Capsule reviews, week ending Jan. 2
Bits and pieces from the Jan. 2 playlist:
- Mary Halvorson and Weasel Walter (aggressive!)
- Richard Pinhas and Merzbow
- David Leikam: Dance/ambient clips
- Classical-music Spongebob!
I’m experimenting with ways to reconcile my full-blown, old-school playlists with WordPress, so we’ll see how this works. Consider it a work in progress.
- A nicely vicious track that opens with keening blares of guitar. On some of theseimprovised duets, Halvorson shows the same kind of rock-oriented approach as on parts of Dragon’s Head. On others, like this one, she goes the full improv/noise route — with squeals, or fast clicking noises, or sounds like a cat getting stepped on. Walter goes nuts on the drums, of course, but the really delicious parts are in his quieter playing, which is fast and accurate and marvellously textured.
- Interesting mix of Pinhas’ space-music electronics (including laser sounds harkening back to ’80s synths) and Merzbow’s white-noise antics. The two can blend better than I’d thought. This track is particularly effective, starting with Pinhas alone, a pleasant buzzing of bees. By about the 7-minute mark of this 17-minute track, Merzbow’s wall of noise has taken over, colored by Pinhas’ electronics tones, like a crowd scene with individual people rushing past in the foreground.
David Leikam — “F-Lense” — David Leikam’s Dance Clippings, Vol. 1 (self-released, 2008 )
- It’s power-ambient, if that makes any sense, a mature and polished sound with flapping sheets of music, an angrier Harold Budd. We at the station know Leikam for the aggressively improvised music he plays — and we happen to know him personally too — but this is something different, and quite impressive. “Sideways Trigger Slip” is aggressive and appropriately dance-y, while other tracks like “F-Lense” (flense?) focus more on washes of synths.
Frank Rothkamm — Opus Spongebobicum (Flux, 2008 )
- Forty piano variations on the first line of the Spongebob Squarepants theme. The concept is apparently inspired by Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, for what it’s worth. It’s quite classical-sounding, and you wouldn’t know anything was up were it not for variations like the fourth one, where the theme is in plain sight. After that “Waaaait a minute…” moment, you start being able to pick out the theme in other tracks — No. 30, for instance, features stern low-note hammering for about a minute before decelerating into the theme. The variety adds to the fun; No. 39 has a “hit single” feel, using rock techniques for an Elton John effect. No. 40 is a cheat; it’s a recording of the inner locked groove on a vinyl record.I played No. 4 as an easy introduction to the concept, then added No. 34 as further illustration. No. 34 is six seconds long (five, if you don’t count the opening fraction-of-a-second silence) and doesn’t even get through the theme all the way. A very smart-ass trick that just adds to the charm.
Apparently, the CD comes with a sponge. Gotta love that.