Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Cathnor Vignettes series, review 4, Paul Abbott & Grundik Kasyansky – “green ribbon residue, in this case″

January 9, 2010

[Edit: Sorry, the original version of this sounded too flip, so I tweaked it a bit.]

Every sound, once unacceptable, is now acceptable in this current music. At least it seems that way. So how can we, standing at the edge of the aesthetic earth, possibly move forward?

I’m sure there is a way forward, or more specifically, a way to avoid stagnation, to continue to make fresh, exciting music. I think, in this area of music it is very important to constantly be challenging the status quo, the common gestures, the obvious movements, to say something about who, and where, and what we are. I think the most exciting records for me show signs of this, and the ones where I cannot see it never really get to the point of interest for me.

Listening to “green ribbon residue…” about 30 times over the past few months, has lead me ultimately to places it more in the latter camp than the former. It has some tasty ingredients, sure… copious stillness, pregnant silence, threads of keening feedback, crashes of percussion, electronics bursts and pulses, all deployed with an almost processional calmness, solemnity and poise. Sounds like it could be pretty good right? Well, in a lot of ways, I suppose it is. There are moments (few of them unfortunately) where the two players begin to build something together that points to more exciting territory. Had I seen this live I probably would have been riveted. On record however, there seems to be something achingly absent.

The familiar feedback is there, but for some reason it’s not enticing, or frightening, or even difficult, the hair-pin turns appear, but they just go back to that reservoir of silence that can be so readily dipped into. There are painterly gestures here and there, but they come off somehow awkward. It begins to feel like we are sort of playing “EAI” here. It seems like all of the hallmarks are here, but I just don’t feel like it’s getting to a place that will make it more than a reading in a style.

It could be tempting to say that the issue with this disc is that it is not really pushing things, that it’s not exactly groundbreaking, just ok. But, maybe the issue is different. Maybe this disc is merely too affirming of our current taste as a collective to truly move me.

Of course, maybe I’m just looking for something here that there was never intended to be. I don’t know, all I can really do is give you my impression. In this case, this disc is pleasant, and intriguing enough that it will get occasional revisitings, but as for how I feel about it now, it’s just ok.

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.