review page 8

Quadrats:sch ('11)
Live Footage ('12)
Aaron Novik ('12)
Erik Friedlander ('11)

grading : * ok ** g  ***vg ****perf *****no better example than this: must-have heard
with additional + some tracks better  ; with ' possibly better for some (viewpoints)
Col Legno Prod.  Quadrat:sch : Stubenmusic (Ö,2011)***'

The album title “Stubenmusic” refers to the wooden parlour or best room in a farmhouse where people can rest, celebrate or make music. The group based themselves on the traditional instrumentation of Alpine “Chamber folk” Ensembles from since the 18th century. The improvisation however spans whole different areas, from the folk origins it expands itself over jazz, ragtime, classical towards sound exploring free jazz (but not too often on the first CD, much more on the second CD). The improvisational starting point of the second CD expanded their instrumentarium from hammered dulcimer, zither, harp, guitar, double bass to wood, stone and water using the sound sculptures of Kassian Erhart as a starting point. This would be the other edge of improvisation., the elements reaching the sound of Tirol in a different way. 

Quadratsc:sch is Barbara Romen on hammered dulcimer, Christof Dienz on zither, Gunter Schneider on guitars and Alexandra Dienz on double bass. Extra participants are Zeena Parkins (pioneer of the electric harp), Herbert Pirker (professor of jazz percussion at Bruckner University, Linz) and Kassian Erhart, generating sound sculptor.

On the first CD the improvisations are at its most melodic, while they hang on steady and fast rhythms that often create a honkytonk effect. The cello player uses rubbing ideas, the zither makes the melody, the pickings fill up like thumb piano compositions, the double bass runs fast or play funny rhythms. At times the musicians use their hand to smash and pump up with percussive accents these rhythms. This zither/dulcimer can have a Russian folk effect too, while again the cello uses all kinds of differences, adds sound as well. Mostly the music isn’t too weird at all, only on the tenth track of 12, the improvisation expands a bit more freely.

On the second it is pretty much clear there is more sound exploration involved because of the new elements of rolling over the wood of the cello, watercan percussion with variations by changing the position of the water and more rubbing sounds, on stone and wood. Besides the rubbing sounds this is combined with more bowed sounds logically. The rhythm becomes more free and to a degree this free music is a form of organically breaking apart of the musical foundations a bit as well, so not only rhythm but also the harmonies free itself and becomes less of a normal harmony, it takes a while before this sensitivity is restored, it becomes all a bit more avant-garde, slowly. Near the end, by track 8 (out of 9), this has reached a highlight of concentration on sound itself, reaching a whole new area with its own language, a subtle sensitivity that is more physical.

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Orisue  Live Footage : plays Jay Dee (US,2012)****

Live Footage is a duo improvising with cello, pedals, drums and electric piano mostly. I assume that their foundations are built in such a way they can perform this live, adding a few loops in it so that they can add more layers and movement. The foundation in that way is a relaxed sort of drum& bass with improvisation for electric piano and Rhodes, sometimes for additional rhythmical accents, also with small electronics, and melody that is often simply led by cello. The combination of all this gives a well produced and arranged catchy sound with a filmic, somewhat smoothly swinging chamber-pop character. On the third and 6th track the cello melody is added in the same way Metallica in the beginning added their tunes to a, in this case, different background. The Rhodes and its distortion gives another challenging sound and accents. Tasteful, and done with a good ear !

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Tzadik  Aaron Novik : Secret of Secrets (US,2012)****'

Clarinetist/composer Aaron Novik was inspired from or dedicated this album to the writings of Eleazar of Worms, a scholar and rabbi who explored the hidden meanings in the sacred Jewish texts using gematria, the numerology commonly associated with Hebrew letters that explains the separate words and associations expressed on a different level of understanding them. "Secrets of Secrets" are five books, which delve into a whole series of hierarchic names, where he even explains how to make a golem. The musical concept contains a parallel world of contrasts, expressed by a distorted electric, let’s say metal and slow-doom band, called Simularca (aka “metalclarinets”), which is also a real Californian band featuring Aaron Novik, which takes care of one layer of expression, while a chamber music band, called The Real Vocal String Quartet, explores possibilities of expression ranging from classical towards Middle Eastern and even Arabesque musical styles. The Jazz Mafia Horns, a brass band, provides the finishing touches, harmonies and richness, playing more often with a full tonal awareness more than with a separate style of their own. Additionally we have some dumbek, Middle Eastern hand percussion. Together this makes a 15 piece-band with a powerful sound.

The band core members are Matthias Bossi on drums ; Cornelius Boots on robot bass clarinet ; Aaron Novik on electric clarinet, percussion and programming ; Calara Kihlstedt on electric violin ; Willie Winant on timpani, vibraphone, glockenspiel, gong, tubular bells ; Fred Frith on guitar with guest Ben Goldberg on contra-alto clarinet, clarinet ; Lisa Mezzacappa on bass ; Aaron Kierbel on darbuka. The Quartet consists of Irene Fraser and Alisa Rose on violins ; Dina Maccabee on viola and Jessica Ivry on cello. The horn section was Henry Hung on flugelhorn, trumpet, marching French horn ; Afam Theis on trombone ; Jamie Dubberly on bass trombone and Doug Morton on tuba.

The first track, “The Secrets of Creation (Khoisdl)” progresses first very calmly in a classical music way/sense on a double bass rhythm, cello and with some bowed arrangements before brass is added. This starts to change, through rhythm, with an additional darker foundation : violins and clarinet then repeats a theme rhythmically on top of a distorted electric bass with drums with a tension that become heavier with emotional electric distortion. An electric fuzz solo with reverb echo as if being a muezzin singing, in a Middle Eastern mode, then takes the lead. Heavy bass and drums are then added, and also a brass section, which seems to be presented like an old 78” Klezmer recording. Then new chamber arrangements are mixed in with the electric band. This is a great heavy and dark groovy piece with the contrasts working well together .
The second track, “Secrets Of The Divine World (Terkish)” at first shows a clarinet (?) solo combined with some heavy rock electric distorted bass and a slamming percussion rhythm, on which are added rather Arabesque chamber string arrangements, which are again carried away by more heavy electric guitars and drums, before returning with a break to the orchestra once more, solo (in Arabesque and in plucked style) accompanied by dumbek percussion only. This then also gets some emotional lead solos on viola (?) and some more classical chamber progressions before allowing a new electric guitar solo, with later also more bass. The electric tension perceives somewhat avant-garde echoes, with still a few melodic associations returning as a theme.
The next track, “Secrets Of The Divine Chariot (Hora)”, starts once more calmly with a clarinet improvisation, mixed with a loudly recorded Middle eastern rhythm on double bass and some viola arrangement, and then, some orchestral harmonies. This is followed by a solo violin improvisation accompanied partly by a bass-brass instrument drone. The rock doom band element then returns to the lead solo voice of the electric violin under the form of the stamping drums theme with some heavy but short vibrating bass, repeating itself, as a renewed theme where deep harmonious brass harmonies are added, the drums pushing this to something harder. This improvises a bit further with the wining electric violin and sliding electric guitar concluding the track alone moodily.
“Secrets Of The Holy Name (Doina)” builds itself up slowly from various directions with the brass instruments, with one of the bass tones vibrating again almost like a didgeridoo. Fred Frith here slowly improvises on his guitar, with a few sliding avant-garde sounds as well. More avant garde distortion on guitar are echoing its way with or into its own realms, vaguely droning into space with some brass to it only, trying to return to a chamber group feeling again, the guitars still heavy echoing, until only some heavy electric deformations and changes are left over, a direction leading to the next and concluding track.
“Secrets Of Formation (Bulgar)” is the strangest track of them all, with heavy stomping drums, electric bass thunders, and a kind of Baroque computer-game-like numerical ascending tones played by electronics and electric guitar, repeating itself madly. This builds up further, like a vision from another planetary condition, until it finds, in all its rhythmical progression, some orchestral feeling again with vibraphones, gongs and such, so that it can finally break away from it with a last purely orchestral version of the ascending theme translated into stringed plucks and rather filmic strings, descending the tonal series deeper and deeper, leaving in the end only a rotating motor sound and some organ behind it as its remains, like an echo from this rhythm behind its orchestral shadow/meadow. In this track I can understand and hear well its gematrian content being revealed, as if showing with it, another, even physical world to experience.

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SkipStone RecordsErik Friedlander : Bonebridge (US,2011)****

When I heard the first few tracks of this album I had the impression this was very much the vision of a double bass player in every layer of expression and its variations, in every instrument. Only a bit further on I realised that the middle tones core and the approach are still from a somewhat different range. Erik Friedlander (from Topaz fame) already had shown before a different approach on the cello in his Broken Arm Trio, (with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Mike Sarin), this new quartet can be considered as an extension from this previous band and idea. The Trio was inspired by Oscar Pettiford’s new approach on the cello. When this musician broke his arm and while his arm was still in a sling, and because he could still move his fingers, he started a different approach, tuning the cello like a bass but one octave higher. His album "My Little Cello" (1964) was the first to be recorded this way. For Erik Friedlander, after having performed some bluegrass, he realised that also a slide guitar could augment the sound and expressions he already had here as a foundation to work with. The ideas are kept relatively simple, with the bluegrass associations still fresh in mind, and a simple attractive melodic swing available to improvise with, the range starting from this different cello approach also makes the music different. There’s a touch of jazz present, but also something of Americana, the tracks neither belong in an urban or rural context. There has been used an almost classical ear to harmonies, to perfection and knowledge of how to combine the instruments with a warm sound, in the end this album gets a chambermusic-like touch. We hardly hear the cello with bowed moments (if there were any, I can’t recall right now), instead there’s pizzicato and plucked themes, as much as in the double bass lines, the cello still has a bit more melodic freedom available than a double bass practically has. Succesful !

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