Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Up Half-Known Roads: Solo Drumming Records, Installment 2

Where does the time go? The other day, while checking out the post listing for this humble blog, Disaster Amnesiac noticed that it's been almost a full year since my last installment of Up Half Known Roads. When I had initiated this mini-series, I had planned on posting them with more frequency! With that fact in mind, I figure it's high time to describe and enthuse about a few more solo percussion records! Drummer jokes welcome in the Comments Section, naturally.

Simon Barker-Driftwood; Kinmara, 2012
In the 2009 film Intangible Asset Number 82, Australian drummer Simon Barker is shown as he embarks upon a quest to Korea, in search of that country's top practitioner of their intense shamanic drumming style. Throughout the film, Barker's deep and abiding love for the form and all of its musical and ontological complexities is in evidence as he overcomes many obstacles in order to finally meet up with Kim Seok-Chul, who is literally a national treasure in that country. Driftwood definitely exposes the fruits of that labor. Simon incorporates the jing, a large gong (and overdubbed shakuhachi on one track), into his trap set for six tunes of somewhat contemplative soloing. Not that he doesn't get intense at times, for, when he wants to, Barker can roll around the traps with the best Jazz drummers, beating out quick tattoos and around the kit flourishes. For the most part, however, he seems to try to stir up more intensely intimate vibes, as he uses the long-ish tones from the jing to voice, in concert with his beautifully low tuned bass drum and floor tom tom, spiritual, speaking sounds. Simon's mixture of space and notes, particularly on the track For Dong Won, give the proceedings a serious, darkly ritualistic air. At one point in Intangible Asset, Barker and a Korean shaman talk about letting the sound flow in a more natural sense, away from the ego and its showiness. On Driftwood, Simon Barker goes to those deeper, more meaningful places with his drumming. Find a quiet place to sit and listen to Driftwood, and hear those subtler pulses of life.

Nick Hennies-Objects; Kendra Steiner Editions #189, 2011
As opposed to Driftwood, with its roots in older spiritual streams, Nick Hennies' Objects takes for its conceptual inspiration from the more modern matrix of Object Relations, a subset of psychoanalytic theory. Object Relations stresses, according to Hennies' liner note, "an innate desire to form and maintain relationships[.]"  He proceeds to use a very minimal approach on congas, woodblocks, and claves, striking them with incessant, repetitive eighth note patterns. This aspect of the piece brings images of Plains Indian pow wow action to mind, along with the perhaps more obvious reference to post-Cage Modern Composition. It is with the addition of of vibes as a kind of resonating apparatus that the composition takes on a really interesting effect. Paired with the sound of sticks striking surfaces, or wood hitting wood, the vibes are vibrated with waves that make up those sounds; with careful attentiveness, the listener is treated to all kinds of micro-sounds from this blending. Disaster Amnesiac assumes that the point of this action is to reveal how entities transform each others' effect through their interaction. Disaster Amnesiac also just really enjoys sliding this disc into the player, putting on headphones, and trippin' out on the all of the echoing micro-tones that bounce around my head. Highbrow, I know. Seriously, though, Objects rewards close listening. Read the liner note in its entirety, too, and get a bit more educated as you drift.
KSE-14080 Nacogdoches Rd. #350; San Antonio TX 78247

This will conclude 2013's first edition of Up Half-Known Roads. Disaster Amnesiac can't promise another installment this year, but, rest assured I'll be filling my ears with more solo drumming delights. Perhaps I've convinced you to do the same some time. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Factrix/Bronze-The Night Light; Oakland, CA 7/26/13

Disaster Amnesiac was dog tired from a long, manic week as I made it once again back to Oakland for the first Factrix show in decades. So tired, I only had the energy to, aside from listen, lift my weary arm to snap a few shots.
Bronze opened the show. Their sound fits nicely into the SF Post Punk aesthetic. Their melodies are for the most part produced by some kind of hand held synth or ring modulator, and kicked into action by a really talented drummer. His slow beat mastery moves their grooves, atop of which echo-ey, reverbed electronic tones float and bounce. The singer seems to come from the Martin Rev/David Thomas school, his voice a bit more formal, though. He's fun to watch, and witty. How did Disaster Amnesiac sleep on this band? I must see them again.
Above: Cole celebrates

Factrix were downright amazing. Their current sound is much more tuneful than their 1980's dirges, but within the tunes there remains a dark Psychedelic element. Doubled from their previous trio format for their reemergence, they sounded big, the keyboards and guitars driven by yet another great drummer and a bass player who held things down with a thick, low sound. Bond's guitar playing, so crunchy and beautiful in its processed tones provided welcome colorful light shows in my mind. Cole was clearly ecstatic. His singing and stage presence were pretty emotionally up. You just have to be happy, watching him perform. And moved, as well. Major kudos to Factrix. Hopefully they'll find ways to perform with more regularity!
Above: Factrix, light in the darkness

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Black Flag/Good For You; Oakland Metro Opera House, 7/23/13

Despite the fact that I'm still reeling from the news of the death of my friend Jason, Disaster Amnesiac absolutely had to get over to Oakland to catch the revamped Black Flag. Oakland Metro Opera House was packed, and the vibe was great. I have to hand it to the younger music demographic: these kids are cool, and they don't suffer from a lot of the same hangups that plagued the Punk Scene many years ago. Seriously, Disaster Amnesiac was happy to be talking to people in their teens and twenties who displayed no artifice whatsoever. I tip my cap.

OK, the music! First up, Mike Vallely's Good For You brought their Southern California inflected heavy Rock vibes, equal parts post-Flag SST and Palm Desert bake. I dug their dirge-ey sounds a bit more than Mike's previous band, Mike V and the Rats. Seeing as that the band is essentially Black Flag (Ginn, Moore, Klein), you know that they're going to be groovy and full of dramatic stops and starts. Moore and Klein, on drums and bass respectively, pushed and pulled the songs, and Ginn had tons of room with which to shred out his six stringed abstractions, along with his exploratory theremin moves. Mike's got a cool shamanic front man thing going on. To the guy who was screaming for them to "play fast!", screw you, shut up and feel the groove, numb nuts. Seriously, let it ooze.
Above: Mike Vallely brings down the muses
Below: Good For You are a band, too

Below: Ginn stretches strings

As for Black Flag, Disaster Amnesiac wants to say this: the band is not so much about a specific time or movement. Black Flag is a process. As such, it has living qualities. Black Flag sure as fuck felt lively to this audience member, too. Ginn does not seem to doing some nostalgia trip. The group played four or five new songs, and they all fit within the growth-focused model that he always had for the band. They are unique to this era. The group also played tunes from the earliest iteration (Fix Me, I've Had It, Nervous Breakdown), through the Damaged era (Rise Above, TV Party), My War (Can't Decide) and up to Slip It In (Black Coffee). Ron Reyes was incredible, his voice was strong and his stage presence natural and fun. Gregory Moore, wow, what a beast on drums. His rhythmic sense seems a lot more manic than some of the other drummers that Greg has employed, but Ginn seems to love to play with him. Dave Klein did a fine job of keeping everything tied together. And Ginn's solos? His abstract noisy quests remain wigged out and psychedelic; what a joy to close the eyes and listen to him expound upon his personal musical vocabulary.
One particularly striking moment occurred when everyone seemed a bit out of phase on Can't Decide, but the way they all simultaneously found the one, hammered home by Reyes' shout, was breathtaking. Black Flag always seemed like a "warts and all" group, one in which the physical process and effort would trump mere proficiency. They have retained that magic up into their current era.

Above: Black Flag, a living band

The last time that Disaster Amnesiac saw Black Flag, in 2003 in San Jose, CA, it seemed a bit faltering, as if Greg was unsure of it. Not so, ten years later. Him and Ron seemed to be having fun while displaying a real swagger. You know, Rock band stuff. Real band stuff.

Above: Four dudes, one band

Below: Davo?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jason Batzer-Rest In Peace

I sit here, this evening, unable to sleep, even though tired. My dear wife has begun her slumber, but I suspect that it will be many hours before I can do the same.
I sit here, and my mind fills up with incredibly mixed emotions at the news of the suicide of a man that I knew.
During the entire time that I knew him, Jason Batzer was always a hand full. His fiery, manic energy could overwhelm even the most patient of his friends.
When he was up, he would come across like a living, breathing encyclopedia. Any topic that was brought up, Jason would know, deeply, and have a strong opinion about it. He could, and would, talk for hours.
Jason knew about  a hell of a lot of things in this world.
Except, perhaps, optimism.
Except, perhaps, love, at least love of self.
Conversations with him would take a bleak turn, and, going forward from that turn, would spiral downward, until an edged point, iron hard and sharp, would shut them off. "Ah, Jason, I'm sorry, I have to go now", uttered from a place of vulnerability, a place of self-preservation, lest the bleakness seep too far into my own psyche, would be my last resort, my last utterance until the next time we spoke, when I'd try again to help, to shed a bit of light into his darkness. If my efforts had any sort of success, Jason never let on.
What must it be like, to feel that the world, in its entirety, is terrible? To feel that there is absolutely nothing left worth living for? These feelings are common to younger people, and they are usually shed, along with other, less helpful views, as youth fades.
I ask, though, for a man in middle age, a man whose prospects have dwindled, a man so terribly, willfully isolated, in a city that's getting tougher and more hardened by the day. What must have that been like? Just as with our increasingly less frequent conversations, I "hang up" on that question. I just can't go to that place.
Jason, I am so sad that you stayed for so long in that place. For God's sake, what could your friends have done, to help pull you away from it? 
Should I now feel hopeless at your passing, or relieved that your suffering, both self-inflicted and at the hands of a world that could never understand you, is over?
Jason, I dearly hope that your spirit is now at peace, and far, far away from that terrible place. I dearly hope that your last moments had at least some joy, that you were able to see this world and your life with some kind of love.
Jason, I will miss you. Jason, please rest in peace. Please, Jason, do that for your friends, all of whom I know that you loved.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Double Dose of Delmark-Frank Rosaly and Mikrokolektyw

Disaster Amnesiac recommends that anyone interested in independently produced Jazz should seek out Signal To Noise's great, in depth interview with Delmark Records founder Bob Koester from a few years back. Koester has been at it for decades now. Here we are in 2013, fifty five years after its initial imprint, and I find myself blown away by these two Delmark LP's, both produced by players that are young enough to be Koester's great-grandchildren.

Frank Rosaly-Cicada Music; Delmark, 2013
First up, we have Cicada Music from drummer/composer Frank Rosaly. The liner notes describe this band's music as having taken shape as the soundtrack for a film about scrap metal scavengers. Jazz always works well for soundtracks, in celluloid and other mediums (I'm thinking of Duke Ellington's work for Anatomy of a Murder), and Cicada Music's sounds, so reflective and expressive of the Jazz spirit and aesthetics, certainly seems as if it would work as such. Most of the tunes here are driven by Rosaly's fat rhythmic playing, which is always grooving. His drumming features the kind of simultaneously tight and loose interplay with the group that brings to mind Tony Williams in the 1960's and Gerry Hemingway in the 1980's. Frank's performance here is always slamming, always crisp, and lively as hell. The group's sound, with vibes from Jason Adasiewicz, tons of bass clarinet (and tenor sax) from Jason Stein and Keefe Jackson, clarinet from James Fazone, and bass and electronics from Jason Roebke, reminds Disaster Amnesiac of the heightened abstractions achieved on Eric Dolphy's essential Out to Lunch band, in that said abstractions are always grounded in really earthy Blues coloration. The winds growl and gurgle, the vibes chime and shimmer, the rhythm section pushes, pulls, funks and rocks; the whole affair is graced with a Chicago sense of space, and a AACM sense of playfulness. Rosaly's writing is deeply swinging, too. Cicada Music is just a fine example of professional, composition-based improvisational Jazz.The cover art is beautiful, to boot, almost looking like an update of Ornette's Science Fiction's art.

Mikrokolektyw-Absent Minded; Delmark, 2013
Next, let Disaster Amnesiac describe and enthuse about the third Delmark release from this Polish Duo. Comprised of drummer Kuba Suchar and trumpeter Artur Majewski, Mikrokolektyw seems to get its "collective" sound from the addition of tons of electronics, played/programmed by both musicians. The electronics definitely factor in wide additions to the sound, especially as far as rhythmic patterns are concerned. The physical duo here sound as if they have played together for a long time: phrases are spun, together, back and forth, up and down, all the time in big sound matrix that brings European approaches to the form as much as those perfected in the U.S. Suchar's feel is rolling, free, and yet very funky and big. Majewski's sound seems to owe much to greats like Miles and Cherry, in fact, Disaster Amnesiac swears that Artur quotes Miles Runs the Voodoo Down pretty openly on his intro to Thistle Soup. Absent Minded provides an intimate listen into these twos' obviously finely honed musical chemistry.

Disaster Amnesiac still feels as though Jazz is a bottomless well for investigating to any and all inclined to do so. Thirty years or so ago, a movement was initiated that had as one of its prime directives the marketplace eradication of many approaches to the music not in line with its aesthetic vision. The fact that small, independent Jazz labels, such as Delmark, continue to take chances on the disparaged ugly cousins to Official Jazz Orthodoxy, thereby adding to that well, warms my heart. And delights my ears. How about yours?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Two people in a car, conversing

Last night Mr. and Mrs. Amnesiac had a long-needed date night. Accordingly, we saw the movie Before Midnight.
Much like its predecessors, its a fine movie, especially for couples. It has already been written up in the hallowed columns of The New Yorker, along with, presumably, many other journals. Disaster Amnesiac does not want to try to review it per se, but to simply expound upon one scene in particular.
After a brief opening sequence, in which Ethan Hawke's character is seen sending his son off from an airport in Greece, the viewer is treated to lengthy one in which Hawke and Julie Delpy spend several minutes talking with each other. What struck me as the scene unfolded, minute after minute after minute, was how courageous a scene it is. This, in the sense that films and television generally feature individual scenes that last a minute, maybe two minutes, tops. For this viewer, director Richard Linklater used the scene, and its pacing, as a comment on and a challenge to contemporary attention spans. I must admit that it was somewhat tough for me to keep my attention focused on the screen, with its simple framing of two people in a car, having a conversation, with hardly any cuts away (save for a few simple frames, showing the Greek countryside). Disaster Amnesiac imagined that many others probably have felt this same challenge. In a time when the scenes in our lives shift with such speed, and conversations generally amount to two sides by turns making declarations at each other, this long opening scene, featuring two people simply talking to each other, was humbling and instructive.
I don't know too much about film, so maybe there are many other examples of this technique being used, currently and recently, but, if there are, I am not aware of them. As such, Before Midnight was a very satisfying viewing experience for me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Oliver Lake with Philip Greenlief and Ross Hammond; Duende, Oakland 7/6/13

Disaster Amnesiac was happy to have made it to hoppin' downtown Oakland to catch saxophone master/poet Oliver Lake for night two of his four night residency at Duende. The evening's program featured Lake in duet with fellow woodwind player Phillip Greenlief and guitarist Ross Hammond.

Greenlief and Lake started things out, and their set's simpatico had them moving from extended techniques to Blues to gentle lyricism. I don't know if they have played together before, but Greenlief was clearly stoked, and Lake looked equally happy. They sounded great together. Disaster Amnesiac swears that I heard Lake intone a version of Jimi's Machine Gun at one point, but that may have been the effect of having drunk Coca Cola a bit too late in the day.

Above: Lake and Greenlief lock vibes and go deep

Next up, guitarist Ross Hammond brought his hollow bodied axe up to duel with Lake. Their vibe took a bit longer to build up, and, in a way, sounded more abstract, but Lake brought things home with his Florida-centered poem Is It Real, which launched the pair into some fine, earthy blowing, Lake's litany of great Native American place and tribe names being particularly evocative to this listener.

Above: Lake and Hammond search and find themselves in the Sunshine State

To round out the evening, Lake summoned Greenlief back to the stage, and the trio blew a great Blues, centered around Oliver's affirmation of the need to cohabit. Those in attendance seemed to enjoy living with its message.
Oliver Lake will be at Duende for two more nights this week. If you live anywhere near Oakland, CA, get over there and gift your ears.
Above: Lake, Greenlief, and Hammond triangulate