field report no.032717

LOCATION: Le Poisson Rouge NY.NY
SUBJECT: Supersilent

OBSERVATIONS:
While I've followed Supersilent since stumbling upon their debut nearly 20 years ago, chances to see them live (stateside) have been nearly nil. (I've watched their live DVD, titled '7', repeatedly, though). Having to miss them this year, at the Big Ears festival—when they played the same day I was there—stung all the more for it. Luckily, the very next week I was traveling to NYC for work and they scheduled a stop the Greenwich Village stalwart, Le Poisson Rouge, on their way home to Scandinavia.

The New York audience was rewarded for their patience, as the trio played 3 extended sets in one sitting totaling nearly 2½ hours. The focused narrative of their improvisations renders their unscripted nature unbelievable. Each member multitasks across different instruments charting a dynamic range from heavenly to hellish. A number of years ago, the departure of their drummer left them as a trio but not without power. More than once, each member settled into trading blows with concussive electronics—creating choppy, unpredictable percussive patterns. Arve Henriksen's falsettoss and breathy trumpet glided atop the most serene passages. Helge Sten could coax clouds of ambience out of thin air by cupping his hand over a small mic and leaning in to illicit feedback from the stage monitor—using filters and faders to control its sound and shape.

Supersilent are in a class unto themselves: masters of their tools and in command of a singular, inimitable sound, crossing boundaries between jazz, progressive rock, noise and ambient electronica. I'd had almost 20 years of anticipation leading up to this one night, yet Supersilent exceeded all expectation.

NOTES: Supersilent- Arve Henriksen, Helge Sten, Ståle Storløkken; Matan Roberts, solo
PRESENT: AMS, Jose A

Dub Feast

The Congos, 2006(?)

There are some artists and styles of music that I only manage a cursory interest in. Their only commonality is their histories are tough to untangle and upsets the librarian portion of my brain. The provenance, lineage and history of most Jamaican music is like a black box to me. Certainly it's (at least, in part) knowable, but it's more work than I can expend. It took some serious digging just to figure out that Dub Feast is not a vintage recording, but is in fact, rather recent.  More accurately, the original album—called Feast (or, alternately and much more expressively, Cock Mouth Kill Cock)—was new.

The Congos' history reaches back to the classic reggae era of the 70s, but they fell off the map early only to swing back around the turn of the century, when recorded a fresh album… or at least new vocals for a collection of rhythm tracks dating from the late-70s / early-80s. Of course, Dub Feast is the dub version of that album, so even the Congos' freshly recorded vocals are largely excised from the original dusty backing tracks and we are left with newly-dubbed vintage riddims. The producers stuck to traditional dub stylings, keeping the feel of the album classic. No wonder I was so convinced of the albums antiquity.

field report no.032517

LOCATION: KNX.TN
SUBJECT: Big Ears Festival

OBSERVATIONS:
Work and life conspired to keep me to just one day of the 4-day Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. I poured over the early schedules, debating which day to choose—no easy task with lineups that were both eclectic and packed with experimental star power. Ultimately it made sense to choose Saturday, the 25th.

I wanted to arrive early, so as to not miss anything due to unforeseen logistics. I needn't have worried. Big Ears proved to be a well-organized and expertly managed event. Picking up my pass as the proverbial gates opened, I had time to catch the showing of Jonathan Demme's late-90s documentary on Robyn Hitchcock. As an avid Hitchcock fan, I've seen the movie (repeatedly), but never on the big screen. Robyn himself was there to give a cheeky introduction. The theatre was enormous (especially for the small, early-riser crowd) and lavishly baroque.

From there, it was just down the street to the next theatre to see Meredith Monk. For Monk's revered status, I'd yet to spend much time with her repertoire, so this hour-and-a-half presentation was something of an immersion course. My first impression was sheer bravery: a small woman, alone on stage, commanding a good-sized room of fans and curious onlookers with wordless, a cappella songs and strange ululations. Her songs were playfully challenging, wrapping NYC, avant garde formalism in sing song nursery patterns. She has a commanding knowledge of musics of the world—displaying techniques from Southwestern Native Cultures as well as Chinese and Indonesian flourishes. I'm not 'woke' enough to gauge if these strains in her music constitute learned influence or appropriation.

Then a few blocks up to standing-room only room, to see Xylouris White. The duo of Greek-born lutist, Giorgis Xylouris, and the legendary Australian post-punk drummer, Jim White, are often lauded for merging Mediterranean folk with a driving krautrock motorik. Their range is much more dynamic than their press—taking in atmospheric chants and tunes with a far more subtle, jazz-tinged percussion—but it's understandable. Those wild flights of abandon that music feel transcendent: White chasing an ever-higher crescendo and Xylouris giving a full-throated rallying cries. 

Just across the tracks, in a cavernous, modern event space, Musica Elettronica Viva gathered a crowd for a concert in the round. The trio of Richard Tietelbaum, Alvin Curran and Frederic Rzewski are elder statesmen of experimentalism, playing together on and off for over 50 years. While MEV's pops and fizzles of improvised electronic sounds are no longer quite as alien, their restraint and broad palette belie a wizened experience. It's hard to imagine any young, Brooklyn synth group incorporating Biblical passages in their work without a heavy dose of ironic detachment. In Rzewski's hands, these Abrahamic fragments were a springboard for calls to Freedom and Resistance.

I couldn't get into see a folk performance by Joan Shelley, but honestly, it was the only thing that felt like filler in my schedule for the day. I had only read about her music, and have a narrow interest in folk forms. Instead I took the opportunity to catch a lunch. The cafe where Shelley performed seemed to be only space small enough to regularly run out of room, which speaks again to the festival's planning. Big Ears by no means seemed sparsely attended but nor did it seem oversold, devolving into a line-cutting mob-scene.

Back to the club to see Horse Lords. I'd heard them first at a Pioneer Works showcase, in Brooklyn. Since then, I've more thoroughly explored their mash-up of King Crimson's dextrous bravado and Steve Reich's pattern-based minimalism. Their infusion of process music with raw rock muscle is riveting at full-force volume.

The main reason I chose Saturday, and made the two hour drive to Knoxville, was Gavin Bryars. I first heard his music in the early 90s, because Tom Waits was a featured soloist on the Point Records release of Bryars' Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet. I quickly became a devoted follower. While the performances of Jesus Blood… and his Sinking of the Titanic on Sunday were surely going to be divine, I wanted a chance to dwell in his works I wasn't quite as familiar with.

Where his early work split the difference between classical minimalism and Brian Eno's Discrete Music, his newer material draws more heavily on ancient songforms. Many of the pieces were 'Laudas', which he described as small chorales sung outside churches, to coax people in, "who would otherwise be on their way to the pub". Even still, he has a patience as a composer to include only what is absolutely necessary. The chamber group performed in a small cathedral just off the old-town square. The stone church provided appropriately stately and reverberant acoustics for the atmospheric performances.

I snuck out of Bryars' show a touch early to catch a Steve Lehman and his Sélébéyone group. Their abstract combination of hip hop and spiky, downtown jazz had been on repeat for months and I was keen to squeeze one last show in before I drove home to Asheville. I shouldn't have bothered. Their set started nearly one hour late (due to some technical difficulty or other). The crowd sat impatiently through repeated sound checks (that all sounded the same to us), increasingly worried we were going to miss something else if this dragged on. It was hard not to let that anxious impatience spill into actually listening experience. They seemed a little put off too, dispirited but not disinterested. The performance seemed flat, and overly reliant on pre-recorded material. Entire sections saw the whole septet standing around listening to Lehman's laptop with the audience. The album is phenomenal, but there's definitely distance left to run for the live set, yet.

There was much more, even that one day, I left to early to see Phillip Jeck, Deerhoof, Roedelius, Nels Cline and Yuka Honda, or Supersilent. Alas, safety first. Next year I am definitely going to make a weekend of it.

NOTES: Robyn Hitchcock (film); Meredith Monk; Xylouris White; MEV; Horse Lords; Gavin Bryars Ensemble; Steve Lehman Sélébéyone
PRESENT: AMS
 

Disruptive Muzak

Sam Kidel, 2016

How do you turn an album of prank calls into artistic social commentary? I thought it a dubious proposition, before listening to Disruptive Muzak, by Sam Kidel. It was boomkat's pick for album-of-the-year (and if I'd heard it in time, it would have made my list, as well). If you to starton side two, you'd find an exquisitely crafted ambient work. It's all hovering, subtle tones, pivoting unexpectedly, punctuated with clipped, intermittent percussion. It's unstable nature imbues a narrative thrust, without any need to build and crescendo.

On side one, you'll hear the same ambient piece—but this time, collaged with voices of the call-center employees it was played to. Kidel would dial a help line to play this music down the line,  without saying anything. Those abrupt swings tone are now recast conversationally between the machine music and the employee.

Since the call-center employees are unaware of being recorded, Disruptive Muzak reprises voyeuristic pleasures from Scanner's first albums. The unwitting listeners are by turns, non-plussed, weary or even friendly and persistent. In other words, entirely human, except the few times, Kidel reaches an automated menu that tries to make the pre-recorded music choose decipherably from a multiple-choice menu, at which point the album feels darkly futuristic, as two machines carry on a conversation without us.

ƒin

John Talabot, 2012

While the analog electronics revival has altered the surface texture of electronic music, John Talabot's ƒin is a step beyond. The sound of this record is so positively warm and human, it sounds more played than programmed. Fancifully, I listen to it imagining fingers rolling furiously to sustain all the pulsing arpeggios. It makes ƒin, a mostly instrumental record, feel more electronic-rock than electronica. That would put Talabot in company with M83, I suppose, but ƒin never sinks to such trite pastiche.

field report no.032217

LOCATION: Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Blackalicious

OBSERVATIONS:
I have a special place in my heart for bands that seem to persevere in the face of indifference and obscurity. Though never outpacing their closest peers, Jurassic 5, Blackalicious has steadily held their course and outlasted and outdistanced them. It must be tiring, and this night, it showed a little—as Blackalicious looked they'd just run a marathon. Even the hype man, Lateef the Truth Speaker had a hard time making his "Yes Yes Y'all's" too convincing. 

This is not to diminish the immense craft and skill on display. Gift of Gab has an unrivaled, old-school hip hop delivery. Even that seems unfair to say, though, as it's less old school, and more 'what-old-school-might-have-grown-into-in-a-parallel-universe' kind of way. He's built upon a legacy of rapping that reaches to the earliest days of hip hop but refined it. He's a master of what I call rhythmic phonetics—marked by a careful attention to how words break down syllabically, and using them to keep a lively interaction with the beat. Nothing in his flow is four-square or hemmed in by the meter, but still always making beat more dynamic and elastic.

Unfortunately, I have to give a special mention to the opening act, which was so annoying it bordered on offensive. If you can imagine stumbling into a bar to find it's live-band karaoke night, and a handful of frat boys are hogging the stage, doing ill-advised, poorly practiced takes on hip hop classics, you get the general idea.

NOTES: Blackalicious; FTO x King Garbage
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F; Angela F.(2); Eric H.

Precious Systems

MJ Guider, 2016

Kranky records—longtime champions of ambient pop and slowcore—is the perfect home for MJ Guider, whose debut, Precious Systems, navigates channels between driftpop and cold wave electronics. Like a meeting between Grouper and Cold Cave, MJ Guider's songs slip into being as amorphous clouds of tone, gaining a pulse from geiger-counter drum machines. Laminal melodies are hinted at with mumbled lyrics buried within echoes. It's chilliest aspect derives from the artificial feel of the reverb, which renders the most naturally acoustic element in the mix—a human voice—the most distant.

Purified by Fire

Outside of summer, you will often see so-called-heirloom tomatoes in the grocery store. While memories of summer delicacies dance in your head, you'll buy some, only to inevitably be disappointed. Silly rabbit, it's just not time for such things. The impulse is easy to understand; it's like wearing shorts on that first, almost-warm day of the year, you're gonna regret it.

Since I'm by no means immune, I've concocted this cheat: Fire-Roasted Tomato Caprese. Roasting will turn bland early spring imposters into robust, flavorful delights. To match the altered palette of the cooked tomatoes, I pair it with a smoked mozzarella and use crispy, fried sage leaves in place of the traditional basil.

2 large, fresh heirloom tomatoes, cut into ½-plus slices, crosswise
1 small ball smoked mozzarella (approx. 6oz), cut into thin slices
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 pinch crushed red pepper
olive oil
coarse sea salt
handful of large, whole, fresh sage leaves (washed and dried well)
½ cup (or more) grape seed oil
fresh pepper

FIRE
Preheat the oven to 375˚. Cut some parchment paper into squares slightly larger than the tomato slices and arrange them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle each with a little coarse sea salt. Place a tomato slice onto each square, dress it with olive oil, crushed red pepper and slivered garlic. Place the cookie sheet on a high rack in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sides are crinkled and the tomatoes are bubbling or even very lightly charred around the edges. (Side note, to sliver garlic, hold the bottom of a peeled clove and cut slices in it just short of all the way through. Then, cut once or twice in the opposite direction. Lastly, cut off the slivers loose at the base.)

MORE FIRE
Heat the grape seed oil over medium high, in a cast iron skillet—one small enough to give the oil a little depth (you want about ¼-inch deep). I use a pan lid that fits snugly over my cast iron skillet to try and contain the splatter. Make sure your sage is dried well, too: the more water the more it will spit violently in the hot oil. Once it's up to temp, add a few sage leaves, one at a time, using tongs to keep your hands away from any splatter. I'll lift the pan lid just enough to drop it in and close it immediately afterwards, dropping the leaves in from different sides of the pan, as I don't want them to get stuck together. They will spatter for 5-15 seconds. When they calm down, flip 'em 'round. If they don't cause much fuss on that side, pull them out with the tongs and set them aside, on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

If the sage is browing, turn the heat down a touch and work a bit quicker. They're fine brown—just a tad less herbaceous  and, frankly, less visually appealing on the plate.

PURITY
When the tomatoes are done, carefully lift a square and set it on the plate. You should be able to hold the tomato in place and slide the parchment paper out from underneath it smoothly—like a magician with a tablecloth. On to each tomato, add a slice of smoked mozzarella, then dress them with a couple of sage leaves and cracked pepper—maybe drizzle a tiny bit of the oil from the the skillet around the plate. I would probably leave the last hits of salt to each one's taste, as there's already some salt in the mix. 


Given the recurring theme here, it only seemed appropriate to soundtrack this with Fire Music: the ecstatic meeting of point free jazz, black nationalism and gospel spirituals.

Survival Techniques

Bay B Kane, 1995

Like many people I only really started collecting vinyl in earnest once I'd already transitioned to a mostly digital library. The tactile qualities of vinyl, the physical presence of it—frankly, the actual relationship with the object and what it contains—made owning an album a sort of place of honor for an artist in the collection. Given that timing, though, there are some things I would have more of had I been buying vinyl all along, like drum-n-bass. This double-12" reissue of Bay B Kane's Survival Techniques stands in for that era, then. It popped up in Boomkat's weekly, new-release round-up. This is exactly what Luke Vbert is recreating on those retro, Amen Andrews LPs. Hearing Kane, even for the first time, I immediately recognized archetypical ur-jungle. The breaks are constantly rolling, giving you an exhilerating sense of endless acceleration. There's rude boy samples, wobble bass… all the hallmarks of the genre. I may not have known Bay B Kane's work back in 1995, but if I had, there's no way I wouldn't have been into it.

Patio Stations 9

Last Call: the final installment of my annual Memorial Day BBQ mix. It's been a great run. If you want to check out the rest of the series or the others in this podcast you can copy use this link.

Patio Stations has been a series that is near and dear to my heart. There's something about these gentle rockers and laid back electronic grooves that speaks to me. Despite that, I realize it's time to bring this series to a close. There may yet (eventually) be a 10th episode, but the series is certainly moving from annual to infrequent.

Nine episodes and a total twelve hours—that's enough for any single concept. Besides, when sequels get into the double digits, you're in real danger of barrel scraping. I don't want to see a series that's received some of the most enthusiastic responses, run aground.

I saw plenty of signs: normally, when I finish a Patio Stations mix, I have almost an hour's worth of tracks I just couldn't fit in (which becomes the basis for the next year's episode). Not so this time 'round. I had exactly what I needed; nothing less or more. The tracks I picked for this edition, inadvertently, ended up having a sort of late-night, last call kind of twilit vibe. In so many ways the end just seems appropriate.

This begs the question: how did Patio Stations last so long, so well (volume 8 was one of the best of the series to date). One factor is how flexible a concept it is—not committed to any style, sound, or era so much as a mood. I've always wanted to capture the vibe of hanging out with your oldest and dearest friends—the ones you don't have to posture with or explain much of anything to. Where you're at ease and most yourself. These songs try to capture that feeling, for me.

This might be the last of the series, so maybe plan yourself a Memorial Day bash. Spend some time with the ones there's never enough time for. Char some food on the grill and enjoy some drinks in the outdoor sun. 

This is the Patio Stations, signing off.

Benoît Pioulard: The Sun Is Going to Explode but Whatever, It's OK
Phew & Sei-ichi Yamamoto: Sonouchi
Motorpsycho: My Best Friend
Sarah Cracknell: In the Dark
Alison Statton & Spike: In Time
David Grubbs: Two Shades of Green
The Pogues: Small Hours
Tom Verlaine: Old Car
Monade: Change of Destination
Rework: Moon
Lightning in a Twilight Hour: Night Traveller
School of Language: Suits Us Better
Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force: Simb
HTRK: Chinatown Style
Xao Seffcheque & Der Rest: Unfamous Last Words
Post-Industrial Boys: Sometimes
Magic Castles: Lost in Space
United Waters: Our Beat
Spacemen 3: Sometimes
Teenage Fanclub: Steady State
Lambchop: A Day Without Glasses
The Hive Dwellers: Moanin'
Lake: We Can Work It Out
Morgan Delt: Obstacle Eyes
Dean Wareham: Babes in the Woods
Wire: An Alibi
Sons of the Morning: The Way that Wind Moves, pt.1
John Talabot featuring Ekhi: Journeys
Michael Mayer featuring Joe Goddard: For You (DJ Koze Kalimba mix)
Nightmares on Wax: There 4U
Depeche Mode: Goodnight Lovers
Brian Eno: I'm Set Free

Cold Hot Plumbs

Damaged Bug, 2015

I was late to Thee Oh Sees party. I'd heard some of the bands they're commonly associated with, and wasn't terribly inspired to seek more out. When head Oh See, John Dwyer, released his first album as Damaged Bug I stopped to take note. Maybe it was the hilarious cover, looking from inside a spaceship cockpit with a tiny portrait of glam-era Brian Eno tucked propped up on the con, that caught my attention.

It didn't take long before I was playing catch-up, collecting all I could get my hands on. Even still, I was excited when a new Damaged Bug record was announced—meaning it was going to be more than a one-off. With Cold Hot Plumbs, it would be inaccurate to call this a side project, it's more an off-shoot or sub-group—a bizarro world Oh Sees with keyboards instead of guitars (it even features the same two-drummer line-up). After a decade of singular pursuit, Dwyer's peculiar take on psychedelic songwriting is a reliable engine. If he keeps up his frantic pace, it will be well on its way to a sub-genre all itself.

field report no.031817

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Hans-Joachim Roedelius

OBSERVATIONS:
It's a bit of quandary, reviewing this show. At 82, Hans-Joachim Roedelius is nothing short of legendary: a member of the original Krautrock movement—among such luminaries as Neu!, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Between Cluster (with a C, K or Q), solo and countless, diverse collaborations (from Brian Eno and Lloyd Cole), his discography is now unfathomably deep. Since his earliest recordings he's maintained a dedication to improvised electronic music—a concept that was so far ahead of its time in the early 70s, it's still a tricky concept, 40 years later.

Roedelius is an oddly casual innovator, though, and his music's gentle abstraction obscures its advances. So Cluster doesn't inspire the rabid worship and rampant emulation that Kraftwerk and Neu! have. Of that first class though, Roedelius (and his partner in Cluster, Moebius) were the only ones to continue constantly and consistently pushing forward through the decades that followed.

That kind of quiet persistence and explains why this couldn't be a mind-blowing experience. Roedelius' music does not knock you sideways—it stays with you, instead. It endures. All the hallmarks of his work were there: bits of field recordings mingled were shaded by clouds of abstract electronics, all brightened by meandering but beguiling melodies. While it's never less than beautiful, Roedelius deftly sidesteps new age schmaltz. The amorphous nature of his music isn't settled and predictable enough to be trite. He ended with a short piano improvisation—and handled a short technical difficulty with class.

For a handful of years now, I've nurtured a growing appreciation for Roedelius (and Cluster). They are, easily, now my favorites from that particular burst of German creativity. I never imagined I'd get to him live (a feeling compounded when Dieter Moebius passed last year), let alone see him in Asheville, North Carolina. 

NOTES: Hans-Joachim Roedelius; Xambuca
PRESENT: AMS; Angela F.

Find Me Finding You

Lætitia Sadier Source Ensemble, 2017

While Stereolab was a going concern, Tim Gane got most the credit for how their music sounded—him, or Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas… or whoever was producing a particular record. If you follow how their respective post-Lab careers have played out, there's a strong argument for Lætitia Sadier as the guiding force. Find Me Finding You sounds like an awfully direct extension from where Chemical Chords left off, and is the best dose of the signature Stereolab sound since the breakup. It's more than her distinctive singing, it's a songwriting voice. Even the arrangements evoke the same airs. Sure, perhaps it's a case of the people working with her trying to recreate it, but that would be selling Sadier short—robbing her of sway in the proceedings or denying her force of vision. No from here on out, I am reassessing my preconceptions of her (now vast) catalogue.

The View from Nowhere

Matt Carlson, 2016

I wouldn't call The View from Nowhere psychedelic, more psychotropic. It's methods are more scientific than freewheeling and hippy. Odd, since Matt Carlson's other project is Golden Retriever, which definitely taps into ambient mysticism. There's no need for pharmaceutical enhancement with this songs, though: each one zeros on a dizzying audio effect only to dive deeper in. The View sits Carlson at the table with the likes of Ben Vida or Mark Fell.

field report no.031217

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Priests

OBSERVATIONS:
Priests have largely received glowing reviews, but the one thing that pushed me from simply noticing that fact to giving their album some time was a nod from the Dischord records newsletter. While the bulk of Dischord's activity has moved to archival, they still figure large in my personal aesthetic development—their stamp of approval still matters (to me).

Priests album, Nothing Feels Natural, is exceptionally well performed. Even when feels a tad too familiar, the influences on their sleeve include bands I too have obsessed over: I hear a lot of the Au Pairs and Essential Logic in their post-punk stew. With the title track however, by mixing a slight bit of Siouxsie and the Banshee's gothic melodicism to their angular, muscular post-punk, they make a more striking hybrid.

Seeing them live, I believe they'll buy the time to develop even further. Along with solid songs and good press, they have a charismatic front-woman who is capable of engaging and holding an audience. Performances like hers make you resent all the dull, rote rock performances you've sat through.

NOTES: Priests; Flasher
PRESENT: AMS

S/T

Oto Hiax, 2017

Hearing Seefeel's Quique in 1993 was a life-altering experience for me. By the end of of Climactic Phase no.3, my taste in music had changed irrevocably. I've followed Mark Clifford's career closely since then, through various projects, with a clutch of gap years. Of late, not only has Seefeel swung back into action, but Clifford has a new project as well, with Scott Gordon of Loops Haunt, called Oto Hiax (how exactly is that pronounced, again?). Clifford's work of late emphasizes an unmoored textural exploration. Every sound in the mix has a profound depth of detail and an unstable nature. Things dip, wobble or skip without notice. Gordon seems to provide both a rhythmic undertow in the manner of throbbing pulsations and a buried sense of field recordings, giving all these sonic abstractions some structure and a little human heft.

K-Scope

Phil Manzanera, 1978

Records by Phil Manzanera, the lauded guitarist of Roxy Music, are svengali affairs: calling in favors and flighting in help from across his far flung career. On K-Scope vocal duties are handled by bassist Bill MacCormick, John Wetton (recently off King Crimson duty) and most interestingly by a young Tim and Neil Finn, who would later form the core of the 80s combo, Crowded House. K-Scope hails from that disorienting era when the bottom had finally fallen out on progressive rock's selling power, disco was in full swing and punk and new wave were already getting up to speed. The best moments here are when Phil tries to square this circle, pairing slick, pulsating rhythms with tricky patterns to make concise, self-contained songs.

Sonic Reducer

It was October, 2000 and I had a strange design gig I probably didn't deserve at my tender age, but this was the tech-bubble. At the time I was based out of Chicago, but was working for Discover Card on their animated Times Square billboard. In the rotation of ads and branding, we included a list of (largely free) shows that were happening around town, in cooperation with Time Out New York. When visiting NYC, I got to have lunch with the Time Out reps, scoring a press pass off them to see the Wire reunion gig at Irving Plaza that night.

No amount of Wire fandom prepared for what was about to happen. Opening for Wire was the Finnish electronic duo, Pan Sonic. The lot of aging punks, anxiously waiting to see their heroes, were having none of it. I don't know if it was a regular part of their set, but from my perspective in the balcony it seemed Pan Sonic got so annoyed with the loud, disinterested crowd they let loose an unfettered howl of feedback girded with a steady pulse of concussive kick drums and stood there, arms folded staring scoldingly at the geezers now covering their ears, for what seemed like 10 minutes.

At that moment, I was a fan.

Over the next few years, Pan Sonic (and Mika Vainio's solo work) grew to epic proportions in my personal sound-world. I soon discovered their work stretched back to the early 90s—which would have been far too cool for a teenage version of me. Sometimes you just have to come things when you are ready. Mika's albums frequently ranked among the best of their year and class. Pan Sonic were my gateway into Suicide's oeuvre—more than Spacemen 3—via their album with Alan Vega, Endless. They worked with people as varied as Merzbow and Charlemagne Palestine. I've listened to Pan Sonic's Kesto repeatedly, which, when you consider it's a whopping 4CD set, is no small compliment.

With news of Mika Vainio's passing, I've been returning to my favorite albums. Surprisingly, all of those (for me) are recorded under the name Ø. This solo project could was just as menacing and intense as his work in-or-out of Pan Sonic, but also nurtured and sustained an utterly unique, crystalline beauty imbued with a meditative sense of patience. I've tried to convert many electronic-averse friends to Vainio's camp with his inspired cover of Pink Floyd's Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun.

I saw Pan Sonic only once more, in NYC again (this time in much more hospitable environs), headlining a show at the Lower East Side's Tonic club. It was a master class in live sound sculptin. With the simplest of tools, volume and cross-fade, they could turn solid walls of sound into intricate tracks and compelling beats. An oscilloscope was projected on the wall and was a perfect visual accompaniment to this deceptively simple work. I've always said Mika's work does not sound like electronics more than electronica; it's the sound of someone making music out of raw electricity.

field report no.030317

LOCATION: Grey Eagle AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Lage & Eldridge

OBSERVATIONS:
For a show I very nearly passed up, this night ended up reaping huge benefits. I didn't necessarily know Julian Lage's work except by association—read: he plays with Nels Cline often enough—but I wanted to get out and see some music, and that seemed sufficient, so I sucked it up and made my way to the Grey Eagle.

It ended up that Chris Eldridge, half the duo I was there to see, fell ill. In light of that, they chose to do a truncated, all instrumental set (fine by me), but to make up for it, they called around to find a local act to open the show. Shane Parish was their auspicious choice.

To my ear, Parish entirely stole the show. Lage & Eldridge are phenomenal players, make no mistake, but the contrast was stark: it was feats of dexterity vs. feats of derring-do. As a pair, the duo could make finger-knotting flights glide by with ease. Lage and Eldridge were consistently upbeat and impressive but still repertory. Parish's set, by contrast was filled with brazen risks taken in the spur of the moment: wild dynamic shifts, strange tonal clusters and extended techniques not often heard at a 'folk' show.

I'm all the more pleased with the show since Shane Parish hails from my newly adopted home of Asheville, and is the first local act I've really connected with.

NOTES: Julian Lage; Chris Eldridge; Shane Parrish
PRESENT: AMS

Consolamentum

Andrew Weatherall, 2015

Since I'd previously made an entire podcast dedicated to Andrew Weatherall's work remixing other artists, it seemed oddly appropriate to pick up Consolamentum, an album of various people remixing his Convenanza album. Given Weatherall's undisputed status as a legend of electronic music, the cast of contributors is impressive: featuring both heavy hitters and up-and-comers. The reworks here aren't overly liberal, letting the album still hang together sonically, as a single piece. Each remixer imparts a distinct character of their own, yet retain that fine balance between the technology and a more tactile, gothic rock quality that is Weatherall's current signature.