums under his own name, which range from strange, to rock, to folk. Often on the same album.

Lately, he has been producing albums of abstract electronics under the “Steam Room” name.

Those albums are great, but they are fairly abstract, with no noticeable pulse, or, often, even recognizable instruments.

“sleep like it is winter”, from what I’ve been unable to avoid reading, is viewed as a confluence of O’Rourke’s two worlds.

“sleep like it is winter” is a single 45 minute piece.

It starts, quietly, in the Steam Room world, scratchy shortwave radio samples and pulseless fields of bell-like sounds.

This atmosphere slowly gives way to panning bass sounds, piano, and synthesizer.

The piece briefly transitions to dissonant, industrial sounds, but finishes with consonant, long synthesizer tones which cross each other to form almost hymnlike-chords.

While there are somethings like melodies, there are no voices or discernible guitars.

Dissonant without being harsh, pleasant without being boring, it reminds me of the music groups like Tangerine Dream made before they turned into businesses.

Certainly, self released 45 minute long pulse-less electronic music pieces with periods of dissonance aren’t likely to be racing up the charts, (are there still charts?) any time soon, but in a better world, they would be.

#JimORourke #sleeplikeitiswinter #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Wet Robots

Wet Robots by Fay Victor’s SoundNoiseFunk.
Bandcamp Link: Wet Robots

Fay Victor, voice; Joe Morris, guitar; Sam Newsome, Soprano Sax; Reggie Nicholson, drums.

I am most familiar with soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and guitarist Joe Morris. Fay Victor has been on my radar for a while, but this is the first time I have really made the time to listen to an album of hers. Reggie Nicholson’s name I knew, having seen it and heard him on records from Henry Threadgill and Myra Melford, but this album is the most space I’ve heard him given to shine.

On paper, I suppose this ensemble is similar to Geometry of Caves, even sharing a guitarist in Morris, but in practice, the albums aren’t much alike, aside from being quartets with female vocalists and guitar.

Wet Robots is a much more swinging affair, primarily due to the stellar drumming of Mr Nicholson leading the charge, and partly due to Ms Victor’s very rhythmically led vocalizations.

There is a lot of material here, over 50 minutes of music.

When she uses words, Ms Victor tends to speak sing poetically. Of those tracks, “I Sing” is a favorite. On most of the other tracks, she vocalizes without words, growling here, laughing there, tearing it up and down the bebop scales elsewhere.

Mr Newsome is one of the greatest artists of the Soprano Saxophone. He coaxes bluesy licks with ease and with equal ease animal sounds or floating cloudlike non-pitches. It is always a joy to listen to him.

Mr Morris is less strict and strategic with his playing on Wet Robots than he was on Geometry of Caves. He lets his playing follow the blues-ey and sometimes funky leads of Newsome and Nicholson, while being as eclectic as ever in his choices of texture and rhythm.

Mr Nicholson is the heart of this group, the deft interplay between snare and bass drum are the heart of his drumming. Always on time and always swinging.

Certainly the most “Jazz” album I’ve covered on the blog in a while, Wet Robots is still an eclectic and enjoyable mix of moods and feelings.

Can I stop babbling about this album and go back to listening to it?

#FayVictor #JoeMorris #SamNewsome #ReggieNicholson #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack