The Squid's Ear
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Alister Spence / Satoko Fujii: Intelsat (Alister Spence Music)

Continuing her monthly releases for her 60th birthday, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii meets Australian keyboard and electronic artist Alister Spence for their second meeting, touring Japan and recording this spellbinding album merging bells, gongs, electronics, and acoustic piano, inside and out, in a passionate album that balances melodicism and sound. ... Click to View


Peggy Lee : Echo Painting (Songlines)

Commissioned by Coastal Jazz and Blues and premiered at the 2016 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, cellist Peggy Lee's suite for ten players includes some of the most interesting improvisers on the Vancouver scene, the music multi-layered, texturally varied and melodically rich, with beautiful melodic passages, driving rhythm, and incendiary improv; outstanding! ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Jon Irabagon / Mark Sanders / Jim Bashford: The Rain Sessions (FMR)

Dedicated to Cecil Taylor and taking advantage of NY saxophonist Irabagon's UK visit, this album presents four drum duets "time two", as two tenor saxophonists--Paul Dunmall and Jon Irabagon--meet two musical drummers--Mark Sanders and Jim Bashford--following Dunmall long-standing interest in drum and sax duets, the results this ebullient and remarkable album. ... Click to View


Szilard Mezei Septet: Veres Pancel (FMR)

Vojvodinian composer and violist Szilard Mezei formed this septet in 2005, his 3rd chamber group with a distinctly free jazz voice, citing influences Gyorgy Szabados, Anthony Braxton, Bela Bartok, Witold Lutoslawsky, Gyoryg Ligeti, Jimmy Giuffre, Steve Lacy, Mal Waldron, to which we would add Eric Dolphy, here in their second FMR album capturing a live concert in Serbia, 2018. ... Click to View


Phil Gibbs / Marcello Magliocchi / Adrian Northover / Maresuke Okamoto: Sezu (FMR)

An intense live concert in Bristol, UK of collective free improvisation using insane technique and ecstatic drive from the quartet of Philip Gibbs on guitar & banjo, Marcello Magliocchi on drums, Adrian Northover on soprano & alto saxophones, and Maresuke Okamoto on cello & voice, a wonderfully skilled example of unexpected directions in creative free playing. ... Click to View


Runcible Quintet, The: Four (FMR)

London-based free improvisers and members of the London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO), this ensemble consists of soprano saxophonist Adrian Northover, flautist Neil Metcalfe, acoustic guitarist Daniel Thompson, double bassist John Edwards and Italian-born drummer Marcello Magliocci, in their second album on the FMR label, a spectacular live performance at I'klectik in 2017. ... Click to View


Dave Sewelson (w/ William Parker): Music For A Free World (FMR)

West Coast baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson leads the accomplished quartet of Steve Swell on trombone, William Parker on bass, and Marvin "Bugalu" Smith on drums through six collective compositions, plus a reprise of Sewelson's earlier "Music for a Free World" compositions, and his new composition "Bill" for guitarist/composer and friend Bill Horvitz. ... Click to View


Frame Trio (Luis Vincente / Marcelo Dos Reis / Nils Vermeulen): Luminaria (FMR)

Recording at Centro Norton de Matos Gymnasium, in Coimbra, Portugal, the Frame Trio led by Portuguese trumpeter Luis Vicente and Portuguese guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis, with Belgium double bassist Nils Vermeulen rounding out their unique approach to improvised music blending jazz and free approaches as they present their six part "Luminaria" (Luminary) suite. ... Click to View


Free Pantone Trio: A Blink Of An Eye To The Nature Of Things (FMR)

Free Pantone trio is a Portuguese musical group recently created in Lisbon by bassist Rui Sousa, pianist Manuel Guimaraes and drummer Joao Valinho, taking a trans-idiomatic and experimental approach they seek to exploit diverse musical genres and sub-genres from jazz and contemporary music using improvisation and real-time composition as their uniting principle. ... Click to View


Don Cherry / Marion Brown / Evan Parker / John Stevens: Free Jazz Meeting Baden Baden '67 (Hi Hat)

Recorded at the 2nd Free Jazz Meeting (now known as the SWR NewJazz Meeting) in Baden-Baden, 1967, with 4 recordings from the groupings of Jeanne Lee, Albert Mangelsdorff, Gunter Hampel & Pierre Courbois; Marion Brown, Peter Kowald & Sven-Ake Johansson; Albert Mangelsdorff, Evan Parker & John Stevens; and Don Cherry, Evan Parker, Peter Kowald, Buschi Niebergall & John Stevens. ... Click to View


Don Cherry Trio: Studio 105, Paris 1967 (Hi Hat)

The complete broadcast on the French radio station ORTF of Don Cherry's work at Studio 105, Maison de l'ORTF, Paris in March of 1967, finding multi-instrumentalist/trumpeter Don Cherry, also on cornet, piano, bamboo flute, gong, performing with Karl Berger on vibes, marimba, piano, cleste, percussion, and Jacques Thollot on drums, bells, timbales. ... Click to View


Sun Ra: The Early Albums Collection 1957-1963 [4 CDs] (Enlightenment)

A 4-CD collection bringing together 7 full albums and early singles, more than five hours of music from the early part of Herman Blount's, aka Sun Ra's, career as a bandleader, tracint the development of his work from 1957 to 1963 as he introduced increasingly out forms of jazz through compositions like "Sunology", "Interplanetary Music", "We Travel the Spaceways", &c. ... Click to View


Biliana Voutchkova / Michael Thieke: Blurred Music (elsewhere)

Berlin-based violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke (Magic I.D., International Nothing) present a stunning achievement in blending compositional, pre-structured material with live improvisation, creating a blurring of virtually identical sections that create microtonal anomalies in timing, rhythm, timbre and motive, as heard in 3 amazing performances. ... Click to View


Matthew Revert / Vanessa Rossetto: Everyone Needs A Plan (erstwhile)

The second collaboration between sounds artist Vanessa Rossetto and writer and sound artist Matthew Revert is a monumental work that studies the evolution of communication through fragments of spoken words, and a rich tapestry of sound from acoustic and electronic instruments, field recordings, and perplexing and dramatic sources of sound. ... Click to View


Lucio Capece / Marc Baron: My Trust In You (erstwhile)

Two electroacoustic improvisers and composers--Lucio Capece on reeds, analog synths, effects, field recordings, drums machines, speakers in motion, and Marc Baron on field recordings and analog devices--developed these 6 extraordinary recordings that blend motion, perspective, sound and noise, and concrete references in a mystifying and mesmerizing journey in sound. ... Click to View


Melaine Dalibert : Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere)

Inspired by the work of Hungarian-born French media artist Vera Molnar, and by the vicissitudes of natural phenomena, French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert developed algorithmic procedures to compose this work, translating to "Music for the Daybreak", as an illusory "endless piece" of meditative layered, resonant music in the mode of Morton Feldman. ... Click to View


Otomo Yoshihide / Paal Nilssen-Love: 19th of May, 2016 (PNL)

An intensively diverse and thrilling game of "cat and dog" between Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, performing live at Dom Cultural Center, Moscow, Russia in 2016 for two extended improvisations that exemplify incredible technical skills, reflective and introspective dialog, and cathartic release; absolutely impressive. ... Click to View


Marker (w/ Ken Vandermark): Wired For Sound (Audiographic Records)

The debut from this Chicago band merging strong grooves with free playing, with 2 guitarists--Andrew Clinkman & Steve Marquette, plus Macie Stewart on keys & violin, Phil Sudderberg on drums, and Ken Vandermark on reeds, each of the 3 tracks dedicated to an artist: Belgian movie director Chantal Akerman; German choreographer Pina Bausch; and Anthony Braxton and Bernie Worrell. ... Click to View


Vandermark / Kugel / Tokar: No-Exit Corner (Not Two)

the second CD by the trio featuring the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, the drummer Klaus Kugel, and the bassist Mark Tokar has the band back at Krakow's Alchemia Club, bringing these three Chicago and European players together for a skronky, energetic romp of commanding playing alongside unorthodox approaches and powerfully creative intent. ... Click to View


Bobby Zankel & The Wonderful Sound 6: Celebrating William Parker at 65 (Not Two)

Celebrating bassist and composer William Parker's 65th birthday at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia in a band led by Bobby Zankel on alto saxophone, Muhammad Ali on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, Steve Swell on trombone, Diane Monroe on violin, and William Parker himself on bass, in a 4-part suite of beautifully turbulent and masterful free jazz. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Fred Marty / Carlos Santos: Jardin Carre (Creative Sources)

French double bassist Fred Marty joins Creative Sources core performers, violist Ernesto Rodrigues, cellist Guilherme Rodrigues and electronic artist Carlos Santos for an extensive improvisation exploring both lyrical and pointillistic improvisation, themed loosely around a garden quartet or frame, the music detailed, active and formidably sophisticated. ... Click to View


Urlich Mitzlaff : Ten Sonic Miniatures about the "Scream" by Edvard Munch (Creative Sources)

Using Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" as his muse, German cellist living in Portugal, Ulrich Mitzlaff, presents 10 acoustic miniatures from just over a minute to 4 1/2 minutes in length, including wildly interactive moments of delirium to darkly melodic bowed passages, using his impressive technique to create vivid depictions of Munch's work. ... Click to View


4! (Patrizia Oliva / Carlo Mascolo / Domenico Saccente / Felice Furioso): Factorial (Creative Sources)

Free electroacoustic improvisation from the Italian quartet of Patrizia Oliva on voice, electronics, bawu, objects, Carlo Mascolo on prepared trombone, Domenico Saccente on accordion and prepared piano, and Felice Furioso on drums, cupa cupa, contrabbassa, sounded objects, using voice and unusual instrumentation to guide unusual and forward-thinking improv. ... Click to View


Frantz Loriot : Reflections on an Introspective Path (Neither/Nor Records)

French-Japanese violist Frantz Loriot's first solo album takes the viola into unusual territory, using an acousmatic approach to create music and sounds with no visual reference by transforming the sound of the viola through preparations and remarkable extended techniques, layering and assembling his works to create concrete statements of movement. ... Click to View


Costa's Acustica, Carlo: Strata (Neither/Nor Records)

New York composer and drummer Carlo Costa assembled this accomplished ensemble of NY improvisers for a live performance at IBeam in Brooklyn, capturing his piece "Strata" that evolves layers of sound from very sparse to densely yet accesibly stacked sound, varying recurring material to change perspectives in the aural space as the piece progresses; impressive. ... Click to View


Flin van Hemmen (w/ Neufeld / Obsvik): Drums of Days (Neither/Nor Records)

Debut album as a leader from drummer and pianist Flin van Hemmen, an evocative album of original compositions and improvisations recorded in a trio with Eyvind Opsvik on double bass and Todd Neufeld on acoustic guitar, with Tony Malaby on alto and soprano sax on one track; a beautifully cinematic and poetic album that allows for space and reflection. ... Click to View


Peter Blegvad : Bandbox [6 CD BOX SET] (Recommended Records)

Starting with Blegvad's "Downtime" LP, this box traces the evolution of the Peter Blegvad Trio into a quintet with Karen Mantler and Bob Drake, released in a solid box with a double CD of alternate versions, unreleased material and live performances, plus a 72 page book of photographs, memorabilia, drawings, documents and recollections; the ultimate reissue! ... Click to View


Roberto Musci / Giovanni Venosta: Messages & Portraits (2018 Edition) (Recommended Records)

A welcome reissue of two 1980s, forward-thinking albums of electronic compositions from Milanese ethnomusicologist composers, sound engineers and performers Giovanni Venosta and Roberto Musci, incorporating exotic field recordings from their world travels into accessibly sophisticated pieces, creating unexpectedly innovative, novel and melodically rich hybrids. ... Click to View


Vitor Rua & The Metaphysical Angels: When Better Isn't Quite Good Enough [2 CDs] (Recommended Records)

Guitarist Vitor Rua (GNR, Telectu) recorded the 15 pieces of this 2-CD set first as a series of overdubbed solo improvisations, using his virtuosic skills to create intriguing and compelling works, which he orchestrated and recorded with the quintet of Hernani Faustino on bass, Luis San Payo on drums, Manuel Guimaraes on organ, Nuno Reis on trumpet, and Paulo Galao on clarinets. ... Click to View


Allen Ravenstine : Waiting For The Bomb [VINYL] (Recommended Records)

Many years after Pere Ubu and his work as a pilot, one of the world's most unique synth players, Allen Ravenstine, releases an album of composed works, 18 discrete hybrid miniature sound worlds that blend acoustic, real-world and synthetic sounds in unorthodox ways that elusively twist conventional approaches with unexpected elements and narrative twists. ... Click to View


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  Goth Pop, The Ocean and Radio Shack  

The Unique Sensibilities of Marianne Nowottny


By Florence Wetzel 2003-06-20

Marianne Nowottny's name doesn't sound like you might expect: she pronounces it "Mah-ri-AH-na," not "Maryann. " The same could be said for her music, which critics in publications as disparate as The New York Times, The Wire and Tiger Beat have praised and attempted to describe. Magnet said that Nowottny's music is "like if André Breton wrote Harlequin romances." The writer meant this as a compliment, and it's as good a description as any, but Nowottny doesn't fit into a box; there's no easy recipe for her music.

Marianne Nowottony
[Photo Courtesy: Abaton Book Company]
For those unfamiliar with Nowottny's music, her new Camera Obscura release Illusions of the Sun is a good place to start. It's the 20 year old's seventh release (not counting several dozen live cdrs, videos and limited edition singles). The CD has seven audio tracks as well as a twelve-minute, three-song video. Six of the tracks were recorded at the WNYC-FM studios in New York City in 2001, another at CBGB's Gallery in 2002, and the multimedia portion was filmed at Signal 66 in Washington, D.C. in 2000. In all the tracks, Nowottny sings her original lyrics and accompanies herself on harmonium, piano, and Radio Shack keyboards.

Part of Nowottny's uniqueness is due to her ability - and courage - to allow her voice to explore its full range, from primal growl to operatic soprano to lilting pop. Combined with this wide spectrum of sound is her unusual phrasing: she stretches and compacts words in ways that make the listener hear anew. Repeated listening to Illusions of the Sun - with and without the provided lyrics as a guide - reveals deeper pleasures; as one becomes accustomedto Nowottny's unique phrasing, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, and one can even identify known elements.

"I always listen to music, and in my songs I can hear little parts that come from different pop songs," she said. "The hooks are twisted, tortured, bent, and then fit into my own songs somehow."And it's not just pop that surfaces in her music: listeners hear elements of Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, Diamanda Galas, Nico, and Sun Ra.

Other such luminaries count themselves among her fans.

"When I first heard Marianne's singing I was floored by the timelessness of her sound, simultaneously ancient and in the future," said guitarist Elliott Sharp, who has performed and recorded with the young songwriter. "It's tapped into the same strain that one hears in country blues, in Transylvanian gypsy music, and in fado."

But Nowottny did not grow up hearing these musicians and styles; her songs just came out that way. And the songs on Illusions of the Sun are also remarkable for their lyrics. Nowottny has been writing poetry for years, and her lyrics are highly original, as well as emotive and thought-provoking. In "Grey City" (recorded August 2001, but eerily reflecting the events of the next month), Nowottny writes, "I make believe just to relieve/the shrapnel sewn to my sleeve." Most of her songs concern romance and the many permutations of lost, found, and disappointed love. Reflecting on these songs, Nowottny said "For years I did self-indulgent, ultra-personal teen angst stuff. If I do sit and contemplate this music now, it makes me feel weird." Teen angst it may be, but funneled through Nowottny's sensibility it's heartfelt ("He's probably dead now/He's probably dead someway somehow") and sometimes mischievous ("Paisley or paramecium/Love or lust?"). It's music you can listen to while crying your heart out on your bed or concentrate on for its own reward.

Illusions of the Sun is Nowottny's first release on the Australian label Camera Obscura. Her previous work came out on the Abaton Book Company imprint, a label located in Jersey City and run by Mark Dagley of former Boston art band Girls, and his wife, playwright Lauri Bortz. It's fortunate to have talent, and it's equally fortunate to have people nurture and present your work in a way that preserves your integrity. Since meeting Nowottny in Newton, NJ in 1998, Dagley and Bartz have been her friends and champions, and they have produced a generous catalogue of Nowottny material, including her first release Afraid of Me (1999), Manmade Girl (2001), and SHELL! (2000), Nowottny's duet with her friend Donna Bailey. There's also limited editions of CDs, MP3s, and vinyl, as well as over fifty performance videos. Nowottny, Dagley, and Bortz also share a playful sense of humor, which is evident in Abaton's wide array of Marianne merchandise, which includes Marianne pick-up sticks, a teddy bear called Bearianne Nowottny, and - why not? - Breath of Marianne, which is exactly that, a bottle of her breath.

Nowottny's open-hearted creativity expresses itself in many mediums: music, poetry, painting, sculpture, clothing design, and modeling. It's refreshing to encounter such a genuinely artistic spirit, and as The New Jersey Herald astutely observed, "She may have such a solid following because [her music] is so original and somehow may strike a chord in others, nudging them not to be afraid of themselves, of their innate originality."

The songwriter's gifts flowered in soil that might seem particularly unsuitable for artists: suburban-rural southern New Jersey. "There's strange people down in southern New Jersey; they really took my mind for a spin," she said. "I believed in the goth thing, and there were a lot of goth hicks where I was. I thought the rest of the world was like this too." But no matter the company, Nowottny found solace and beauty in the Jersey Shore landscape. "It's really scenic where I grew up; I lived in a little house by a lake, and there were nice places to be by myself in nature. I went to the ocean every day, and I still dream of it." The unique combination of goth, spinning minds, the Atlantic ocean, and Radio Shack became part of Nowottny's development, fodder for creative expression.

Although Nowottny has received a great deal of attention since a very young age, she is remarkably levelheaded, with a healthy dose of skepticism. "When I was 16 the weird fetish was to call me a teen rocker. I didn't buy into it, and it pissed me off because I thought I was all grown up: 'I'm a woman, leave me alone!' And the main thing people said about me was 'This is really great, but too bad no one cares.' And that contradicts itself. It was sad to me, but I understand it as well - I wasn't making music to make money."

She is inspired by contemporary artists who have found a larger audience without compromising their unusual sound. "The group Einstuerzende Neubauten has a big fan base, and their symbol is everywhere," she said. "And Coldplay has ambient dark songs that are becoming hits."

She has been presenting her music at various East Coast venues since 1999. Currently she's studying at William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ; college as well as a part-time job have curbed her performing schedule, but come fall she will probably be playing out again. In the meantime, she continues creating and absorbing music. "I think about music and songs a lot in my car, and I even have a tape recorder there," she said. "I'm listening to a lot of pop engineer constructed R&B hits, bubblegum gangster music like Missy Elliott, who's amazing. Ashanti's music inspires me - I love the downbeat, and it's a happy-go-lucky, sophisticated, city-woman kind of music. I'm also listening to Fleetwood Mac from the Rumours period - I like the song 'Dreams' a lot."

There's no telling how Nowottny's external and internal influences will reflect in her future music, but however it translates, music lovers - and music connoisseurs - will surely reap the benefits.

Currently she's on the margins of mainstream music, but Nowottny recognizes that with different instrumentation and presentation she could attract a wider audience. It's an opportunity that interests her, but doesn't necessarily drive her, she said. "Music is taking a turn in evolution, but it can't appeal to a mass audience when it's lacking the basic recipe of beats and bass. My dad is tone deaf, but if a song has beats and bass, he'll listen to it. What would change is me, putting my music into something that more people can listen to."

But then, she added, "people who listen to pop music don't give a shit about art."



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