First up, Beauty School's Residual Ugly cassette/download release. This SF Bay Area group features top flight musicians Matt Chandler on bass, Tom Djill on electronics and trumpet, and Jacob Felix Heule on percussion and electronics. Essentially an Experimental Music power trio, they lay down some fantastically textured Noise. Chandler's bass playing has great impact with its heavy strumming and low end plucking, Djill's spaced out sounds color the treble sound spectrum with whine, bleep, crackle, and pop on top of the hard-hitting bass beams, and Heule pounds great big percussive moves alongside of them. Disaster Amnesiac has really been enjoying the junkyard Industrial feel of this cassette, and has also been reflecting that it's releases such as Residual Ugly that have solidified the now 100 year old promise of artists such as Futurist Luigi Russolo, that of fresh new musical forms arising out of what had been considered mere noise. The promo sheet gleefully maintains that "[M]usic can be avoided", but in this listener's opinion, Beauty School are simply working within a musical matrix, one that includes "noise", that remains wide open, and, yes...beautiful.
If you've read this blog at all within the last year or so, you'll be well-appraised at how generous Public Eyesore/eh? Records have been to me (thanks, Bryan!) They sent over the newest offering from Alan Sondheim and Azure Carter a few weeks back, and Disaster Amnesiac has been digging this one greatly. Threnody features the extensive talents of Sondheim on 19 instruments, and he shows tremendous skills on all of them. His skittering, fast string playing throws out all manner of micro-tonal delights within its speedy delivery, and his playing on wind instruments has emotional depth, warmth, and balance. Sondheim's aesthetic evinces the awesome power of Folk-based sounds within the greater musical spectrum. Dear America: please pay attention to this homegrown talent! It's a shame that Sondheim's six decades of singular musical development are not as widely acknowledged. He's a Master. Also quite enjoyable are the understated vocals from Carter. Listening to Azure sing evokes the same kind of pleasure for me that comes from reading well written Minimalism. Great clarity and enjoyment comes from the apparent simplicity of her delivery, which is completely free of extraneous embellishment. Would that so many other current singers learn from her! The addition of Luke Damrosch on guzheng and madal adds percussive string and drum depth, respectively, and his layered summation of Threnody's totality of songs on Alltracks achieved by use of Supercollider software, is deliciously bizarre and thick!
Disaster Amnesiac was handed a copy of this disc by trumpeter/percussionist Collette McCaslin a few days back, and I've been listening to "Rocks*Sticks*Stones" in the car quite a bit. Revisiting its sounds is more the case, as I was in attendance for this show earlier this year at the Musicians' Union Hall in the SOMA District of San Francisco. Along with her cohort Amy Reed on guitar and vocals, Collette immerses the listener into an intensely private, almost ritualistic sound world. I've seen them both play at least a few times, and it's clear that they have intense focus while in the midst of performing. No "Jazz Hands" coming from these two! Needless to say, these "rituals" feature the two musicians probing with their sounds, searching for shared spaces in which to intertwine their voices. When these spaces are discovered, Reed and McCaslin blast forth with energy, yet always conversationally, their unison lines then walking back to quieter moods as the process continues. Collete's trumpet playing, sometimes filtered through an echo unit, features a kind of frank, non-flashy timbre, while Reed's guitar, going straight to the amp, is dryly plucked and probed by fingers, rocks, reeds, and other implements. "Rocks*" has the kind of late night feel that I often mention, and still more often love. A privileged glimpse into the musical minds of two of the more retiring, yet intensely creative, Northern California-based improvisers.
Chances are, Disaster Amnesiac will have to depend on private funds in order to keep up this little 'ole blog. Still it's flattering to be sent promo materials for review. Many thanks to Public Eyesore/eh?, Humbler, and Reed/McCaslin for sending stuff my way! Either way, I'll keep listening, describing, and enthusing.