Improviser, instrument builder, writer, graphic artist and radio host Hal Rammel has been actively making and promoting "other" music for over 45 years, and if that isn't some kind of record, it at least lets us know that the man is serious. Agog is his third offering of solo amplified palette improvisations, employing various wooden palettes affixed with metal or wood rods and played with different kinds of mallets. These instruments produce a rich variety of pitches and timbres, sometimes brittle and spiky, other times deeply resonant. Over the course of 17 short examples we are treated to oddly swinging microtonal melodies and clouds of bizarre clusters sometimes reminiscent of some of Harry Partch's output. Rammel swings though, whereas Partch's music all seemed rather stiff and rhythmically straight-jacketed.
There are instances of fascinating buzz and whine, rattles, hums and big bass bombs. Think of a slightly malfunctioning music box, as big as a room. The short (under 4 minute) pieces all have their own character, some are sparse and allow the harmonics to ring and change over time, while others offer a mass of reverberating chords. At times I can hear what sounds like church bells, and at least once I hear water. Rammel's timing is impeccable, letting things hang when they need to and then voicing anew as a cloud passes. At times there is so much going on that it seems like more than one person making all this sound, but it's actually just skill and hours of playing time on display.
This disc puts me in mind of another solo recording of invented instruments, Dave Knott's Natura Naturans, released back in the '90's. For both of these discs the recommendation would be the same: pay close attention and delight in human ingenuity, or have them on in the "background" and enjoy a pleasant soundscape for any domestic activity.
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