Tuesday, April 08, 2014

L'Étau: Choses Clandestines (Keith Tippett/Michel Pilz/Paul Rogers/Jean-Noël Cognard)

L'Étau: Choses Clandestines
Keith Tippett/Michel Pilz/Paul Rogers/Jean-Noël Cognard

Bloc Thyristors 0140/50/60/70

L'Étau (The Vice) is a new free improvisation quartet formed at the behest of Hazel Miller, owner of the legendary Ogun Records label. Choses Clandestines (Clandestine Things) is their debut release, a mammoth 4LP set - two discs each of studio and live recordings - exclusive to the vinyl format and limited to just 300 copies on the boutique French Bloc Thyristors label.

Packaged in a luxurious, cloth-bound box of bright pink, a textured golden underlay is revealed via cutaway cover art. The same high standards continue inside the box, with detailed liner notes (in French) in the accompanying booklet and box inner. To complete the package the discs are pressed on black (studio) and white (live) vinyl with minimal labels.

Overall, the package is absolutely stunning, which is a perfect fit for the music it contains.

Tippett's dedication to prepared piano - wherein objects are placed within the body of the instrument, allowing for a vastly expanded sonic palette - has never before been so successful. Cognard (sounding something like a cross between Han Bennink and Keith Moon) is his perfect counter-part, skittering and twitching on a kit rich in tuned metals. Between the two of them one could easily believe they were listening to the playing of N. U. Unruh, percussionist with Einstürzende Neubauten.

But this is no industrial noise-fest. Lyrical whimsy, rich melody, and yes chord progressions and harmony all play a major part too. And with players like Rogers and Pilz also part of the line-up that should come as no surprise. On his seven string custom double bass (complete with additional sympathetic strings for droning resonance) Rogers is the consummate free bassist, and well used to playing alongside Tippett with whom he collaborated in the phenomenal Mujician project over many years. And Pilz's work on bass clarinet is simply without par - an extraordinarily sensitive player who always shines with singing clarity, yet has phenomenal, Coltrane-esque power in extended pitch technique.

Free improvisation rarely works as well as it does on Choses Clandestines. This is an album of beauty, sensitivity, and intensity, with a magnificent package to contain it. The other 299 people lucky enough to secure this album will undoubtedly agree. If you have any interest in free improvisation then this release is absolutely essential. Don't delay. They won't last long.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Agile Argus Extended Octave Down Guitar - 30" scale, Fender Bass VI equivalent: First Run

First play with new Agile Argus Extended superlong guitar (30" scale, octave down, Fender Bass VI equivalent) plugged into broken, permanently overdriven bass amp via cheap and nasty multi-FX.

Selected snippets from 40 minute, continuous, improvised session to familiarise myself with the instrument.

Apologies for crotch shots. No apologies for amateur incompetence.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts on Brian Eno's Pure Scenius, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall 14 June 09

Sorry, but there will be no review per se.

That would be impossible.

So here are some thoughts and comments you may or may not like to know.

In random order...


Even though I had "no expectations", I expected it to be exciting, experimental and entertaining.

It was all that and so much more.

It was revelatory.

I was right up the front and could see nearly everything. As Eno was on the far side of the stage to my seat, I could even see the side of his face when he had his back to the audience, a position he needed to be in to use his mic or laptop.

I was surprised to see all the musicians on stage at once. The publicity led me to believe that each show would feature separate groupings of musicians. Looking back though, I see this is my error.

Peter Chilvers was the unannounced eighth member of the "group", acting mainly as Eno's assistant as far as I could tell. Possibly subbing for Fripp?

There was a "loungeroom" set up on one side of the stage, complete with tea and coffee making facilities. Each member made use of the facilities at some point during the shows aside from Tony Buck, who pretty much only rested between shows.

The "loungeroom" was also the dressing room.

There was also a tent on stage, which Karl Hyde painted 'HOME' on during the last piece of the main set of the third show.

I have no idea what that was about.

Because of the onstage dressing room, they stayed on stage for over six hours straight, playing in total for around four and a half hours.

I'd say over three hours of this was unique, new music. There was little repetition between the shows.

The music was rarely 100% improvised.

The music was rarely 100% written.

Eno directed the ensemble throughout, regularly rifling through notes and/or scribbling things down on pieces of paper and handing them to Chilvers, who placed them on a device which looked a bit like an overhead projector. I assume this device was some type of camera/scanner as the musicians were watching monitors/laptops and responding to whatever Eno had written/selected.

Sometimes we also got to see what he had written/selected, projected onto the screens above the performance.

Sometimes these notes were obvious directions like "just The Necks", sometimes they were more obtuse things like "Start warm, then fiercer", sometimes they were specific 'titles' like "Ikebana Noise Club", sometimes they were a sequence of numbers/times, and sometimes they were even chord progressions.

Eno also physically directed the ensemble with gesticulations and counting cues etc.

The titled pieces were definitely not your conventional written song type affairs. The few repeated pieces sounded completely unique in each repetition for the most part.

Eno told the fictional future history of Ikebana Noise Club during the second show. It was a complicated story on how a genre developed in Japan during the 2020s, spilt into several subgenres and then was eventually banned in the year 2025. I believe this story may have actually been the bulk of the composition - i.e. I think this story was all that the musicians were given to work with.

The first show was performed as continuous piece.

The second show was broken into separate songs with banter in between.

The third show was a mix of the two.

The first and third shows had encores, which were definitely not planned events.

The first show started incredibly quiet and slow, with bubbles popping.

The second show started like Merzbow on fire.

The third show started like a retro rave-up.

Both Eno and Karl Hyde read texts, Eno's seemingly randomly selected from his laptop and Hyde working out of a good old notebook.

Hyde also did his Underworld (manual) looping rantchant singing several times, to great effect.

Eno also sang once in the third show, and it sounded horrible.

Hyde consulted with Eno on which texts to use a couple of times, and at one stage they played off of each other, trading unrelated lines (or in Eno's case, his single repeated line).

This exchange contained some imagery that was a little sexy, and this amused them both. Hyde and Eno seemed to be trying to get each other to crack and laugh, with Eno eventually waving Hyde off with a huge smile on his face.

Only one piece had a strictly set text, sung by Hyde. This was the same piece to use a set chord progression. It was called "Pink Moon" (not the Nick Drake song). If this were a conventional band in a bygone era this track would be the single.

Pink Moon was (possibly) the only piece played at all three shows, though each performance was unique. For the first show it was the encore, and a hasty abbreviated ad hoc arrangement, the second show's version started smoothly with just Lloyd Swanton's double-bass, and the third show's version started with a punchy bass and drums duo.

Eno's decision to utilise The Necks was a very wise one. Due to their years of working together as a unit they were responsible for holding it all together. This was reflected by giving the minimalist improv trio 10 minutes or so of unaccompanied performance in each show.

Each show also featured a piano duet between Chris Abrahams and Jon Hopkins, playing back to back grands. These moving pieces, all unique, were very slow and closest in feel to Eno's ambient explorations.

All the musicians were exceptional, especially given the groundbreaking (lack of) rules they had to work with.

The music was mostly, but not always successful in the traditional sense of music appreciation. There were some dud notes.

The event was ALWAYS exciting. This made the dud notes completely irrelevant.

I think I get what Eno means by Scenius now, that you can take any combination of factors and combine them to create a new scene, even with little traditional preparation. It is this scene that becomes the creator, much more so than the people behind it. The musicians gathered here for these events came from such disparate backgrounds yet due to the commitment of the individuals to embrace Eno's concept something magnificent and terrifying was allowed to be born of them.

I'd love to see these eight musicians get together again, but I doubt it will ever happen. I think Eno's point was that you can do this with any group of talented people. Hopefully some other festival will give him the budget to do just that in the future. The rewards are immeasurable.


I may post more later.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Marilyn Crispell (solo) - Jazz: Now Sep 11 2008 - The Studio, Sydney Opera House

From where I sat, I couldn't see her hands...

It mattered not.

On Thursday night Marilyn Crispell approached the piano not as if it was a musical instrument, but as if it was a mound of clay ready for sculpting. Hunched over and with eyes barely open Ms. Crispell cast an imposing image of olden magics, as she commenced to draw the very essence of her music from the piano with slowly clenching hands. Immediately every movement was full of power and concentration and an air of secrecy. I found myself drawn to watching the glimpsed reflections in the underside of the piano lid, the silhouette cast on the rear wall of the performance space by a sole yellow light, even the patterns of reflected colour on the performer's own face and in every space I saw the same thing. Marilyn Crispell was sculpting. Creating a creature of unknown qualities as if from nothing.

Starting the first of two extended pieces with pairs of close chords in the mid-lower register, each of Marilyn's hands worked in independent, fluid rhythm, each hand alternating turns to find a comfortable position and pattern before the other scarpered off to explore available contrasts. Occasionally a hand would run wild along the entire length of the keyboard in a great cascading flurry before it would be wrested under control to return to a new steady holding position. And thence came the chord progressions. Somehow, from those basic, yet complex building-blocks emerged a symphony of chords, with Marilyn allowing variations explored to eventually settle into delicate patterns which belied their spontaneous conception. For all the world it was believable that this was a rich and fully formed written music, almost Gershwin-like in its consonant harmony, yet ultimately unlike anything ever heard before. At this point Marilyn Crispell's body changed too. No longer was she hunched over in secretive construction, now sitting high with shoulders back and relaxed posture, embracing with open arms the creature she had created.

And then she let it sleep. Slowly winding down to a small, beautiful melodic flourish, a sustained resonance, then nothing but an after-echo which I can still hear.

Allowing only enough time for brief applause, Marilyn launched straight into her second performance, again resuming the figure of a hunched, mysterious sculptor of nothing. The journey was noticeably different, but along a similar path, a substantially longer one too. I'd guess the first piece lasted around 18 minutes, the second maybe half an hour, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was completely wrong. While this event took place time itself ceased to follow rules.

The audience response was adoring if a little restrained. Marilyn looked utterly satisfied and complete, obviously very proud of what she had created. Yet she was coaxed back to the piano for a brief encore, a number completely different to the rest of the night, with hands skittering up and down the keyboard in fractured rhythm, like two mice joyfully at play. I'd say it lasted less than 90 seconds. Two minutes at the most. A sweet mint following a gourmet meal. Perfection.

What a treasure Marilyn Crispell is. If you get the chance to see her perform solo don't miss out for it is a truly unique and magical experience. I know I won't forget this night in a long, long time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts, Louis Moholo-Moholo with Pino Minafra and the Minafric Orchestra: "Viva la Black" live at Jazz Grenoble 2008

Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts, Louis Moholo-Moholo with Pino Minafra and the Minafric Orchestra: "Viva la Black" live at Jazz Grenoble, France, Friday 28th March 2008

NOTE: this was written in response to the 2008 Grenoble bootleg that has recently appeared through online sources, but as the set is virtually identical to that from Ruvo 2004 these notes mostly fit with the official CD release as well.

Keith Tippett, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Julie Tippetts and Pino Minafra

Keith Tippett: piano & direction
Julie Tippetts: vocals
Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums
+ Pino Minafra’s Minafric Orchestra
Pino Minafra & Luca Calabrese: trumpets
Roberto Ottaviano: saxophone (alto & soprano)
Carlo Actis Dato: saxophone (tenor)
Rossano Emili: saxophone (baritone)
Lauro Rossi & Gianpiero Malfatto: trombone
Livio Minafra: piano
Giovanni Maier: bass
Vincenzo Mazzone: drums/percussion
Valentina Casula, Sylvie Ah Moye & Hélène Bonan: vocals

Some history…

So, you think this is a performance by the band Viva la Black? Close, but no cigar.

Louis Moholo-Moholo has been flying the Viva la Black banner since at least the mid 80s when Moholo first formed a group with Sean Bergin, Thebe Lipere, Claude Deppa, Robert Bellatalla & Steve Williamson, releasing the debut eponymous Viva la Black album in 1988 (Ogun OG533 LP, now out of print and sadly never reissued on CD). The core group of Moholo/Bergin/Lipere/Deppa continued on in this form until the mid 1990s with the likes of Frank Douglas, Paul Rogers, Toby Delius, Jason Yarde and Pule Pheto also passing through the ranks at various times. One other studio album Exile (Ogun OGCD 003) was released in 1991 before the group saw Louis make his triumphant return tour to South Africa in 1993; almost 30 years after his self-imposed exile began. This tour was later documented on the superb Freedom Tour album (Ogun OGCD 006) a collage of cleverly crossfaded best takes from a variety of performances mixed together to give the impression of one continuous joyous riot of sound. Another studio album was laid down in 1995 with Francine Luce also joining the group, however for reasons never made clear this album was shelved, only finally seeing release as Bra Louis, Bra Tebs in 2006 (Ogun OGCD 017/018, packaged as a two CD set with the long overdue reissue of Moholo’s exceptional pre-VlB 1978 album Spirits Rejoice!). Additionally, for this release the VlB name was retired in favour of the simpler Louis Moholo-Moholo Septet.

Due to the up-front presence of Lipere’s percussion and vocals Viva la Black was always a very African sounding jazz group, fusing Xhosa music forms with exuberant jazz orchestrations and a healthy dose of unbridled spontaneity. A further Africanised Brotherhood of Breath if you will.

Material-wise, a great deal of the original VlB songbook was made up of original Moholo material, traditional folk forms arranged by Moholo and songs written by his compatriots in exile. The band would also occasionally mix in standards such as What a Wonderful World and Roland Kirk’s Volunteered Slavery with their usual set, though the VlB signature would always ensure these standards never sounded tired, and often sounded totally original in themselves.

When Moholo relaunched the Viva la Black banner in 2004 it was as a very different beast. Gone were all of the musicians involved in the original era, as was the bulk of the material. Instead it would be a new collaborative venture with Keith Tippett and Julie Tippetts, drawing most of the material from Keith’s back catalogue, along with a handful of adapted arrangements carried over from each musician’s time with the Dedication Orchestra. The only remnants from the original VlB era are an adaptation of the South African National Anthem, and a few of the “compatriot” tunes that were common to both Dedication Orchestra and the original VlB group. Sadly, none of Moholo’s own original compositions, nor his arrangements of traditional tunes made the cut.

Keith Tippett’s chosen material for this project is a virtual greatest hits package, mixing material from across his broad career. As is usual with Tippett, themes are likely to pop up in unexpected places, and in the wrong order. I’ve long been under the impression that Keith considers his entire catalogue as studies for his next projects. Never is any piece of Tippett music totally finished and done with.

Instead of recruiting a new band to join the trio, a decision was made to hire an existing one to play under the VlB banner; enter Pino Minafra and his group Canto General (along with the Farualla Singers), and later (as on this recording) the smaller Minafric Orchestra. As Minafra was running the Ruvo festival in 2004 he missed out on playing with the band at that event, something he had the opportunity to rectify with encore performances this year at two festivals in France. Last year’s release of the Live at Ruvo CD (Ogun OGCD 020), the only official document of the group in action, is sadly lacking this key member’s musical contributions. It is fortunate then that this new recording exists (albeit only as a bootleg at this point) to give us the opportunity to hear Minafra take his place on the stage beside the group he was instrumental in forming.

In the Italian trumpeter’s ensembles Moholo and the Tippetts have found the perfect complement to the spirited music presented here. Both Minafra-led groups are capable of embracing the type of rambunctious expressionism essential to make this music work, and which is so often lacking in many recordings/performances.

So, it’s a different Viva la Black at Grenoble for sure, but by no means is it a lesser Viva la Black.

Now, on to the music…

1. MRA (6:50)
A joyous, rambling locomotive momentum and sparkling trumpet solo immediately sets the mood as the group open with this monstrous tune by Dudu Pukwana. MRA was first recorded by Gwigwi's Band on the very rare album Kwela - later reissued as Gwigwi Mrwebi: Mbaqanga Songs (Honest John’s HJRcd103) - then later rerecorded for the debut album of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath (Fledg’ling FLED 3062) and it is through the Brotherhood’s live performances that it became Pukwana's signature piece. Both the original VlB band and the Dedication Orchestra had also recorded MRA. For my money the 21st century VlB versions are some of the best takes out there.

2. introduction (MC) (2:03)
Talk; it’s only talk. In French what’s more.

3. Thoughts to Geoff (9:54)
A Keith Tippett Group classic first released on their second album, 1971’s Dedicated To You... But You Weren't Listening (Vertigo 6360024), although an earlier version was recorded for the Keith’s unreleased 1969 debut platter (Revolution label acetate only). The arrangement here takes its cue from the Mujician and the Georgian Ensemble’s Bristol Concert performance from 1991 (Whatdisc 7), following a more rigid bassline and occasional handclap enhanced groove far off into the sunset.

4a. “introduction to Dedicated to Mingus” (proper title unknown) (0:00-2:34)
Another thing of Keith’s, first released in this form on the Ruvo CD (though not credited there as a separate track), this vocal harmony improvised layering technique was also used as part of Tapestry's First Weaving, and can also be heard in development stage on The Bristol Concert. The concept is simple, each singer chooses a note that harmonises with the notes around them and holds it for as long as possible. On drawing breath a new note is picked based on the audible polyphony at that point in time. The effect is a glorious ever morphing complex chord.

4b. Dedicated to Mingus (2:34-5:23)
Charles Mingus was a huge influence on Tippett, with both musicians taking jazz composition to an almost art/classical music level with extended complex works. Tippett first recorded this track with his short lived Septet for their sole album, 1986’s A Loose Kite In A Gentle Wind Floating With Only My Will For An Anchor (Ogun OGD007/008). Yes, it’s very Mingusy, almost to the point of caricature, but very enjoyable nonetheless. Another one also found on The Bristol Concert.

4c. Mongezi Feza (5:23-7:20+)
This is a Tippett vocal study in a count of 10 based on building the great trumpeter's name starting with just whispering “Zi!” and then “Zi!, Za!” This track, and the following Four Whispers counterpart are unique to the 21st century Viva la Black venture as far as I know.

4d. Four Whispers for Archie's Chair (7:20-10:13)
Another Tippett tune first recorded for the Ruvo CD, this piece in 5/4 time uses the vocal bed laid down in 4c for the backing. And it’s very nicely done if you ask me.

5a. Traumatic Experience (0:00-5:07)
A Harry Miller tune first recorded for his Quintet’s In Conference album (Ogun HMCD 2). The arrangement here is basically the Dedication Orchestra’s, with the added choir section.

5b. Cider Dance (5:07-12:16)
More Tippettisms, first recorded for The Bristol Concert, though the version here is the later Ruvo arrangement which also at one point integrates the B theme section from the title track on A Loose Kite... (cuepoint 10:32). Many parts of Cider Dance can also be found in different arrangements within Tippett’s 90s major work Tapestry’s First Weaving as found on the 2007 CD Live at Le Mans (RedEye 008), where the vocalists also take on a unique Tippetts libretto.

5c. A Song (12:16-19:17)
This is Tippett’s epic 1978 work Ark: Frames – Music for an Imaginary Film (Ogun OGCD 010/011) in micro. It includes (in order) the third piece (from part/side four of the original 2LP) "Burning, Fire is Coming" and second piece (from part/side three) "Our Hearts are Heavy". The text is Julie’s. This arrangement was first recorded for the Ruvo CD, though the main sections are obviously from much earlier.

6. Dancing Damon (4:32)
Another Harry Miller tune from the In Conference album. An uptempo retake on the Dedication Orchestra arrangement, emphasising the percussion section with a well fitting solo/duo break, and definitely one of my favourite versions of this song. Pure joy!

7. Septober Energy (11:04)
The finale "Unite for Every Nation" section. Again Julie Tippetts provides the text. First recorded by Centipede in 1971 for the Septober Energy album of course (BGO 485), but this arrangement is closer to the Keith Tippett Group instrumental interpretation retitled Green and Orange Night Park, from the Dedicated to You… album.

8. You Ain't Gonna Know Me, 'cos You Think You Know Me (4:47)
Mongezi Feza’s glorious anthem, first recorded by Louis Moholo (Octet) for the album Spirits Rejoice! Oft covered, yet a version of this song featuring the composer has never been released.

9. South African National Anthem (6:23)
Written by Enoch Sentonga and adopted by the African National Congress in their struggle against apartheid… Jazz jam style. (includes band member introductions)

10. You Ain't Gonna Know Me (reprise) (2:54)
Because you can never have too much of this song! (including more band member introductions)

In short, if you like this, you will love the Ruvo CD. Basically, this is "Ruvo light", the same set (bar the swapping of tracks 8 and 9 above), the same leaders, but a smaller, slightly less exuberant band. My advice is as it has always been, buy Ruvo ASAP.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kimmo Pohjonen - City Recital Hall, Angel Place Sydney, Jan 18 2008

Photo: Vertti Teräsvuori from http://www.kimmopohjonen.com/

Pat Mastelotto once commented that Kimmo Pohjonen “is the devil” and during many parts of Friday night’s Pohjonen solo performance I was convinced he was not kidding in that assessment. But Kimmo’s joke filled pre-encore address to the audience and my brief “meet and greet” with the man following the event revealed the complete opposite. Satan could never be so nice, surely?

But that was the ending. Let’s start at the beginning if you’ll permit me to ramble…

After spending a couple of hours in my favourite obscure city CD haunts (there goes the budget and New Year’s resolution!) I arrived to pick up my tickets at the venue - Sydney’s City Recital Hall, more commonly known simply by its street address as “Angel Place” and most famous as the magnificent home of the Australian Chamber Orchestra – a little bit before seven. This was just prior to the starting time for the first performance of the evening, a 75 minute presentation by the Iiro Rantala New Trio featuring Rantala with Marzi Nyman and Felix Renger.

Rantala and Pohjonen’s shows were being presented as a “double-bill” night of Finnish contemporary music in conjunction with the three week long Sydney Festival. As can be expected with such events the (A Reserve) tickets were not cheap at $55 + BF. Well and truly worth it, but the festival’s organisers had cunningly decided to split the night into two separate billings. This was the first “double bill” I’ve ever heard of where you had to pay twice to see both acts! They even had the one programme printed up in keeping with the “double bill” charade. How rude! All this meant that I could not justify the additional expense of seeing the first half of the bill at those prices, especially as I was not at all familiar with Rantala’s work.

On paper his group certainly appeared to be an interesting prospect though, so I was pleased to find out that a last-tix booth would be selling any unsold tickets on the day for the much more appealing supplementary cost of $25. Unfortunately for me this single booth would only be open between 9 and 12 on the day, would not sell tickets via phone/internet/etc, and was located in a position away from the venue that I could not get to at that time. But here I was at the venue’s ticket booth immediately prior to show start and I thought it was worth asking if they had any tickets left. They did, but they then told me they would only sell them to me at full price. I pointed out that the same tickets were selling at $25 earlier in the day and the show was about to start but they wouldn’t budge, so away I walked with the money in my pocket. If you ask me (which you didn’t) it seems a silly policy to prefer empty seats to a willing sale at the official discount rate (which is not haggling IMO) at the last minute, but no harm, no foul. Oh well.

After retreating to my brother-in-law’s house for a meal and to freshen up I made my way back to Angel Place for the main event. By now my excitement level had reached the nervous twitching stage, checking the time every thirty seconds or so to ensure the train wasn’t running late and unable to keep still in my seat, but I made it back in plenty of time to check in my bag and brolly and peruse the merchandise stand. I had been hoping they might have Kimmo’s solo CD Kielo on sale at the show as his CDs are damn difficult to obtain in this country and mighty expensive to import too. I was totally gobsmacked to see every major Pohjonen release available to buy! Kielo, Kluster, KTU, Kalmuk, Uumen and the Kalmuk DVD all lined up in neat little piles right in my reach. Oh what to do? After some careful consideration, and probably a little bit of uncontrolled drooling, I was soon equipped with a copy of the Kluster and Kielo CDs and an official “double bill” programme with my wallet $78 dollars lighter in exchange. Ouch! Kalmuk and Uumen will have to wait their turn for another day it seems. The merch stand people responded to my enthusiasm quickly, asking me lots of questions about the various CDs and DVD. They had no idea what they were selling! A few people overheard my assessment and made their way over to the stand and started showing a previously non-displayed interest in the merchandise.

This lack of knowledge of Pohjonen was a recurrent theme of the night as once I was seated (eight rows back and far off to the left) I found myself literally surrounded by the Pohjonen ignorant. The lady in the next seat noticed me looking at my recent acquisitions and asked me what he was like. My response generated a flurry of questions from all sides (including someone asking me if I was Finnish! Yeah mate, ‘ken oath!). It was apparent that the bulk of the audience was not at all familiar with Pohjonen and must have been Angel Place or Sydney Festival subscribers or last tix purchasers. I remember rambling something about Kimmo being one of the best classical accordionists in the world but you often forget that in his performances due to his focus on “primal energy” or some wank like that and then the show started.

A simple house call announced his arrival on stage and after the usual applause and gracious bows Kimmo began by playing a serious of intricate arpeggiated accordion flurries at ever increasing speed. The sound was crystal clear and very little post effects were added to the mix. I immediately felt like a fool for my primal energy comment as this was a man clearly demonstrating his expertise on his instrument. This was not what I was expecting, but bloody marvellous nonetheless. Pleasant applause followed this uplifting start to the evening.
Then Kimmo’s body started twitching and all hell broke loose.

Somewhere around ten minutes into the performance, during the second or third piece (many segues and lots of new material made it hard to tell when pieces ended and began), Kimmo arrived. The lights went a deep crimson red, the smoke thickened, the chanting and screaming and insane muttering echoed unto eternity, the impossible sub-bass growl, densely packed chords and complex polyphony combined with the wheezing of the bellows sounded as if it would rip apart the very fabric of space-time and for all the world it appeared as though we were witnessing a man’s personal descent into the very depths of hell.

And it was wonderful.

Around this point I began to worry what the rest of the crowd were thinking. This was a classical venue, during an “arts” festival, and a highbrow crowd to boot. Such an intense aural assault (in surround sound no less) is probably not something usually found in such circumstances and I was worried people would start to leave. My fears were ungrounded as by the time Kimmo had wound down once more people were cheering, yelling and whooping in delight. Suddenly this was a classical venue no longer. The restraints of formality had been removed and Kimmo held the keys aloft.

Throughout the next 75 minutes Kimmo proceeded to pull every sound imaginable from his accordion and voicebox. Tapping, clicking, booming, growling, singing (yes, real, beautiful singing), chanting, whistling, humming, muttering and droning his way around the stage, all the while creating layer upon layer of carefully constructed sound. But these layers never rested on their laurels, careful and precise planned footwork turned these layers into complex and fully formed compositions. A loop-fest this was not. Just how Kimmo composes in this way amazes me. And I am none the wiser having seen the process in action. Pure genius.

One of many highlights of the show was an intense affair with Kimmo ditching the accordion completely and working purely with his voice. Standing up and running around the stage like a madman on a journey through a particularly violent mental episode it became apparent why Pohjonen considers his non-musical training in shamanistic trance as important as his official musical education at the Sibelius Academy. When Kimmo clicks from calm to hysterical in a split second it is so convincing and believable because Kimmo is truly living that moment 100%.

The final piece of the night had Kimmo once again in full, manic, accordion-threatening, screaming, deafening flight, and I’d have to agree with the reviewer who wrote that when seeing Kimmo like this you can’t help but be concerned for his safety. The crowd’s response, however, was rapturous. Many (including me) were standing and yelling with delight; clapping until our hands were red and sore. An encore had to be done. Not one person made way for the exit. The madman had made too many friends.

And then we come back to the beginning of this story, the other Kimmo gracing the stage with humour, grace and good cheer, and another magnificent performance to see out the night, though this time Kimmo the devil remaining under wraps.

In short, do everything in your power to see a Pohjonen solo show. Without collaboration, whether it is with KTU, or Kluster, or the recent Uniko project his unique talents are revealed and exposed to the extreme.

And they are overwhelming.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter as TUnER - The ProjeKction Interview

The interview below was arranged after completing my review of Totem as seen in the previous blog entry here. This interview is the work of the ProjeKction.net community as some of the questions were submissions from ProjeKction members with many more coming from myself and that site's admin; Darren Lock. Once the submissions and further questions were collected they were edited and emailed to the Tuner camp whose responses are below. The only post-editing done was typographical correction. The original interview, with bonus media can be found by clicking THIS LINK

Without any further ado...

Metaphorically, what is TUNER?

Pat: Markus?

Markus: Pat?

Initially TUNER were referred to as TU[n]ER. What, if any, is the connection to TU and is TUNER a part of the TU dynasty? (TU -> TU+2 -> KTU -> TUNER)

Pat: Wait and see/hear.

Markus: Musically and aesthetically Tuner is quite a different beast, I think.

So, if TU & KTU & TUNER had a fight who would win?

Pat: KTU - there are more of us, and Kimmo is the devil.

How did your collaboration come about?

Pat: Fate.

Markus: By chance Trey, Pat and I met on a train in Germany in 2000. Trey introduced me to Pat and we exchanged CDs. Pat gave me Mastica ’99, I gave him ‘Distant Rituals’.

Pat: things grew organically.

How do you deal with the problem of intercontinental collaboration and can you tell us about your collaborative processes in general?

Pat: Airplanes and email help. We started passing files and then in March of 2005 Markus came to my place for a couple weeks.

How does TUNER compare to other projects you are in, particularly other duos such as TU & Centrozoon? Did you set out to deliberately distinguish yourself from these projects?

Pat: Those comparisons are best left to the listener. We deliberately set out to be ourselves.

Markus: That’s true, but being myself in this case was that I wanted this record to be different from Pat’s and my recent work in the sense that I wanted the material to be completely composed and structured. I like jam-based music but didn’t want to do an album of it.

What have been your major influences, musically, texturally & otherwise?

Pat: Life. And I like satin and velvet.

Markus: For me it’s the urge to create, the creative impulse. It influences me a lot indeed.

How did the touring go? Are there more shows planned?

Pat: It was good fun. And yes, I hope to do more.

Markus: Same here.

I understand the shows were all recorded. Will there be a live album in the future?

Pat: Yes they were and yes, I think we might release a live album, too.

Markus: It largely depends on available time and money. The live recordings need to get mixed properly in order to work, I think.

What equipment was used on Totem? Any new percussion toys we need to know about? Is Pat still using Ableton LIVE as part of the recording/composition process?

Pat: This whole record was done in Ableton LIVE, the whole shebang until the mixing and even several mixes came from Ableton LIVE. Lots of Stylus RMX, Drumcore, Absynth, Atmosphere, B4, Charlie, and tons of Ableton LIVE internal workings. As for acoustic drums I used an old Ludwig drum kit with vintage Paiste giant beat cymbals.

Markus: Pat was using Ableton LIVE mostly for live performance before we met. I In turn had used LIVE as a creative tool for composition and serial composition experiments only. I introduced Pat to the more esoteric features of LIVE and doing that we created and finished most of the ideas and pieces for the album within a week or so.

Markus, could you tell us about your gear? We don’t know that much about your set-up and methods.

Markus: I am not much of a gear-head. I use whatever is available. For me it was paradise to come to Pat’s place and to find a well equipped software studio. I play keyboards and Touch Guitar, mainly an 8-string Warr Guitar. As far as hardware is concerned I think that the creative combination of gear is the key to cool sounds and an individual voice rather than a particular piece of gear. I am friend of uncool cheap digital (guitar) effects processors. It’s fascinating to use them in series and to let them feedback onto each other.

Pat, why the fascination with Warr Guitarists?

Pat: Because they ARE fascinating...

Markus: There not a lot of Warr Guitar on Totem that one would instantly recognize as such, though… A lot of the my guitar performances where cut up and re-assembled.

I understand Pat used some King Crimson loops on Totem. Any hints as to which ones and where?

Pat: The grunge drums on “Better take your head off” started with the drums from “Facts of life”... Some stuff was started in Reason & Recycle during Crimson demos and later moved into LIVE. Of course I cut them into new rhythms and retuned them but the source was the drumming from the tracking room with Machine’s stomp boxes for distortion and my SDSV and Ableton LIVE distortion.

Markus: I remember Pat using some of tom-tom rolls from Dangerous Curves, but not exactly sure where.

How would both of you describe Totem in nine words or less?

Pat: Rickitickitavy the mongoose is gone.

Markus: Long-lasting.

I’ve always been curious as to the naming of songs. Do the song titles have any meaning or are they just there to easily distinguish each track while working on them?

Pat: Most titles came as the songs took shape... Yes they mean things, at least to us. Originally they were Song 1, Song 2, Song 3 etc. with a few exceptions. Like “Hands” was “Hands” because Markus had a chunk of vox that says hands in there... That led me to add hand claps and congas (hand drums).

Markus: Titles are part of the composition, as far as I am concerned. It’s not that the actual meaning of the words is important, it’s the mental representation and feel they give me.

Totem also features many recurrent themes. What was the intention behind this?

Pat: Markus is a cereal composer.

Markus: Yes, I make a fantastic muesli. No intention behind the technique of recurring themes in itself, but it’s another expression of my holistic interest in art in general. Composers have been working like that for centuries, why shouldn’t we? For the album “Pure” that I produced in collaboration with Ian Boddy, I had started using an approach where mixdowns of complete pieces were used as building blocks within other compositions. I am still exploring this when writing, but also in the musical microcosm of granular synthesis. I have just completed a new solo album called “Trepanation” which explores the possibilities of serial composition and autopoiesis in emotionally engaging ambient music.

Pat: If you don’t have Pure you should get it, its a fantastic record and something that made me feel the time is really ready to get working with Markus.

Where did the vocal samples on the album come from?

Pat: Many many places: “Flinch” thats some of Mrs Lenin I found in Russia on old vinyl. The kids in "Kiss" come from some sample Adam Jones gave me. The first part of "Tide" is my laptop reading an email letter from a Russian girl (with misspellings), the back half is SiRenée recorded by Markus in their kitchen and effected by Markus.

Markus: I wrote a couple of lyrics in the past few years and thought that TUNER could be a good place to start using them. It’s me talking on ‘Test of faith’ and ‘Forward’.

What is the albums general balance between live playing, improv and overdubbing/programming?

Pat: It’s all layered, and mostly programmed.

Several songs on the album could be singles. Have you considered releasing anything in that format?

Pat: Nope.

Could you please tell us about the video clip that comes with the album? Who produced it? And have you considered a long-form project in the audio-visual medium, such as a DVD?

Pat: Renée Stieger (Austrian video and performance artist) did it. She has also done visuals we used in our live shows in Austin and Hall.

Markus: A DVD is an option that we strongly consider. There is a professionally filmed TUNER show and I am also interested in creating some mixes especially for DVD, in surround sound.

Speaking of visuals, TU played live in front of a Japanese film. What was that all about? Will TUNER be adopting a similar strategy?

Pat: Trey prepared footage to use for the TU shows, when we got to the first gig in St. Petersburg they didn’t work (wrong format) so about an hour before the show I asked a fan to quickly run to a Russian Blockbuster and rent us any David Lynch (1st Choice was Eraserhead) or Kurusawa (1st choice was Ran). He could only find a box set of early black and whites, we put them up, pressed go, started improvising and waited for synchronicity... after a few shows we started to learn the visuals, in fact before the 3rd Eye show we rehearsed for a day with the videos. Learning to connect the dots… But then the TU tour was cancelled so we never got to apply those lessons.

Are there any unreleased tracks from the Totem sessions? I have read of a Tim Bowness/TUNER collaboration. Any others?

Pat: Yes, there are some things that didn’t hold up or fit in and got left off.

Markus: There are no real plans to release those tracks at this stage.

Are there any other artists you’d like TUNER to collaborate with in the future?

Pat: We are excited to work with Damo Suzuki. We have already contacted him. We might call that project “Can o’ Tuner”. Also excited to do more with SiRenée and maybe Markus Stockhausen, whom we have contacted already, too.

Markus: I vote for Lenny Kravitz, but Pat isn’t sure if he’d be interested…

Pat: Hey Lenny! C'mon over!

What’s next for Pat & Markus, inside or outside of TUNER?

Pat: Tunisia is my next TU+ project. It’s a duet with an amazing Theremin player named Pamelia Kurstin, we have about 5 tracks and we plan to meet again in January to finish an album. Also talk of starting a proper KTU studio record (8 Armed Monkey performances were all taken from our first 5 shows).

Markus: I’d love to do more playing with Pat and would like to work on a repertoire of pieces that we can pull off without having to use any backing tracks. Outside of TUNER there is too much to mention happening. The next release is a new CENTROZOON instrumental album that was mixed by Pat’s pal Bill Munyon. It’s called ‘Angel Liquor’ and will be out in late 2005. I am also working on a new concept for solo performance which I am going to test-drive in Warsaw this November.

Pat: Markus is planning another trip here to my studio this December and we should get a new studio record underway, and then of course there is the live recordings to mix and edit. We also have at least an hour of more ambient textural recordings, some of which Markus has tweaked and mixed some and its a great listen, very different from Totem... We decided to wait also as not to confuse people about what Tuner is before we even know ourselves!

Many thanks for your time, and cheers from all here at ProjeKction!

View an edit of Renee Steiger’s video for "Mouth Piece" and hear free samples from Totem and TUNER live at http://www.patmastelotto.com/freemusic.0.html

Totem is currently available at:
& http://www.burningshed.com/

TUNER Links:
Pat Mastelotto: http://www.patmastelotto.com
Markus Reuter: http://www.markusreuter.com
Renee Stieger/Sirenee: http://www.sirenee.com
TU Live! (including TUNER live): http://members.aol.com/kingcrimsonlive/tulive.htm
Markus's Centrozoon Blog: http://www.centrozoon.de/blogs.blogs.0.html

Special thanks to those who submitted questions. It was worth the wait!