Chances are you’ve heard Mary Lattimore play without even realizing it as her harp has graced records by Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, and Meg Baird among many others. But you haven’t heard Lattimore utilize her instrument quite like this since “The Withdrawing Room” sees her equally dependent on the rich acoustic harp sounds and the long decays provided by a Line 6 loop pedal. It’s a curious mix of sound and anyone who has twisted the knobs of a delay pedal will be familiar with the erratic, warbled contortions heard on “Pluto the Planet” and “Poor Daniel.” It meshes with her clean, cascading plucks in a variety of ways – at times overwhelming them, other times subtly augmenting them. However, her harp gets downright shredded on the 25 minute opener “You’ll Be Fiinne” by ringing feedback and throbbing low end that is as exciting as it is alarming. – Ryan Potts, Experimedia
This is a fantastic album—just listened to it again but purchased it awhile ago. I first heard Lattimore’s playing earlier this year when she took part in Nick Cave’s Heard NY installation in Grand Central Station. The Withdrawing Room is just the right mixture of the gentility and whimsy one might associate with the harp and the deconstruction of those same qualities. Each of the three tracks here introduces fragile figures that are ultimately processed through a loop pedal, becoming wobbly, churning versions of themselves. As an album, it’s cohesive and a total pleasure to listen to while remaining challenging music.
TAKEHISA KOSUGI & YAMATSUKA EYE IN CONVERSATION MUSIC #1 (1997)
Existing for just three issues in the late ’90s, Music was a joint venture between editors Yuzo Sakuramoto and Gary McCraw. Oversized, heavy on large graphics while also eager to use negative space, it had the feel of highly specialized, more personal Raygun. With a name that is at once accurate and perversely simple, Music focused on experimental music and film of then and (once-) now, sound art, and free jazz. It’s inaugural issue featured a tribute to David Tudor by Nam June Paik, a piece on Microstoria by future Yeti founder Mike McGonigal, and this dialogue between Kosugi and Eye.
The conversation gets philosophical pretty quickly, and it’s clear that there is mutual respect and awareness of each person’s art and approach to sound. Highlights include discussion of Indian music, improvisation and its influence on composition, and Eye’s fascination with pure electronic sounds, like testing signals—“the ultimate psychedelic.”
Sakuramoto went on to found the Five Myles gallery in Brooklyn and translate the extensive liner notes found in the Super Fuji Discs releases of Taj Mahal Travellers and Kosugi albums. McCraw is now the studio manager for Jeff Koons. Here they are in 2011:
N.B.: I only scanned the cover and article in question—if you’re interested in other parts of the magazine, be in touch. All three issues can also currently be purchased as a set from Fusetron.
Just announced! PAN_ACT hits NY in June: 16 shows exploring the intersections of conceptual art in underground dance and experimental music. Tickets on sale Wednesday, full schedule here: http://issueprojectroom.org/program/pan-act
What an unbelievable set of shows. I feel very lucky to be in New York and wrapping up the school year just when this program begins.
CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE- PIANO PIECE FOR SIMONE ILLUMINATIONS (2010, ALGA MARGHEN)
The Simone referred to in the title here is Simone Forti, choreographer and occasional collaborator of Palestine’s. Illuminations is credited to them both and primarily consists of two recordings of the duo, but this piece is Palestine alone at the piano. Recorded in 1971 but unreleased for nearly 40 years prior to its appearance in 2010, these are fascinating sessions. The title track and “Wed Oct 13th 1971” feature the pair conjuring sound from bells, glasses, and a molimo—“a corrugated tube meant for connecting the gas stove,” state the liner notes—amongst the assorted yelps and yawns of their own voices. It’s pretty out-there and challenging to listen to, but grounded in what seems like a sincere mix of exploration and humor.
Appearing after the manic din of what came before, “Piano Piece for Simone” is a sort of palette cleanser. If you’ve heard his “Beauty Chord + Voice” (from the Voice Studies LP), this is in the same vein—almost heartbreakingly fragile, it is grounded in Palestine’s patient, gentle piano work and then elevated by his ghostly falsetto. Unlike “Beauty Chord + Voice,” “Piano Piece for Simone” has a genuine climax to it, as those early arpeggios turn into a wash of glissandos and his wordless incantations find themselves edging closer to the ecstatic. This recording is a great reminder that Palestine has never warmed to the use of the term “minimalism” when discussing his music—he’s much more comfortable with “trance,” regardless of whatever connotations it might already have.
I’ve made this out-of-print LP available here. Apologies for the crackly transfer—it’s actually from a brand new copy. (Though I’m grateful for Alga Marghen’s archival work, google “alga marghen” and “pressing” and you’ll discover that many of their LPs suffer from surface noise, which is a shame, especially when it comes to music like Palestine’s or Eliane Radigue’s.)
Two La Monte Young bootlegs surfaced at the end of last year—one was an LP featuring two excerpts of a Raag Bhairava purportedly from the Theatre of Eternal Music era, accompanied by no artwork and only the barest information. It’s very good, but the other that (suspiciously?) appeared around the same time holds far more fascination for me. The A-side is part of what has been labeled Day of the Holy Mountain—specifically, part 2a of this set, which I just reblogged from Doom and Gloom from the Tomb. Especially when excerpted here as a 20-minute side (as opposed to when absorbed as part of an 80-minute session), its impact is immediate and remarkable. I’m sometimes a little skeptical of David Keenan’s messianic proclamations, but his observation that this music is “joining the dots between early free jazz reveries, dervish music and the sound of ‘holy minimalism’” feels accurate and well-articulated.
The B-side though, which is given the title “Oceans (aborted session for a 1969 CBS LP),” is the real discovery. To my knowledge, this has not appeared on previous releases of Young’s, official or otherwise. It’s extremely, almost elementally basic—a recording (done by David Tudor) of Young and his collaborator/partner Marian Zazeela overlapping their voices in a series of reedy, mesmerizing drones as they sit on the edge of an ocean. In between extended passages of vocalizing, there are disarmingly mundane asides muttered by Young to Tudor about the minutiae of microphones.
Though this is pure speculation, the idea of Young and Zazeela cutting a record for CBS in 1969 makes sense, especially coming off the success of Terry Riley’s success for them with In C just a year earlier. “Oceans,” as presented here, was never meant to stand on its own, but when experienced as such, it becomes the most profound eavesdropping you’ll ever do.
And since we’re on the subject of obscure, extracurricular Velvet Underground activity, here are these recordings of La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Tony Conrad, John Cale, Angus MacLise and Terry Jennings droning the days away in 1964. There is no beginning, there is no end. Cale and Conrad have long talked up this stuff, but say that Young won’t release any of it officially unless the other members publicly state that he composed everything. Or something like that! Anyway, if you dig the drone, you’re going to dig this.
By all means grab this. Whoever originally uploaded it was kind enough to present what originally appeared on two discs as one (essentially) continuous mp3, which emphasizes the no beginning / no end quality of the session(s?). I’ll be following this up with my own post related to Young’s recordings soon.
CHRISTOPHER WILLITS- FILTERED LIGHT, FOLDING, AND THE TEA (12K, 2002)
I’m not sure if it’s too early for a glitch revival, but I’d imagine/hope that if one does arise down the line, Folding, and the Tea would stand as a benchmark. Warm and melodic compared to some of the more minimal, clicks-&-cuts material coming out of Europe at the same time, Willits “folding” guitar technique and MSP processing is still a cousin to the work of Oval and Pan Sonic. (There’s a shared interest in Deleuze, at least.)
Arguably the centerpiece of the album, “Filtered Light,” allows for extended immersion in the gently hiccuping rhythms and “folded” phrasing of the guitar work—which, it should be noted, is essentially unrecognizable as such. The leaps and reversals from note to note that result from Willits’ process allows the listener to fill in the gaps as the scattershot clipping provides a percussive push forward.
LUTHER VANDROSS- A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME LIVE ON THE NAACP IMAGE AWARDS, 1988
Had Luther Vandross on my mind because yesterday was his birthday. This is one of the few clips from YouTube that I’ve bothered to transfer to a hard copy because I worry that someday, some company with the legal authority to do so will take down this video and that it will become lost in the ether.
I think this is probably the single greatest vocal performance I’ve ever seen. It always gives me chills and usually elicits some tears, much like it did for Dionne Warwick. Vandross had recorded “A House is Not a Home” for his debut album, Never Too Much back in 1981—the context of his 1988 performance here is a tribute to Warwick, who first popularized this and many other Bacharach/David songs. His version is more than twice as long as hers, and like many Bacharach/David songs, there are some very unusual tempo and key changes present in this song. The longer duration highlights those qualities while also allowing them to unfold more naturally.
I’m sure that part of what makes this such an emotional viewing experience is that you are not only watching Vandross sing, but others react, especially Warwick, whose admiration for (and awe of) his performance is laid plain at the end. There is also a melancholy tinge to seeing this pleading, vulnerable song of devotion and love sung by someone who, by many accounts, was not able to be so honest about himself to his public and his industry.
Regardless, what seems so palpable here is Vandross’s total command of both the song and the audience. He’s a master of the delicate but dramatic leaps across octaves as well as the impassioned adlibs (the “Good morning, good evening…” bit at 1:20) that add a little attitude and surprise to an exquisitely crafted piece of music. From multiple angles, there is brilliance on display in this performance.
TERRY RILEY & DON CHERRY- DESCENDING MOONSHINE DERVISHES LIVE KÖLN 1975 (bootleg, 1975)
The recent appearance of this set as a bootleg LP has brought another round of (always-deserved) attention on it. The interplay is truly affecting and remarkable, hitting In a Silent Way-style peaks for me. (Riley’s interpolation of “Shortnin’ Bread” on the final improvisation is a nice touch!) This music is very much worth your time; that said, don’t go crazy spending $30 to $70 on the vinyl when the mp3s (which probably were the source for the LP anyway) are still very much available.