Archive for December, 2009

Cathnor Vignettes series, review 3, Mark Wastell – “After Hours″

December 14, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post about Mark Wastell’s contribution to the Cathnor Vignettes series for a week or so now, and it’s really not gotten easier. If anything this post only exists because it has gotten easier to talk about how it has not gotten easier.

First, let’s talk about what we have here. A roughly 15 minute long composition of pre recorded tubular bells that consists of 15 or so odd strikes* at the bell, and their resultant (relatively) uninterrupted decay. Sometimes they are on one side of the stereo field or another, sometimes they overlap, but really that is all the variation beyond the lengths between the strikes that there is to hear here. So you can probably guess why this is a difficult review.

On one hand, I may have told you enough already so that you will know what side of the fence you are on in terms of you desire to hear this release. In some ways you could, if you’ve heard such material before, imagine what this may sound like with a fair degree of accuracy. On the other hand however, things may not be so simple. I am, as the tentativeness of this review may suggest, planted firmly on the fence.

The music on “After Hours” is so elemental that discussing it critically would be like discussing a photograph of rain on a windshield. The subject matter is beautiful, melancholy, and sublime by it’s very nature, and also in this case, exquisitely captured. At the same time though it is so elemental that it is almost mundane. I can certainly say that it did not provide more for me beyond a familiar (if sublime) beauty. Certainly I have comparable recordings of Tibetan singing bowls purchased from incense shops that bear the same beautiful, elemental quality. Which leads me to ask, why Mark Wastell, and why now? The music contained herein is undeniably beautiful, and that may be my only problem (if you could call it that).

Maybe it is merely ambient music to chill out to, or maybe Wastell is up to something more which I cannot yet detect. Maybe I should stop thinking about it so much and focus on Mr. Wastell’s simple words:

“After Hours; the work completed, time to contemplate.
After Hours; down time, relaxation after so much effort.
After Hours; pour the wine in celebration.”

* I’m not sure how exactly what actions are producing these sounds. It appears that the sounds are the results of strinking with a mallet, but it seems their envelopes have been altered via computer processing of some kind.

Jack Rose

December 7, 2009

I tried to write something about the sad passing of this amazing musician, but it’s useless.
I’ll just say it’s really sad to know he’s gone.
Condolences to those who knew him.
Rest in peace, Jack.

Cathnor Vignettes series, review 2, Lee Patterson – “Egg Fry #2”

December 2, 2009

Just realized that’s a lot of commas in the title. Oh well.

This is the second installment of my review of the Cathnor vignettes series, and also, my second real review for this site (cue boos and general dismay). For those not worried about this prospect, my plan for reviews in general is to review whatever I feel like talking about whether new or old. I don’t have a huge philosophy behind that or anything, I am just occasionally struck by a record or label, and when I am, I hope to write about it here. In the case of this series, I just really like what Richard is doing with the label. It’s pretty cool to see someone step it up and take their passion for this music to the next level, and it’s great to be able to hear the recorded results.

Now to the review… Egg Fry #2, is a real treat, but for a few reasons, somewhat difficult to write about. Firstly, the sounds produced by the egg frying in the pan, sound almost like they are being made by an ensemble. There are many different sonic approaches, and different locations in the stereo field from which the sounds emerge. But there is no ensemble, and no instruments to pinpoint, thus it’s difficult to say, “i like when the _____ goes _____.” Not that that is the soul of a review, but you know…

The recording in general is really well done. Background noise never becomes intrusive, and the sounds by and large sound defined and transparent. (the nerd in me would love to know what setup Patterson used for this recording) Compositionally, this piece reminds me in certain ways of Jason Kahn’s recent (and wonderful) “Vanishing Point”, in that the overall shape of the piece is an accent from silence to fullness, and then a descent back to silence that is equally as carefully paced and just as long if not longer. I really like the psychological effect this produces, as it helps to focus my attention to detail throughout the end of the piece, until i am peeking through the silence at the end for the last few pops and sputters, like scraping a plate after a good meal.

The sounds presented here are a mix of (a very nice version of) what you’d expect, with a handful of surprises. There are a lot of images of musicians evoked for me here, and sometimes I can’t help my mind from imagining Axel Döerner somewhere in the mix. Or, Robin Hayward, or to a lesser extent Otomo Yoshihide and Martin Tetrault on turntables. The overall effect reminds me of older more laminal improv where players would find a space and remain in it for a while almost as if the were staking their claim to a space within an instantly emerging composition. Certain sounds are nearly ever present, which is quite alright by me, as in general due to (I imagine) the physics of what is taking place they are always changing slightly in what can almost sound like an investigatory manner. The pops, shuffles, splutters and whirs, dance around one in such a way however, as to never become too staid or boring. And occasionally we are treated to a blast or plonk that seems to come out of nowhere and upset the works at just the right moment.

An added bonus bonus to this disc is that it can benefit from being listened to both quite soft, and quite loud. Soft, it can blend so nicely with background sounds as to sort of enliven the ambience of your surroundings, yet still manages to draw you in. Loud, it can be an exciting noise-fest, and an engrossing and intense experience.

While always being open to hearing sound recordings of all kinds, I expected to find this disc interesting on the surface. After listening several times now though I am quite impressed by the level of complexity to explore below.

Great packaging too! 🙂