Monday, 7 September 2009

The Pura Paku Alaman - 'Javanese Court Gamelan From Jogyakarta'

Here's a big difference between this mp3 blog and its vinyl/cd counterparts over there on the sidebar - due to the absence of liner notes and artwork, I'm forcing myself to use the Internet to actually find out a bit of info about each of these records. Whereas I think with the vinyl, I try to rely on the intrinsic elements of the artwork and packaging to tell me everything I need to know. So I'm being a bit inconsistent here, but Rasterised Illegible Divided Cornucopia Fear is all about being the black sheep of the family. And that's good because I'm going to end up actually learning about all of this music that I never listen to.

So, Google tells me that this record was "Recorded on January 10, 1971 in the great reception hall, or pendopo, of the Pura Paku Alaman in Jogyakarta, by kind permission of His Highness Paku Alam VIII. The occasion was a radio broadcast in honor of his birthday, celebrated every thirty-five days according to the Javanese calendar." And a good birthday it would be for Paku Alam cause the vocalising on 'Ladrang Sem' is some of the most beautiful I have ever heard. Chilling, ringing throat vibrations perfectly mix with the gamelan instruments, and plus you can really hear the air even through the digital compression. The picture above is actually the instruments on this record, probably. A lot of hardcore American gamelanheads used to tell me that Java was where it was at, but I used to think I preferred the rainshimmer of the Balinese falvour. I dunno now; I mean that's like picking ketchup over mustard or vice-versa, cause it's all good.

Richard Maxfield / Harold Budd - 'The Oak of the Golden Dreams'

These two records were combined onto one compact disc even though they had nothing really to do with each other besides being on the same label. Maxfield's stuff rangers from 'outer sounds' electroacoustic composition, with very piercing, cutting synthetic electronic music on 'Pastoral Sounds' to cut-up concrète jams ('Bacchanale') to long David Tudory-kinda extended composition (named after and featuring Tudor). 'Bacchanale' is totally the complement to Terry Riley's collaboration with Chet Baker ('Music for the Gift' I believe it was called) and has some strange gaps and discordances that do a good service for the compact disc/digital format. On the other hand we have Harold Budd who I always associated with the dullest side of Eno's output. These two pieces are probably what people mean by 'minimal synth' (a phrase I see popping up in many a description lately). The title track is a total 180 from Maxfield; lush, gorgeous synth layers build up a melodic yet still very eerie presence. 'Coueur d'Orr' is much more akin to if Sun Ra was behind it; the synth swells and rushes are still there but there's a shitload of sax wanking over top, though it's from the soulful Buddha school of wank instead of the ear-piercing dissonance, so you know what? It works. Well.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Noah Howard - 'Patterns'/'Message to South Africa'

I'm a bit ambivalent about trying to blog my mp3 collection but they all just sit here, never being listened to, collecting dust, in a shitload of difficult-to-access cds with random food names written on them. And so I thought, do I actually review each album (in alphabetical order) on each disc (in alphabetical order) as a separate post? Or do I make one post for each mp3 disc and give one line descriptions? And do I really need to do this, since my output on Vinyl Underbite, Glass Mastered Cinderblocks, and Denial Embroidery is already a bit slow? And, do I upload each mp3 collection to Rapidshare or something, making these all available to everyone but then risking pissing off artists and labels?

I'm gonna attempt this anyway, though I don't know the answers to all of these questions. So proceeding alphabetically by disc title, and then alphabetically by album, we begin here. For some reason whenever I burned a CD of mp3s from 1999-2005 I would write the name of a random food on the CD, which was how I catalogued them. And judging the numerical value of 1000 to come before A, we start with the "1000 Island" disc which I named after the salad dressing I guess (even though it's usually written out as 'Thousand Island' on the bottles).

So, Noah Howard. A marginal jazzman in the officially written history, but Patterns will make you wish otherwise. This CD, put out by Eremite, is two tracks of Howard with two of my favorite gangs of non-US jazz dudes. Patterns is recorded with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink and some other Dutch dudes; it's a weird hybrid between Shepp-style pan-African rhythm beatdowns and Dutch swing, with occasional solos emerging from the clatter. Generally, the percussion is heavy -- both Bennink and a separate conga player and Howard as well at times. Sometimes the cymbals just cut through everything but maybe it's just the compression on these mp3s. There's parts where the reverb is cranked up and everything becomes a muddy, psychedelic mess, and those bits are my favorite, but the slowdowns and outerspace sax runs are inspired as well . Message to South Africa is recorded with Dyani. McGregor and Kali Fasteau so it's sure to please fans of the South African avant-swing scene. It's political in nature but what isn't? I'm already glad I started this project because I haven't listened to this in years (the CD says I burned it on 25 January 2002 and I doubt it got many listens since then) and it's a wonderful balancing act between American ESP-skronk and the digested trad cadences from Holland and South Africa.