Thursday, May 28, 2009

Luciano Cilio - Dell'universo Assente (Die Schachtel, 1977, 2004)

"Luciano Cilio was a name I hadn't heard of until late last year. After reading several glowing reviews of Dell'Universo Assente and noticing that Jim O'Rourke had contributed liner notes for the album, I felt I had an obligation to investigate it further. My search for the album resulted in one of the most transcendent music experiences I've enjoyed in the past ten years. It has since become one of my favorite albums in existence. And because of its recent popularity, Die Schachtel has re-released another 500 copies this year. Statements of grandeur like the one above may appear reactive. After all, is it even plausible to hold an album in such high regard after only a short period of time? We all have albums that we praise one moment, yet show discontent for just a few months later. That's simply not the case here; the music is proof. It shouldn't take long to realize there's something much deeper going on here than with most albums being released. Dell'Universo Assente contains eleven songs that drench of passion and hope for a better existence. They breathe life through their careful instrumentation, and show how well simplicity can articulate one's thoughts. Cilio performs on various instruments like piano and flute, but spends most of his time plucking the acoustic guitar. At its core, it's the fervor of the piano and acoustic guitar that ultimately lifts the album to a higher level. Not for one moment does Dell'Universo Assente embody anything that could be interpreted as filler. Some moments are more experimental than others. However, even the experimental pieces are capable of pleasing the most casual listener. On "Studio Per Fiati (Originale Inedito)," Cilio spends nearly ten minutes pushing soft air through a flute, which instead of becoming tedious, swells into something much more complex and inspirational by the end. "Primo Quadra Della Conoscenza" embodies the sophisticated beauty of this work. Gently strummed guitar notes initially hint at a vintage folk aesthetic, but when it's met with a melancholic violin and haunting vocal, it quickly unfolds to show a decidedly more classical approach. Up until this recording, Cilio had focused his efforts on sustaining notes so that he could capture the true essence of each one. This intense method would appear to be an extreme approach to some people, but we are rewarded for his progressive ideas. Yet even with this intense microscopic view, you never get the feeling that he's dwelling on one particular chord or progression. Cilio took his own life in 1983, but not before leaving behind one of the true landmarks of modern music. Of course, as I say that, I have to remind myself that I just became aware of his music a short time ago. There are probably many others out there that I have no clue about. But the discovery of these things is always a beautiful experience. If I were to spend enough time delving into each of these songs, I could probably write a book about the emotions they bring. But I'm happy to say that by simply letting the music speak for itself, Dell'Universo Assente will be admired by anyone standing in its path."

Amneziak, Tiny Mix Tapes


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anal Vomit - Demoniac Flagellations (From Beyond Productions, 2004)

NOT GRIND this is straightforward old school blackened/thrash metal from Peru.

"Death and Black Metal, in the most true and purest form, has always been a manifestation of rebellion, hatred, and most of all, freedom from the bonds of religion and society – the institutions which are used to control and manipulate the masses through fear and deception. The darkness which lurks as an underlining presence in all honest Death and Black Metal is often the direct result of the frustrations and intolerance felt by those who do NOT conform to the rules established by these enslaving factors which effect the lives of humans in all countries and societies. The area in which you live, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, will always have an affect over your personality, your emotions, your view on life…

One of the earliest lessons I learned as a young metaller was that South American Death/Black metal was among the most extreme music on the planet. I remember purchasing Sarcófago's I.N.R.I. on my 16 th birthday, and realizing instantly why Dead of the mighty Mayhem had such a fascination with them. The aggression and primal HATRED in the music was unlike anything I'd ever heard… Sarcófago instantly became the most pissed off music I had in my collection (making my first metal album ever, Reign in Blood, seem like child's play). From that point on my soul was sold to the South American Death/Black metal scene, as I was continuously amazed by bands I discovered afterwards such as Vulcano from Brazil, Atomic Aggressor from Chile, Mortem from Perú. In the same way that Thrash belonged to the German's in the 80's and Death Metal belonged to Sweden in the late 80's/early 90's, in my mind the most raw of all Extreme Metal belonged to the countries of South America in it's entirety.

In the 1990's, Norwegian Black Metal began to receive a lot of attention from the media… suddenly many people around the world were for the first time learning about a style of music that already existed in South America years before. Anyone that has really done their homework on Metal would recognize the importance and honesty of the South American scene… in fact Euronymous of Mayhem quotes Parabellum of Colombia as “one of the most true bands to ever exist”. What is it that made South American metal so unique, so passionate, so genuine, and so goddamn fucking extreme?

Recall my opening paragraph… South America from an anthropological perspective is one of the areas in the world that is most affected by religious oppression. Catholicism's disgusting ideology has dominated the government and social norms in South America since the Spanish and Portuguese first usurped the lands from the indigenous people. The harder you press an individual who does not wish to conform to the lies and the bullshit, the more ferocious and the more furious the outcome will be. The more the enslaving bonds of religion effect your daily life, the brighter the liberating flame of Lucifer will burn in your soul – and what is Metal but an expression of the darkness within?

What Anal Vomit have created with their debut album, Demoniac Flagellations, is the magnum opus of the South American Death/Black metal sound. Originally formed as a goregrind band in 1989, the band later adopted influences such as very early Sepultura, old Holocausto, and the mighty Sarcófago. These influences are clearly manifested on this album – from the very first song, "Sendero Siniestro". You are instantly assaulted with the most furious blast beats since D.D. Crazy and Igor Skullcrusher first took to their kits, and a riff that commands your head to bang. The opening Wagner Antichrist falsetto scream is so dead on it sends chills down my spine. I cannot imagine hearing this song and not having the primal urge to headbang into a coma.

Guitar wise, the sound and structure can be directly related to Sarcófago, just listen to the opening riff in Temptation and Pleasure – which is the most accurate display of Sarcófago worship I have ever encountered. Very simple, thrash-like structures combined with intense bestial blastbeats and the most vicious sounding vocals imaginable are the blueprints for the songs on this album. Some of the songs have English lyrics, and some of them have Spanish lyrics, showcasing the bands Peruvian origins. Whichever language the band chooses to be writing in, the vocals of Possessor (who also plays bass for the band) are barked out like a possessed pitbull with a true sense of anger and disgust.

The production of this album manages to be clear without sounding like overproduced Dimmu Borgir studio wankery – all instruments are audible and loud enough to cause permanent damage to your eardrums. It's amazing to me that only three people can create such an energetic storm of sonic destruction, without compromises or bullshit. The album contains two cover songs, “Cámara de Torturas” by the early Peruvian band Mortuorio in 1989, and the classic “Antichrist”, originally written by Wagner Antichrist before he was kicked out of Sepultura. Both of these songs show the roots that inspired this band, from the guitar riffs to the drumming style. The bizarre, twisted tremelo and the minimalistic punk approach, the amateur musicianship that is executed with so much passion that one could care less that Yngwie Malmsteen isn't playing the guitar. Anal Vomit manages to create a dark and sinister atmosphere which carries a hateful undertone that is exclusive to the bands and metallers in South America . This kind of Metal cannot be cloned or copied, it is genuine and REAL and the greatest bands from South America, from Mutilator to Krisiun all carry this same unique and identifiable essence.

This album has everything a fan of South American metal can ask for, from the primitive and aggressive riffing, to the bestial drumming, to the pure and uncompromised feelings of hatred evoked within the dark art of Metal. Everything that I love about bands from this part of the world is represented in this album, which is a refreshing taste of nostalgic purity for a metal fan with roots in the early days. This album gets a 8.5 score from me, and stands next to Abhorrence – Evoking the Abomination as my favorite modern day South American Death Metal album. This album will definitely appeal more to the fans of the ‘old school' South American sound, even fans of early German and Australian metal will be able to relate and connect with this album. But all in all, this album is a testimony that South American metal is not a gimmick or a joke, but an unstoppable force of aggression that can stand it's ground in the worldwide metal scene, from the 80's to the present day.


--Nate Poblete, Diabolical Conquest


Valerio Cosi & Enzo Franchini - Conference Of The Aquarians (Last Visible Dog, 2008)

"Unlike anything I’ve ever heard before! This is craziness! Free jazz with a noise flavor. At times toe-tapping. At times jarring. At times soul-soothing. Sax notes dart around like an unstable maniac caught in a panic, squeezing the trigger incessantly. Track 4 explodes with drums caught in an identity crisis, sometimes jazzy, sometimes like Monster from the Muppets. This album keeps you guessing as you honestly don’t know what’s getting thrown your way next.

It gets high marks just for sheer entertainment value. It’s fun. It’s unpredictable. It’s diverse. Definitely something that’ll make you ready for anything. If you can open up your mind to appreciate this, with all that it’s trying to accomplish, you can pretty much appreciate anything. That’s another strength. Never before have I heard something that has consciously made me a better listener. After hearing this, I now pick up things on other discs that I had never heard before. My third eye has awakened.

Valerio Cosi is definitely building up quite a catalog of releases. He has released work on great labels such as Digitalis, Foxglove, Last Visible Dog, Students of Decay, and Ruralfaune. Definitely a name to keep checking up on. As eclectic as Valerio’s sound is—I mean, sounds are—I’m sure there is lots of progression that he will realize throughout his explorations. Whether this is your first time being confronted with his growing name, or you’ve been a long-time follower, this is a great album to get your feet wet or continue your travels through his artistic journey of the potential of sound. 8/10"

-- Dave Miller, Foxy Digitalis


Friday, May 15, 2009

Eliane Radigue & Charles Curtis - Naldjorlak (Shiiin, 2008)

"When Charles asked me to do a piece for him I felt very intimidated. Knowing what I had to demand from such a wonderful cellist. Somehow very little, and meantime so much. Nothing which could testify to his tremendous virtuosity, yet something demanding a very special care and control over the sounds.

We had a first meeting over the "spirit" of Naldjorlak, which would define its structure. Then we checked and selected the sounds which will fit within it. No special fancy theoretical process. Rather something naive or primitive, such as the discovery of the mystery of the sounds' expressive power. As if we were digging into the depth of the essential nature of the cello, down to its roots.

The score became the whole body of the instrument. According to the "personality" of a particular cello, the basic pitch would be a function of its best threshold of resonance under certain special techniques. As going to its intimacy.

The result is a kind of wild and frail, versatile and volatile world of sounds. Taming them with the huge control that Charles provides all over the piece. The aim being to follow the natural flowing of overtones and to respond to the games of the harmonics all the way up to the threshold of their disappearance beyond the limits of human hearing. Thank you, Charles, for understanding so directly, so quickly, so clearly in spite of the awkwardness of my English. Thank you, Charles, for giving so much of "You", and for giving life to "Naldjorlak".

Eliane Radigue

The tuning that I developed for Naldjorlak expresses a general congruency of all of the potential resonating elements of the cello. The tailpiece, endpin, and tailpiece wire I have tuned nearly to the essential frequency of the cello's resonating cavity, for these purposes defined as the frequency of the so-called wolf tone. The wolf tone itself is to some degree tuneable, it slides up and down a bit in response to greater and lesser overall string tension. If one of the cello strings is tuned exactly to unison with the wolf tone, the wolf tone evades that frequency and settles nearby. This may be due to sympathetic resonances cancelling the strong beating frequency of the wolf tone. I tune the cello in a kind of consensus tuning, getting everything near, but not too near, to the wolf tone, then adjusting the other elements accordingly. Every adjustment of a single element causes changes in the other elements, but over time it is possible to get everything in a very close range, within a small semitone at any rate.

This congruency of frequencies makes for a surprising degree of responsiveness. Potentially any bowed action will excite all resonating elements simultaneously. The cello behaves somewhat like a bell, resonating in a complex but unified fashion.


I presented Eliane with a range of sounds and techniques - both recorded and in person - when I visited her in Paris in May of 2005. She made her selections quickly, which she called "my shopping". I had a strong sense of what she would choose, since I have been interested in her sounds and her music for some time.

The diffusion of sound is to my mind one of her central concerns. A sound's primary source is only a very small part of its phenomenal reality. Overtones, combination tones, resonance, sympathetic resonance are all part of the infinite array of resultant, or secondary, frequencies, which ultimately define sound as we experience it. Eliane's music achieves an extraordinary degree of precision and clarity in this range of sound experience. The sounds and techniques I presented to her I had prepared based on their qualities of diffuseness. I concentrated on sounds which revealed secondary components at least as prominent as their fundamentals. My congruent tuning of the cello enhances this relationship further.

The diffusion of sound is a sort of melting. Matter, the material source, the physical, undergoes metamorphosis through vibration into image, then echo, and finally silence, and after-image. In one sense sound is exactly that, the transformation of motion into image. But through art, sound can be made to heighten our experience of the later stages of this transformation. The physical is vividly re-experienced in its transformed, melted, state. The melted state, in contrast to the material state, is not confined to one location, it is all around, and, as image and after-image, in some sense permanent. It is the the condition of the physical which is not separate, but continuous with us, and which remains within us. There is the notion of melting in love.


I returned to Paris this last September for ten days in order to finish our work on Naldjorlak. I had just completed the performances and recording of La Monte Young's Trio for Strings in New York, and had barely enough time before Falll Quarter began in San Diego for this mission. I stayed in a tiny hotel in the Rue Daguerre just a block and a half from Eliane's apartment. The work on Trio for Strings had been depleting, and I was experiencing extreme jet lag; the sudden change of environment, the moist and breezy autumn weather after the heat of New York, and my exhaustion made for a kind of dream-like atmosphere, in which I tended to fall asleep at nearly any time

My hotel room was not great for hanging out in, so I would be up at 4am and in the various cafés around Denfert-Rochereau, drinking tea and observing life around me. As of 9 or so I would let myself into Eliane's apartment with the keys she had given me, and start warming up on the cello. She would at this hour be involved in her morning practice, and so without words we would be doing our individual practices, I on scales and slow, methodical readings of Bach suites, she in the adjacent room. After a while she would emerge and we would eat some food, I would retune the cello for Naldjorlak, and we would begin working. Later I would rest on her sofa or take a bath, eventually we would have dinner, and I would return to my hotel room. For the duration of my visit this was the content of our days.

Eliane described the week later as being a sort of retreat. I would have to agree, though I didn't think of it that way as it was happening. It was a simple and natural kind of coexistence that we enjoyed, informal yet clearly structured, and focused completely around a shared object of reflection, the piece that we were making.


The second section of the piece, Eliane says, evokes the activity of the mind, expressed through breath, speech or song. Thoughts come and go, sometimes distracting, sometimes like brief dreams. We observe them, not getting too involved. The mind is restless, searching, considering. To me this section conveys the rhythm of sleep, sometimes calm and sometimes restive. But the music does not only evoke this condition, it appeals to it, in fact engages or initiates that very activity of the mind.

Working with Eliane is learning to hear as she hears. The discipline which she brings to her involvement with sound is legendary. She is persistent, exacting, alert, and full of self doubt. To interpret her work is to take on these attributes. In her apartment she is in a world of her own, surrounded by curiosities, habits, memories, plants, audio equipment, art objects. She passes in and out of the kitchen through a curtain of hanging philodendron; her sphinx-like cat observes silently. In her world, sound is never altogether the same and never altogether different, as she likes to say, quoting Verlaine. To interpret her music is to enter a world not quite like any other, yet still our own, lived world; and to act in it, consciously and responsibly.

Charles Curtis"



Mithras - Forever Advancing...... Legions (Golden Lake Productions, 2002)


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou - Ethiopiques Vol. 21: Piano Solo (Buda Musique, 2006)

A hybrid of American piano blues and traditional Ethiopian and European classical scales. And though the music speaks for itself, Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou has quite a story behind her (detailed in the review below.) Out of all the Ethiopiques releases I've heard this is by far my favorite and that's really saying a lot, Buda Musique has managed to put out over 20 releases and almost every one of them contains a unique and unfamiliar sound. Highly recommended for those searching for nostalgia in the sometimes alienating world of Ethiopian music.

Here's a review:

"Okay, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The always amazing Ethiopiques series continues on past volume 20 with no end in sight. We were wrongly led to believe that volume 20 was to be the last in this, one of our all time favorite series, and we were heartbroken. On top of that, the final installment was quite surprisingly a live recording of modern day American musicians jamming with an Ethiopian band. It was still cool, but it was a bit tough to figure out why the curaters of this series would choose to go out on that kind of admittedly anticlimactic note, when there were certainly hundreds of buried treasures from the golden age of Ethiopian music that most definitely deserved to be unearthed. This newst volume quickly sets everything right, being entirely the solo piano of a woman named Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. Her playing is devastatingly lovely and haunting. A curious hybrid of old time jazz and classical, but still truly Ethiopian. Dark and contemplative, moody but subtly playful as well. Culled mainly from recordings from the late 40's early 50's, a period during which Guebrou had recently left the convent due to illness, and then continued to compose and perform as a way of raising money for charity. And THAT's on the heels of having moved to Egypt and then returned to Ethiopia a figure of high society, her dream of playing piano dashed by the Emperor, which led her to sickness and then near death, she even received the last rites, survived and then joined the Imperial Guard, went back to school to study business finally fleeing to join a convent and become a nun. All the while continuing to play music, in fact she continues to perform to this day, in Ethiopia where she still lives, four of her most recent recordings (from 1996) are included here as well.
Her story is amazing, the liner notes go into great detail about her fantastic and adventurous life, but her music is equally as remarkable, the sound and feel is so dense with memory and imagery, musical but somehow quite visual, warm and woozy, a fuzzy, sepia toned old timey feel, due in no small part to the recording, which is quite reminiscent of old 78's, the soundtrack to movie Crumb, that sort of thing, dark rumbling low notes underpin sweet swirls and delicate flurries of minor key melody, sweet and lowdown for sure, warm evenings, back porches, big beautifully appointed parlors, huge empty fields, grass waving in the breeze, long late night wanders, moonlight strolls, so completely dreamy and lovely. Definitely one of our favorites so far in the series. We hope it never ends!"

Also, through you can teach underprivileged African children how to play an instrument while learning about traditional African music yourself! It seems like a pretty legit operation and if you happen to play an instrument and you're interested in having a first hand exposure to Africa and it's wonderful and diverse music and culture, I'd really recommend looking into it. And hey even if you don't qualify, you can donate 15 dollars and they'll send you this very cd as a thank you, WOW!

The links for this post will eventually be deleted.
Thanks and enjoy!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Ralph White - Navasota River Devil Squirrel (Mystra / Spirit of Orr, 2008)

For me, everything about Ralph White screams that sort of purity that once was prominent in music. I can't say anything that would do the man justice so here are a few reviews.

"Non-traditional traditional? Indo-African mountain songs? Rocking-chair string ephemera? What longtime Austinite and former Bad Liver Ralph White puts on albums and onstage is so mind-boggling and vast, it forces those of us in the description business down a treacherous path. His five-string fretless banjos and African kalimbas – resonating thumb pianos – mix with accordion and fiddle to create an Eastern Appalachian sound, but it's much more complicated than that. White's second solo release, Navasota River Devil Squirrel, is displacement on disc. It's the culmination of years of experimentation and travel woven into a magic carpet, jetting off hither and fro, crossing continent boundaries and civil wars. Opening traditional "Look Down That Road," transforms into a psychedelic atlas on White's twangy voice and hypnotic kalimba. Originals like instrumental fiddle/accordion romp "Navasota River Devil Squirrel 1 & 2," the vocally distorted "History 1 (Conspiracy Theory)," and eerie closer "Devil Squirrel 3" saddle up alongside early-century fables as though they were long-lost cousins. White's melodies and lyrics scratch the surface of the Old World, leaving just a contemporary hint of now. Therein lies the magic."

"Totally fantastic slice of genuine American primitive genius: White was a member of the punk/bluegrass outfit Bad Livers and this amazing solo album was originally released as a CD-R in 2007 and now gets a hip limited vinyl pressing thanks to Joshua Burkett’s new imprint, Mystra, in an edition of 600 copies with crude, hand-glued cover art and insert. White’s most immediate formal model is obviously Dock Boggs, with that same kinda lonesome, hypnotic delivery, though the music is more ornate and drug-complex, combining beautiful matrices of live and overdubbed wooden 6 string banjo, violin, accordion and kalimba. The tracks combine traditional and originals, with recurring lines and mythic characters freely wandering from one to the other. White magnifies the drone that was always at the heart of the music of Dock Boggs and the early Stanley Brothers, situating it between source and spectrasound as beautifully as Matthew Valentine, Joshua, Dredd Foole or Willie Lane. His vocals have a particularly spell-binding quality to them, zoning out into smears of sound and picking their way around the words like birds on a corpse and the arrangements are gloriously detailed, webs of strange strings that vibrate in complex, primitively executed architectures. This is as fine a navigation of the original American mystery zone as I can recall, a great, oddball/loner slice of free folk that comes from deep within the tradition while still remaining convincingly other. Highly recommended."

Probably my favorite release of 2008 and limited to 600 copies, I suggest picking up your own if you really like it. I will also be deleting the link so get it quick!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jordi Savall & Wieland Kuijken - Sainte-Colombe: Concerts à Deux Violes Esgales Volumes I & II (Astree Records, 1976 / 1992)

First post! I'm really excited to share two of my favorite classical albums. Sainte-Colombe really understood the potential of the viola de gamba and Savall and Kuijken perform his work with absolute beauty. Prior to these releases, the viol was virtually forgotten until it was discovered by the author Pascal Quignard in the early 90's. Quignard then wrote a book based one of Saint-Colombe's students, Marin Marais, and later went on to develop a screenplay based on the book with director Alain Corneau. Jordi Savall provided the soundtrack. Even though the soundtrack is really good in it's own right, Savall and Kuijken's perfect execution on these recordings and the amazing quality of the recordings themselves really give Saint-Colombe's compositions justice. Even though the albums have been gaining some attention over the past few years, I feel they are still criminally underrated. If you like these you'll be excited to hear that more volumes will be posted in the future. Enjoy!

Volume I

Volume II