Thursday, April 18, 2024

Six Minute War Madness – Il Vuoto Elettrico (Overdrive, 2024)

Italy during the 1990s was a rich territory for music lovers. Net of a certain amount of subjection for the U.S. and their vision of rock – Vinicio Capossela as our Tom Waits, Marlene Kuntz as our Sonic Youth, Bugo as our Beck Hansen, and so on – there were also bands that didn’t lack in originality. As an example CCCP Fedeli alla Linea during the previous decade were an intriguing post punk band, while Assalti Frontali tried with their album Conflitto to unite hip hop and hardcore punk. 

Not to mention Massimo Volume, whose music could be labeled after quite some years as post rock – while in effect since their beginning they were mixing spoken poetry and a music made of guitar progressions and experimental rhythms – or Afterhours, a band that gave life to an idea or rock music that was anthemic and noisy at the same time. From that last line up came out guitarist Xabier Iriondo, who after a couple of albums with Agnelli decided to follow also his own vision. 

A true cultural agitator, Iriondo gave life to bands like Six Minute War Madness, whose name came from a famous composition by The Pop Group, and A Short Apnea. Devoted to almost non idiomatic languages through his guitar, you can hear in his playing influences from noise, post rock and post punk, with an attitude to incarnate a certain malaise thanks to the lyrics by Federico Ciappini incarnating the existential aspect of the music you can listen through records like this new reissue, for the first time on vynil, of Il Vuoto Elettrico. 

If pieces like Dolores collect the tension, Lettere Dal Fronte at the opposite set it free even if with some attempt to liquify. A nice definition of their music can be “a massimalistic version of Steve Albini’s Shellac”. And if arpeggioes like those in Il Vuoto Elettrico with a spoken text superimposed are an open hommage to Emidido Clementi creature we talked here above, Una Novità seems to come out of Spiderland even if it doesn’t prevent the possibility of a catharsis. 

Originally issued by Jungle Sound in 1997, Il Vuoto Elettrico is a mature album that maybe would have deserved a greater interest. Unluckily, that was the year C.S.I. issued Tabula Rasa Elettrificata for their C.P.I. label and then disbanded after a successful tour, giving the impression to a superficial observer to take with them all the scene and the possibility of a wider recognition outside of the niche of the indie rock culture. 

In effect, hearing Ciappini claiming “I know, I know what I need” in Le Mie Streghe give us the sensation that this band had its own reason to be there and that once more alternative rock in Italy was realistic about its opportunities, and that maybe it was the political repression (see the G8 of Genova), even if SMWM wasn’t political in the strict sense of the word, to give a stop to creativity all over the country, or at least to oblige us all to reconfigure our lives and to direct ourselves once again, as it happened at the end of the 1970s, towards introspection. 

Alternating small bass and guitar textures as in Media 27 to more extroverted tirades like Neanche un Minuto (“I’m dying every night”), Il Vuoto Elettrico is an interesting photograph of a period of our musical culture where musicians like Paolo Cantù (guitars) and Daniele Misirliyan (drums) were trying to get rid of clichés placing themselves side by side with experimental hardcore bands like Fugazi (see Brucia). 

Issued by Overdrive Records, this version of Il Vuoto Elettrico will be welcomed on April 20, 2024 at 6.30 PM by a short live act at Dissonanze, a milanese record shop that in the future maybe will become in our present times what Iriondo’s Sound Metak was during the years that ended with his closing in 2011. A space in which to listen to good music, both on vynil and live, and exchange vibes and emotions. IF you’re in Milan this weekend, you know where to go now.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis – s/t (Impulse!, 2024)

When I saw this album on the shelves I was curious and skeptical at the same time. Curious because in Eye of I (Anti-, 2023), net of the recognizable influences (Ayler, Coltrane, Ware, Brotzmann) that were available through Lewis’ elocution and that made me classify him in the limb of the musicians that still need to find their own distinct voice, the closing composition featuring The Messthetics, even if reminding of Albert Ayler’s The Last Album (Impulse!, 1969), created interest in me for future releases.

But now, with this disc in my hands, I was also skeptical because I was fearing to listen to a derivative musician. The critics that praised JBL in these last year weren’t mistaken, after all even Wayne Shorter at the beginning of his career had a strong tie and connection with Coltrane as a soloist, but being accustomed to listen to every sort of failed attempt possible in order to give life to a proper improv or avant garde music in the last ten years or so, I surely expect to be disappointed even by the most emblazoned artists.

After some listenings I can say this is partially the case. On a way, the album reminds the listener of the stylistical changes of Henry Rollins’ Black Flag, prepared by the previous albums but come to a well defined metal-free jazz shape with the EP Process of Weeding Out (SST, 1985), a record that opened the doors for a plethora of bands that incidentally prepared the audience for the future evolutions of post-rock and stoner rock; on the other hand, more than a well defined bunch of compositions, the album seems to be nothing more than a recorded jam session. Good stuff but far from the intentionality we all exspect from some pieces of recorded music.

Even because the LP herein reviewed is without title or, if you prefer, titled with the name of the band, as is to say ‘this is our music’. Not that much for a self presentation. But let’s go with some order. Messthetic is an experimental post punk trio comprised of the rhythm section by the now on long breaks Fugazi (Joe Lally on bass and Brendan Canty on drums) plus guitarist Anthony Pirog, a musician acclaimed at his appearance on the scenes since his versatility and multifaceted style of playing, who collaborated with the likes of Elliot Sharp and Henry Kaiser.

Arrived at their third album with this release, Messthetics have been formed because both Lally and Canty wanted to keep on experimenting with shapes and dynamics as they did since Fugazi’s Red Medicine (Dischord, 1995). Their encounter with James Brandon Lewis came in occasion of the last album of the latter Eye of I and this album can be considered as an extention of the last track of that LP. The album opens with L’Orso where we can listen to a thick but relaxed dialogue between guitar and saxophone and some unison moments on a theme used by many jazz musicians as a device for improvisations: all well done but nothing really new or exciting but the feeling.

Emergence start showing Pirog virtuosity on guitar and evolve in a mid tempo punk progression with Lewis on the stands that suddenly turns into a ride where one can appreciate the tenorist efforts to give life to a more precise style, confrontational and a little bit less derivative, even if maybe this impression is a result of the sum of the parts. That Thang start with another well abused riff that leave space to Pirog and Lewis evolutions on guitar and tenor, this last more deconstructed, so to speak, than the guitar parts.

Three Sisters starts as a ballad becoming a nice progression, and since its use of dynamics is one of the most intriguing pieces on the album even if it lacks some elements of surprises (that stop and go moments, dub parts etc.) that were typical of some of the musicians’ mothership. Boatly is a composition that follows in the same furrow and gives life to a nice, melancholic melody that suddenly turns into an anthem, while The Time is The Place is another attemp to give life to a nice ground for Lewis and Pirog respective soloing.

Railroad Tracks Home is yet another abused jazz riff launched in order to give space to soloism. As far as personal tastes, I find this alternation of rock and jazz stylistic features a little bit predictable, and that this way the four musicians would produce an enormous quantity of albums, that, as an example, is what King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard are doing right now. If you’re a great musician it is easy to jam and produce something reasonable, but instantaneous composition is definitely another matter.

Finally with Asthenia, a soft ballad, and Fourth Wall, which have a more sustained rhythm, we’ve gone at the end of this journey and we can say for sure this music is good enough to become something we want to put on a plate just to relax while drinking something good, but not enough good as a tool to learn something new about music developments. For this, maybe James Brandon Lewis and/or the Messthetics will help us with their future releases. For the moment we can take note about the fact that they are able to enjoy their time playing but the spark is still far from shining.  



Sunday, March 24, 2024

Alice Coltrane – The Carnegie Hall Concert (Impulse!, 2024)

For many people this record will be like a revelation, since Alice Coltrane, due to some not properly achieved steps like the release of Infinity, an album of recordings by the last John Coltrane reimagined through orchestral backgrounds and re-dubbed rhythm section parts that in 1972, the year of the release of the record by Impulse!, was criticized by fans and experts. The risk for Coltrane’s wife and last pianist was to be taken as an inaccurate exploiter of her husband’s legacy.

Nothing more far from the truth. In reality, Alice Coltrane was an accompished musician/composer in her own right. Her first four releases as a leader, from A Monastic Trio (Impulse!, 1967) to Journey in Sathcidananda (Impulse!, 1970) were showing an artist able to play with mastery and sensitivity both harp and piano, and an interesting composer. Those qualities couldn’t be tarnished by a single release, and if you think how much Coltrane loved to experiment with music – he releasaed albums such as John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1963) with a classic jazz singer – that release is at least comprehensible as an attempt to give Trane solos a different context.

More than that, it is difficult to understand why musicians like Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison or Ed Blackwell, just to name a bunch that are available also in this double recording from the Carnegie Hall, should have played with an inferior or non compliant musician, being exposed to criticisms as all the actors of free jazz were in the 1960s. It has been written as an example by Peter Niklas Wilson that not always Albert Ayler was able in the second part of his career to chose the right players for his music, but, even if I’m not of that opinion, for sure it isn’t the case for the people I have mentioned.

Anyway, in 1971, the year of this recording, Alice accomplished a personal and surely passionate path through the loss of her beloved husband due to a liver cancer. This loss was not only serious for the jazz environment, but also painful for all the people around him in particular. A trip to India and the encounter with Swami Satchidananda, the religious teacher who will become Alice Coltrane’s guru, will help her to get out of grief and to focus on what she wanted to achieve as an artist.

No surprise so that in that year Alice Coltrane gave life to a show in honour of and to raise funds for her spiritual guidance. The music, recorded properly for a future record release but unpublished until now, and so fully enjoyable as far as content and as far as form, features two compositions by Alice Coltrane, the title track for the album relased by Impulse! the year before Journey in Satchidananda, and Shiva-Loka, from the same record, plus a couple of famous John Coltrane Compsitions, Africa from 1961 and the most recent Leo from another masterpiece, Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1967).

The musicians involved in this recordings are Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders at tenor and soprano saxophones, flutes and percussions; Jimmy Garrison and Cecil Mc Bee on bass; Clifford Jarvis and Ed Blackwell on drums, and finally Tulsi on tamboura and Kumar Kramer on Harmonium. As said previously the quality of the recording is excellent, but for the two drummers who are not separated in the equalization process, so it is difficult in this case to understand who is playing what as far as their instruments.

Alice Coltrane plays harp on her compositions, and switches to piano for her husband works. Journey in Satchidananda, the opening track, begins with the usual small percussions and bass to create a climate of recollection for the listeners. Finally the bass start to depict the line of the composition and the harp enters with her ascending and descending figures. The waves delineated by the harp give life to something more similar to the sea waves than to a music.

On this texture the voice of Sanders and the flute of Shepp are added at about minute 6, creating a fascinating melody, then finally we are introduced to Sanders first solo on soprano, something that is reminiscent of one of his first records as a soloist like Thembi – similar is the emotional temperature of the piece – until the drums depict a small figure that leaves the sound of the soprano free to paint smaller and gentler melodies.

An arco bass line enters and start a small talk with the soprano, then is the turn of small percussions to take the foreground. Gently we’re arrived almost at the end of the piece, and the waves of the harp and of the saxophone lead us to a spiritual quiet. It’s time for Shiva-Loka, another composition from Alice Coltrane, where the saxophone lines by Sanders and Shepp are decisely more preeminent and articulated even if the mood is still meditative and introspective while the two drums supply a small circular pulse, both more careful about nuances than about pushing.

Disc two opens with John Coltrane’s Africa, a composition I really believe each one of you remembers since present also in last year release of the album Evenings at the Village Gate featuring Eric Dolphy. The melody played by Shepp is obviously the same as John’s original, as faithful is the structure of the composition, but Alice Coltrane goes far beyond McCoy Tyner’s voicings orchestrations on her piano, leaving space to open dissonance and to a music that is more reminiscent of Coltrane mid-60s sound with two drums and horns than of the swinging perfection of his historical quartet of the first part of that decade.

Fire music, as not only for the presence of Shepp, but also for the strenght of the collective effort to be faithful to the original John Coltrane pursuance of unknown lands of expression, with Sanders boiling up until the turmoils that were typical of his collaboration with his late colleague, the music reach another great point where the horns shut up leaving first the piano, then the drums accompanied by the flutes, then again the two basses, free to give life to a sonic landscape made of trembling notes and of a contemplative, final climax at the same time.

Leo, original conceived as a duet between John Coltrane tenor saxophone and Rashied Ali drums, is another piece whose different versions vary as far as the number of musicians involved and consequently as far as arrangement. I have read reviews of this concert in which the reviewers state that this Alice Coltrane is even more in command than in albums like the 1966 live recordings of John Coltrane At The Village Vanguard Again! and Live In Japan, both released by Impulse!, but if a certain progression in mastering her art is surely possible, a comparison between those performances is almost useless.

First of all because the renditions of John Coltrane compositions live were mostly comprised not only by technique and will to experiment but also by the mood of that particular night. As an example, trying to compare the versions of Leo taken from Live in Japan or Interstellar Space and this rendition is impossible, since the differences in personnel and feeling or frame of mind.

One can but notice an increase in the substance of the music itself, such as in reaching a culmination where Leo stands at the opposite of Journey in Satchidananda. The two tenors, the instrument for which John Coltrane is mostly known, are finally free to invoke the true spirit of this music as initially intended by his creator, while at the same time her wife Alice Coltrane is free to run across her keybord as she was doing during the live recording of The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording.

According to the Universal website, this release is only the first step in an initiative held in order to celebrate Alice and John Music through all this year 2024. If this means there will be new music in the near future, we will be only happy to hear such new stuff, hoping, as it happened, that the quality of the recorded sound will improve and increase from the first 2000s releases of live albums until the present times. And we also hope this music will be a good starting point for an younger generation of musicians as an inspiration source.


Sunday, March 17, 2024

Moor Mother - The Great Bailout (Anti-, 2024)

Only 30 days ago it was Black History Month, and to help me deepen facts and feelings about this multi-faceted culture I learned to love thanks to people like John Coltrane and Gil Scott-Heron, I have read James Baldwin’s Notes on a Native Son, just to end now with the following Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes on a Native Son. Both books are making me feel conscious on how you need to be sensitive, open to reality, empathetic and informed in order to understand what other people have lived.

As far as an example, one thing I was reasoning these days is how the social media have prevented us from creating links the one to the other in order to help us express our ideas as we would create them in our brain, while in the real world we were in the past far more careful in order not to hurt our listener or counterpart in a small debate between friends or colleagues or whatever. In a way we passed from focusing on creating a relationship to expressing our ‘true’ self, whatever that fictitious word means.

Or at least, the fact that I could see how my words would change the expression on the face or the energy irradiating from my listener was a great school and also a game changer in my opinions as well. With the raising of the various virtual places in which to tell what we feel to unknown people regardless of how these people would take our words, communication has de-evoluted, just to use a term dear to Mark Mothersbough.

The result is that few persons are able, nowadays, to communicate properly with other human beings. More ore less this is what Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother was telling recently an interviewer from the newspaper The Guardian while affirming that being a poet requires some ability in order to use words. But she has gone further, using the knife of a surgeon as a metaphor for the poethic word. With this metaphor and James Baldwin life on both side of the Atlantic Ocean in mind, I started listening to the Mother last album The Great Bailout. 

Obviously when Ayewa uses the metaphor of the knife she is referring to something more complex, as the use of the poethic word as beat poets, and her ancestor Amiri Baraka in particular, did. And, interestingly enough, for some reviewers this output, even if outstanding, is less coming from the heart, so to speak, and coming from the mind. Obviously the reviewer who write such opinion was white, so I asked myself in reading that particular review if it would have sound differently for someone directly involved in the topics depicted by the album. Listening and being empathetic, again.

The Great Bailout deals basically with the money given, after the end of slavery in the U.S., by U.K. government to the old white slave owners. It was not, so, a compensation for the old slaves, but for the old masters. UK inhabitants, and the old inhabitants of colonies in general, have paid this debt for a long, long amount of time. This is not the only measure taken after the end of slavery, obviously: to know more you have to read Angela Davis’ Are Prisons Obsolete? as an example. Slaves had special laws preventing them to be truly at pair with white folks, basically, and prisons were a modern tool for a new form of social segregation.

But the focus of this album is on the bailout we’ve talked about in the previous paragraph. Moor Mother follows a long poetic tradition in mixing history, politics and visionary images. Plus, this album was before its release toured extensively through the U.S. and Europe, featuring Ayewa with members of the London Contemporary Orchestra. Ayewa and the Orchestra came even in Italy to play this music, as an example in Macao, an ex squatted centre, in 2019.

Even if the album is produced by Moor Mother in first person, every track is coproduced by another artist: as an example, the second track All The Money, full of pointillistic piano voicings, is coproduced by pianist Vijay Iyer. But let’s go back on reviewing all the tracks from the beginning. Guilty opens with the usual small sounds in order to create a reflexive environment for the listener, while the voice of Lonnie Holley and the choruses of Raia Was create the perfect counterpart for it.

Moor Mother rattles off words like “guilty” an asks “did you pay off the trauma” to her listeners while a cello and other orchestrations depict a sonic landscape that suggests compassion and sympathy. All the Money has a more regular but martial rhythms, plus some anguishing lamentations like lyrical choruses, while the video is an assemblage of photographs from the slavery era as you’ll see at the end of this article.

God Save The Queen is constructed by an electronic rhythm surmounted by a beautiful trumpet, that loses itself into other electronic sounds, and Moor Mother’s declamation. “Beacause all those lives has value .... because all those lives has meaning ... save our souls ... save our future” is an invocation to God, turning the irony into something different like a true prayer, while Compensated Emancipation mix what to me seem drone-guitar sounds to a sorrowful gospel chant surmounted by more and more noisy parts.

Death by Longitude introduces all the paraphernalia by the Art Ensemble of Chicago while Ayewa’s voice is filtered and effected, and under it at a certain point a grunting (human?) beatbox appears soon turning into a Diamanda Galàs-like vocal experimentation and then suddenly going back to his rhythmic function. My Souls Been Anchored is basically a melancholic violin surrounded for one minute and a half by environmental and orchestra sounds and a blues/gospel voice.

Liverpool Wins is based on electronic noisy sounds over which a texture of female voices creates a support for Moor Mother narration and questions like “How long did it take to pay off the trauma, the madness?” while South Sea, with his nine minutes as the initial Guilty, is another long, sorrowful but also abstract gospel full of small percussions and the Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty creating the perfect landscape for Ayewa’s declamation, leaving space to free jazz horns and an organ in the second part of the track.

The album closes with the one minute Spem in Alium, where various instruments create a musical rug that can be taken as a word of hope as much as an ammission of failure or uncertainty, depending on how you feel, even if ‘spem’ is a Latin word for ‘hope’. In my past overview on Moor Mother’s works I have written that she was completing a path interrupted with the disappearing from the music scenes of Daniel Marcellus Givens and his post-rock-avant-jazz poetry.

In fact, Camae Ayewa is going with her last outputs a step further and a step back at the same time. We’re in a different era, facing different problems. Society has regressed and so the ‘No Visible Colors’ hymn by Givens has left space to a painful reflection on a past whose effect we are able to see in everyday life. Moor Mother is renewing a tradition of civil engagement that, at least right now, can’t face a beautiful or blessing utopia.

Musically speaking, Moor Mother is a step further since all those musical experimentation taken from avant garde jazz, soul, rock and so on are here more organic, there’s less curiosity in how you can make the music of the future sound like but a more focused attempt to describe the present tense. And if in the past someone described Givens’ music as unrealistic, this is a term that nobody would use for Ayewa’s attempts to create art and consciousness.

While I write this review the winds of multiple wars are blowing over our heads and soon someone will try to sell us armed conflicts as the only way to resolve differences between us as human beings. The social media prepared it – if we’re unsatisfied with our identity we buy more – and the politics are trying to capitalize it as much as they can. Moor Mother is such an adequate artist to talk us about our past and, indirectly, about our present.

The album The Great Bailout is packaged into two beautiful images by painter and visual artist Sidney Cain, the front cover dedicated to the slaves coming from the Africa in the U.S. and the back to the slaves’ ancestors. It is the best album I have listened to from the beginning of the year and not only because of the quality of the music, but also for the mood I was still sensible to and how it intertwined with it. Be curious if this music, suggestive as it is, can have the same effect on you. 



Sunday, March 10, 2024

Kim Gordon - The Collective (Matador, 2024)

Just few days ago I was re-listening to Sonic Youth’s masterpiece (one of many) Sister, dedicated to writer Philip K. Dick (author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and the VALIS trilogy among the many others), and so this saturday, immersed in nostalgia, I bough a copy of the Emmanuel Carrère biographical book about Dick and the last record by Kim Gordon, The Collective.

I truly believe anyone remembers Sonic Youth. My favourite recollection about them is a concert I attended in Milan in 1998, supporting the great album A Thousand Leaves, partly at least dedicated to Allen Ginsberg. The concert was at the city Seaplane Base, an open space where you can listen to nice music at night but when it rains, as it happened that July night, you take all the water upon you. Dripping wet as I was, I enjoyed a show where Moore and friends interacted with cracking thunders, wind and everything, and they were excellent showing a mastery in their own instruments and an inventiveness that is hard to find in nowaday music, or in every age music.

So I was very excited for this last Gordon discographical release: I read an interview and a retrospective in a magazine issued in my country during the week, I saw the videos the artist has released through the internet, and I prepared myself to the mix of contemporary pop music and noise the singles I’m a Man, Psychedelic Orgasm and Bye Bye were preparing me to. In fact, the album, as the previous No Home Record (Matador, 2019) is produced by Charlie XCX (but also John Cale and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) longtime collaborator Justin Raisen.

Raisen is able to work both with patinated pop stars as much as with more artsy projects, and here we have an interesting mix of both things. The Collective (Matador, 2024), whose artwork is rooted in another Gordon picutre exposed in an exhibition of her last year, in order to discuss the feeling of being multiplied as an individual and of loosing identity thanks to technology, is basically a trap/dub industrial album that wouldn’t disfigure in a Throbbing Gristle or Psychic TV more updated discography.

Gordon, who doesn’t consider herself as a rock icon as she is for many fans but who contemplates her career more as the one of a visual artist than of a musician in this moment in her life in which she moved definitely from New York to Los Angeles, realised possibly one of the best contemporary music records possible as far at least as the given coordinates. Trap is a style of music than in the last ten years or so took over the main part of the music industry, but it betrayed soon the expectations many had as far as a renewal of popular music.

Even in my country this music, which is a style of slow and psychedelic rap derived from how hip hop was chewed in African and the Middle East world – the use of autotune, as an example, implanted over Arabic melodies with that characteristic distortion as a result was taken as a symptom of the victory of a non-Wester culture over the technical instruments of the capitalist world at the beginning – had a biggest raise as far as records sold and number of streams through the internet thanks to artists such as Dark Polo Gang and Ghali, but with the passing of time the revolution resulted into a new omologation.

Trap rhythms are all quite the same now, and the use of a slow verbal flow instead of the excited rhymes of many of the past generations of MCs is mostly a device in order to hide a lack of confidence with the use of complicated rhythms and all their secrets. But many musicians adopted this language also because of its dark side, that exaltation of “thug life” and money as the only horizon in order to emerge, the mysoginy and the flank of the lifestyle of criminals.

None of this emerges in Kim Gordon new record, at least until we run into lyrics such as the ones for the song I’m a Man, where the self-victimization of men and their loss of identity in the post-MeToo world is claimed and passed through a sieve at the same time, and so the mysoginy and toxic masculinity are passed through X-Rays echoing some of the music we have described, but only in order to make a step ahead.

Bye Bye, the opening track and the first single, features Gordon listing various objects as if one person is passing through his or her mind all the things he or she has at home in order to have a nice and definitive lock. Saturated basses and typical trap drums are surmounted by a hammering piano notes, noisy guitars, a psychotic harmonic progression and the typical mesmerizing Gordon voice. Noise rises through pedals and sampled cymbals until the next song, The Candy House.

All songs are subsequent, without a silence the one after the other, in order to create a mutant, unsettling and various unique landscape. After listening to various effects applied to the voice, in the following I don’t Miss My Mind we hear some guitars that, upon a limping rhythm, could have been taken from an album by the industrial noise hip hop collective Dälek, as in the above mentioned I’m a Man.

Someone would find too much repetitive a music like this, but this quality is the same we found out in different music through the ages, starting with etnic sounds and progressing through experimental rock: it’s the sound of the drum, the sound of the loss of time, in this case I would guess also the loss of history. I don’t remember the name of that writer who stated that Americans live as in a Luna Park, with no consciousness of what’s behind and around them.

Anyway, The Collective continues with Trophies, a dark dream where the structure and the autotuned voice find sometimes a break just to let all the inside void overflow through our imagination. It’s Dark Inside is full of obese ecstasy, with noise razors that cut the dense air while Gordon states lines as “You want to be American? Get a gun”, and Psychedelic Orgasm, accompanied by a video directed and realized by the artist, is a song that Tricky at the most paranoid peak of its creativity could have written.

Net of pre-millennium tensions torn by some exstatic autotune moments apart, Tree House makes me think also about other artists who exsperimented with rhythms, noises and echoes such as Mark Stewart, while Shelf Warmer, the only song on the album where guitars aren’t martyrized by effects is a song about how trashy capitalism is in reality as through a closer, more intimate look. The Believers is another pounding and incessant nightmare, while with the final Dream Dollar the final stereotype of this years’ music is spat all over throughout our conscience.

Coming from four or five listens, I can’t tell for the moment if The Collective is another album destined to grow with time. The fact that I loved it since the beginning makes me doubt it a little but I’m not new to being caught out in a lie by my own experience. For the moment I can only tell this is the album trap music was exspecting from a long time in order to show how serious and deep this music can be.

The fact that is a 71 years old artist to do so, and not someone coming from a younger generation, is only a symptom of how difficult artistically these times are. Last advice to you is not to miss in theatres all around the world the movie The Last Summer by Catherine Breillat, where Gordon is soundtrack consultant and where you can enjoy some SY songs in a couple of scenes plus a Body/Head composition through the ending titles. The movie is really nice in my opininion and it deserves a little bit of success and reflexion. 



Daniela Pes - Spira (Tanca, 2023)

Fist came, as far as I can remember, Dead Can Dance, with Lisa Gerrard and her invented, dark but also dreamy language, that also a psychologist with an attention for the Occult like Carl Gustav Jung could admire. Then, it was the time for Sigur Ròs and their vonlenska / hopelandic, also know as “the language of hope”. Who can’t remember the beauty of songs as Hjartað hamast(bamm bamm bamm), also present in movies such as Immortal Ad Vitam by Enki Bilal in a scene where the glorious Linda Hardy starts understanding what she as a human being is?

Not to mention, for those who come from my own country, Italy, a musician like Fabrizio de André who, in an album like Creuza de mä (Ricordi, 1984), sang in a mix of slang from Genova, arabic language and invented words over a texture of music played with ethnic and also invented instruments. That was, in the words of Mauro Pagani, musician and producer who worked on that record, like to give life to a “dream music”, more than to an album of world music in the proper sense, and with Spira (Tanca, 2023) by Daniela Pes, an album of electronic and experimental sounds, we’re basically on the same ground.

Daniela Pes, born in Sardinia, Italy, in 1992, has a degree in jazz singing taken at the Sassari Conservatory, and studied subsequently under the direction of Paolo Fresu, one of the most recognized and acclaimed jazz musicians in my country. Thanks to those studies she exhibited in Rio De Janeiro at the Harp Festival. After some important prizes, Pes started developing her own vision, that is, and this album is great to give every listener a proper idea, a little bit different from every previous music output.

Sardinia is a great land for music and contamination. I think about Paolo Angeli and his Sardinian prepared guitar, that is a step into the tradition and at the same time a step into the avant-garde. Daniela Pes music is in the same groove, so to speak. After a period in which she gave life to music for poems, she found out composing music this way was too limiting for her, and so she created a language of her own with fragments of words from the slang from Gallura, the part of Sardinia she comes from, Italian and Latin languages where meaning is less important than the feeling itself.

The result is an evocative music, where electronic instruments fuse with acoustic guitars and gentle, small percussions. Not less important, the record was produced by Iosonouncane – whose real name is Jacopo Incani – another musician coming from Daniela Pes birthplace whose music is well known in my country and whose productions, along with his original material, are highly praised. Jacopo contributed with a couple of songs as co-writer and with arrangements, synthesizers and other instruments, even if Daniela Pes is mostly responsible for the sounds and the production herself.

Someone wrote that sometimes Pes music can be related to the experimental albums of Franco Battiato. If that means a mix of songrwriting and far out, unusual sounds and structures, they’re right, but don’t exspect higlhly distorted sounds or alarm sirens-like sounds or those kind of dissonances: Pes music is an intimate and intimistic experience for people who want to collect themselves into their own instinct, just to use Pes words, and feelings above all.

Ca Mira, the opening track on the album, begins with a voice melody that seems to come from Carnatic or Middle East music – but in an interview Pes stated that she loves music from Israel, Armenia and that region of the world in general, along with Italian songwriters such as Ivano Fossati, Francesco De Gregori and Lucio Battisti – accompanied with a drone, but that after a couple of minutes evolves into an open space of electronic heartbeats welcomed by a rain of small percussions, where voice and electronic instruments give life to a proper sonic landscape in crescendo. After, some vocal glitches accompany a nice vocal melody.

Illa Sera is possibly the best choice for a radio broadcast in order to present the album: there are verses and choruses, along with loops embellishing Pes exquisite vocal performance. Pes voice througout the entire album is sometimes raucous but always subdued to a certain meditative mood. Key to Carme is, instead, minimalism, the minimalism that caractherizes some of the best productions by Laurie Anderson just to name one, but with an openly emotional quality instead of the NY artist attempt to create some Brechtian estrangement.

The short Ora is a track in the name of a murmured text and some sounds that made me recall to my mind some productions by Tom Waits like What’s He Building, but if David Lynch’s movies sound design works better for you as a reference, this sounds good too. There’s also space for an organ drool that dramatizes the feeling of the song. Làira is, instead, an heartbroken melody interspersed with dense beats, one of the most rhythmic tracks of the album that at a certain point opens to a beautiful and childish melody in the choruses.

Arca is almost an experimental version of a gospel lullaby, with his guitar melodies that preludes to the more than ten minutes long closing track A Te Sola, a piece of only acoustic guitar, electronics and voice but for the final slightly noisy and subliminal part that is the perfect ending for an highly emotional album. And if you’re curious enough as me to see if live Daniela Pes is as enchanting and coherent as in studio, I’ll leave you with this video taken from a concert here below. Ah, I was just forgetting: this album was one of the best record issued in Italy last year as far as many reviews and reviewers. 


Friday, March 1, 2024

Roby Glod Christian Ramond Klaus Kugel – No ToXiC (Nemu, 2024)

Even if I widened the palette for this blog, one of my preeminent interests is still the music coming from free jazz and free improvisation. It is difficult to find out great improvisers nowadays, since the music business is divided into three streams. The first stream is composed by musicians who opt for improvised or free jazz music because they think is an easier music to play, where to play incoherent lines. Even Charles Mingus had this opinion, figure out what about less prepared musicians.

Another stream is composed by instrumentalists who want to put contemporary or avant garde music into their Curricula Vitae, to show how serious musicians they are being able to play almost everything in order to raise their revenues basically – it’s harsh to be a musician in the 2020s. And then, there’s a residual amount of interpreters who are driven by passion, competence and creativity. This part is increasingly smaller, but the musicians I’m introducing you today are part of this third stream.

Roby Glod (alto and soprano saxophone), Christian Ramond (double bass) and Klaus Kugel (drums and percussions) are playing together since twenty years, and the fact they were hidden from my radar, so to speak, makes me doubt of my knowledge in the field of music. Their new album No Toxic, out on Nemu Records since Jan. 2, 2024, is an album where, as the trio states, elements such as “swinging pulse” or “jazz phrasing”, along with melodic and rhythmic patterns, give this music its place into the jazz continuum.

With artists such as Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz or Warne Marsh on the back of their minds, the musicians involved in this trio give life to a warm and intriguing practice in a language that is still far from leaving its best outputs in the past. Obviously the music of the trio is far from being a step ahead and a progression from the ‘tradition’ – is there such a thing for free improvisation? – but one can enjoy their creation throughout the 14 tracks of this album while wondering what the next steps will be.

Unconscious Superglitzer begins with the lines by Glod, a musician that, in Howard Mandel’s words, “does not resemble [...] anyone but himself”. While this is certainly true for his alto, as in the aforementioned piece, even if the freedom given to that horn by the likes of Ornette Coleman and above all Anthony Braxton – another Warne Marsh enthousiast – is something tangible through Glod’s playing, it is also undeniable that at the soprano he is in debt with Steve Lacy and his angularity, as shown in Carol’s Dream.

Ramond and Kugel on bass, both pinched and arcoed, and percussions are weaving a dense sound fabric, even in the more rarefied pieces, and their almost telepathic interplay leaves the listener coping with the memory of some of the best rhythm sections of the past: we will not try to instill some comparisons into the listeners, but the NY scene of the past decades, way back into the 1960s, is full of drummers and double bassists who forged a sound and propelled the brass players functioning as a launch trampoline for them.

Obviously pauses and silences, in order to underline a certain passage, aren’t absent as in the best improvised music tradition. Se Chussa De Re opens with the characteristic small percussions sounds that made recognisable the Chicagoan avant garde movement, while Solution After The Storm, after the previous piece lyricism, can be taken as another example of how the AACM sown proselytes: percussions have that extremely melodic quality, and Glod’s elocution shows an in-depth ability to mix jazz and a little bit of European contemporary tinge, as far as sound colors and matter, at least a little bit.

While it would be maybe futile to describe all the pieces on the album in their entirety, it is not strange to underline how it is surprising nowadays to find out musicians with such a command and mastery of their instruments in an environment that in the last ten or more years has welcomed people belonging to the different streams I was talking about at the beginning of this review, leaving even some of the best and hystorical musicians with less to say than in their past because of a strange but real osmosis.

This isn’t the case. I bet on Glod and friends ability to play also solo, even if I didn’t had the opportunity to listen to them in that context, I mean that their confidentiality with their instruments is palpable even at a superficial listening, and that one thing one can tell for sure is that these musicians play the music on their head and they are driven by the necessity to express themselves through sounds, as it happened for the best musicians of the past generations.

Ramond, Kugel and Glod at least for the moment aren’t revolutionising the music they chose to give their contribution, but they are one of its most interesting expressions in the present time, and the lack of evolution of the genre is not attributable to them as a guilt. If there’s not such an evolution, at least for the moment or under my ears through my researches, it’s because of complex reasons I’m only superficially strarted to point the finger at.

For the moment it is better to enjoy this music and their creators. While the album here reviewed was recorded at Kreuzung an Sankt Elena in Bonn (Germany), I hope to see them live in the future to be even more aware than from a recorded performance of how good their inspiration is. Hoping to hear also more in the future, I believe I will spin this album many times in the following months, convinced of the goodness of this musical proposal.