The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Paul Lovens / Florian Stoffner:
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Albert Ayler:
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Tim Berne's Snakeoil:
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Pau Nasim (Lopez-Palacios / Serra):
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Taking their project name as a concatenation of their personal names, appropriate to the close improvisational bond shared by the Spanish drum and sax duo of Nasim Lopez-Palacios and Pau Torres Serra, who present a unique and idiosyncratic language on their instruments to create an engaging set of dialogs through energetically controlled yet never chaotic interaction. ... Click to View


J. Pavone String Ensemble:
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Jessica Pavones String Ensemble with Pavone and Abby Swidler on violas, and Erica Dicker and Angela Morris on violins, are recorded live at Firehouse 12 in a set of Pavone compositions combining traditional notation and improvisation, with a focus on sustained collaborative playing and the application of ideas exploring the healing potential of sonic vibrations. ... Click to View


J. Pavone String Ensemble:
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Jessica Pavones String Ensemble with Pavone and Abby Swidler on violas, and Erica Dicker and Angela Morris on violins, are recorded live at Firehouse 12 in a set of Pavone compositions combining traditional notation and improvisation, with a focus on sustained collaborative playing and the application of ideas exploring the healing potential of sonic vibrations. ... Click to View


Powerdove:
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Lijiang Quintet:
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Horace Tapscott / The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra / Great Vocie of UGMAA:
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Formed in 1961 with the goal of preserving, developing and performing African-American music, pianist Horace Tapscott is heard in this well-recorded concert from 1998, his last public performance, at LACMA in Los Angeles with a 20 piece orchestra including sax, trombone, a 12 member chorus, three bassists, and 3 percussionists; a significant addition to Tapscott's catalog. ... Click to View


Slapp Happy:
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Acnalbasac Noom was Slapp Happy's second LP, recorded in 1973, and engineered by Kurt Grauner in Faust's legendary Wumme Studio using Faust as the Slapphappy house band; it was originally rejected by Virgin Records, who made the group re-record the album with different musicians as Casablanca Moon, though through time Acnalbasac is still the definitive and preferred edition. ... Click to View


Brodbeck / Bohm:
Weak Ties (Creative Sources)

Working in the Elektronisches Studio, in Basel, Switzerland, the duo of electronic artist and guitarist Volker Böhm and drummer/percussionist Benjamin Brodbeck, also employing sonic objects of indeterminate source, create a fascinating set of 9 sonic compositions driven by rhythmic interaction, using space and focused recording techniques in superbly timed dialogs. ... Click to View


Gorlinsky / Sysoev / Muller:
Universal Vitamin (Creative Sources)

An extended improvisation for acoustic instrumentation and voice using unusual and extended techniques, from the Russian trio of Alexey Sysoev on piano, Vladimir Gorlinsky on guitar & voice, and Christian Müller on clarinet, recorded at the Cultural Centre DOM in Moscow in 2019, cycling patiently from quietly expressive sections to chamber-oriented brightly active moments. ... Click to View


Sarah Hennies :
Casts [CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Percussionist and composer Nick Hennies presents four tracks featuring sine waves paired with speech, vibraphone, hi-hat and voice recorded over several years in Austin, TX and Ithaca, NY, contrasting electronics and percussion with the starkness of the human voice. ... Click to View


Cryingsnice (Eric Hamelin / Chris Dadge):
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Frequent collaborators, Canadian drummer and experimentalist Eric Hamelin joins Chris Dadge, who more typically performs as a drummer/percussionist, in a duo with Dadge on violin, as the two create wonderfully active environments of sound that follow conceptual paths embracing electroacoustic methodology through two pieces performed live in the studio. ... Click to View


Leap Of Faith:
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The debut of this reconfigured Boston-area trio drawn from the Leap of Faith lineup, starting with the core duo of PEK on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice, with guest Eric Woods on synth and percussion, the trio using heavy percussion and electronics gear in a unique journey of extended freeform improvisation. ... Click to View


PEK Solo:
Schism (Evil Clown)

Approaching his solo work with new compositional strategies, multi-reedist and percussionist David Peck uses time and texture as the principal organizational elements in 9 pre-mixed recordings over which PEK was allowed more flexibility and freedom in instrumental choice during performance, using a vast collection of instruments in dramatic improvisations. ... Click to View


Robert Wyatt:
His Greatest Misses (Domino Record Co.)

Originally released in 2004 in Japan, this compilation covers songs from Soft Machine legend Robert Wyatt's solo career, from albums back to Rock Bottom through Cuckooland, sequenced non-chronologically reflecting the depth of interest, excitement & pathos of his remarkable career, one of rock's most unconventional and brilliant songwriters and singers. ... Click to View


Robert Wyatt:
His Greatest Misses [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (Domino Record Co.)

Originally released in 2004 in Japan, this compilation covers songs from Soft Machine legend Robert Wyatt's solo career, from albums back to Rock Bottom through Cuckooland, sequenced non-chronologically reflecting the depth of interest, excitement & pathos of his remarkable career, one of rock's most unconventional and brilliant songwriters and singers. ... Click to View


Joel Futterman / Ike Levin Duo:
The Present Gift (IML Music)

A meeting in the studio in 2001 between frequent collaborators, pianist Joel Futterman, also performing on curved soprano saxophone & wooden Indian flute, and Chicago tenor saxophonist Ike Levin, also on bass clarinet and Brazilian Kalimba, beautifully capturing the extraordinary conversation of strongly articulated dialog between the two improvisers; impressive! ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / Patrick Holmes / Matthew Putman / Hilliard Greene / Federico Ughi:
Telepathic Mysteries Vol. 1 (577)

Referring to an improvisational style only possible after many years of collaboration, which they refer to as a "ghostly, boundary-pushing music between friends", this is the 4th sublime album from the quintet of Daniel Carter on reeds & trumpet, Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Matthew Putman on piano & keys, Hilliard Greene on bass, and Federico Ughi on drums. ... Click to View


Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe / Four Men Only (Joos / Eichhorn / Zimmer / Buhler / Thellman):
Complete Recordings [3-CD BOX SET] (NoBusiness)

From 1968-73 the German Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe of Herbert Joos on flugelhorn, Wilfried Eichhorn on sax & winds, Helmuth Zimmer on piano & percussion, Klaus Bühler on double bass, Rudi Theilmann on drums, and Wolfgang Czelusta on trombone, and then Four Men Only after Bühler left, were a force in the European Free Jazz scene, here in a 3-CD box collecting their works. ... Click to View


Quin Kirchner:
The Shadows and The Light [VINYL 2 LPs] (Astral Spirits)

Recorded over 2 days in a Chicago studio in configurations from duos to an octet, drummer Quin Kirchner provides the compositions on this double LP for 11 pieces, alongside works by Frank Foster, Phil Cohran, Sun Ra & Carla Bley, presented as a story or a journey of differing styles and forms, made cohesive by Kirchner's remarkable drumming and coherently diverse interests. ... Click to View


Chris Brown:
Retrospectacles [2 CDs] (fo'c'sle)

A fascinating 2-CD retrospective of the solo piano and computer work from 1990 to 2016 of San Francisco Bay Area experimental composer Chris Brown, whose work focuses on evolving paradigms of human-machine interaction through live signal processing, generative polyrhythmic textures, and a cohabitation of both formal control and indeterminacy. ... Click to View


Moritz / Ali / Costa :
Estuary (Neither/Nor Records)

After having collaborated in a variety of contexts for a few years, in 2017 Jonathan Moritz, Sean Ali and Carlo Costa started to perform regularly as a trio, over time honing a distinctive sound, using space through patient development, abstraction and textural playing and central tenets in their jazz-influenced improvisations, here in their first album. ... Click to View


String Theory:
Tin (Creative Sources)

The Portuguese String Theory ensemble led by violist Ernesto Rodridgues explores the element "Tin" in this live performance at CreativeFest XIII at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, 2019, leading a 10-piece ensemble of strings — violin & violas, cellos, double basses, guitars and piano — through an extended improvisation of remarkably detailed yet controlled interaction. ... Click to View


Skrijelj / Rodrigues / Mira / Malmendier:
lluvia (Creative Sources)

A live performance at CreativeFest XIII at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon in 2019 from the quartet of Emilie Skrijelj on accordion, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on cello, and Tom Malmendier on percussion, Lluvia referencing Rain as the quartet quietly builds and releases tension through subtle cues, persistent figures, tonal innuendo and shades. ... Click to View


Gelber Flieder:
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Gelber Lilac, or Yellow Lilac, is the electro-acoustic trio trio of Yves Arques (Tricentric) on objects & electronics, Joao Camoes (Open Field String Trio) on viola, and Luise Volkmann (Autochrom) on saxophone, presenting a romantic still life in improvisational colors and extended techniques, recorded live at La Petite Maison, in Paris in 2016. ... Click to View


Emily Davis / Christopher Riggs / George Romaine:
Extinction Burst (Bug Incision Records)

Chicago-based guitarist Christopher Rigg, founder of the Holy Cheever Church Records, developed this set of pieces called "extinction bursts", performed with Emily David on drums and George Romaine on piano, a work he refers to as "maximalist harsh free jazz wall", using a lurching and squealing guitar figure over which David and Romaine overlay slow progressions. ... Click to View


Joel Futterman:
Blues For My Brother (Creation Music)

Four solo imporovisations from pianist Joel Futterman, starting with the nearly 20-minute "Blues For Ronnie" dedicated to his brother Ronald, a lyrical and soulful work that reflects traditional blues and ragtimes forms within a modern perspective, alongside 3 other rich works of the strong technical and melodic skill that define Futterman's mastery and intentions. ... Click to View



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  Great Minds at Play  

Finding Art in Science, Monthly at Cornelia Street Cafe


By Matt Rand 2003-06-24

A room full of people who have just held in their hands a meteorite that hit the earth in 1576 is a tough room to play. And so it was that a good portion of the audience at Cornelia Street Cafe's "Entertaining Science" night (this one was "Heavy Metals") had left by the time Elliott Sharp picked up his miniature steel guitar. They had stayed through Oliver Sacks' lecture on the weights and properties of various metals, complete with fun handouts such as the meteorite, and even through David Brush's detailed explanation of the manner in which he sculpts with gold and steel. Both had something very tangible in common, in that both discussed specific ways that specific metals acted in specific situations.

So when Sharp took off his hat and started to set up his instrument and effects, people might have thought that this would either be too gimmicky ("Look, I'm making noise from metals!") or too vague ("Here is an ode to metal, bittersweet metal.").

Among those who stayed, however, was the inventor of fractal geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot. He was in for a treat, as Sharp warmed up with a series of harmonics played against a droning open string. Then, suddenly, he was playing a weepy slide melody, but the harmonics, fed through a delay pedal, hadn't stopped.

With the looping, he was able to add layer upon layer of new sound, from sliding melodies to distorted riffs to ethereal harmonics. However he didn't use the loops to create a bottomless cacophony. He let the more distant sounds slip out the back door, so that the sound at any given moment was a fluid combination of only the last couple of things that he had done.

Maybe Sharp got Mandelbrot's attention with the pattern, zooming into a space, exploring it, picking a spot and zooming in some more. The implication was that the piece could have been infinite, rather than a structured musical form.

"Entertaining Science" began on a whim. Los Angeles Timesscience writer and UCLA teacher KC Cole had written a book on the concept of nothing (The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered into the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything) and she wanted to do a reading at the restaurant and performance space Cornelia Street Cafe in Manhattan's West Village. Robin Hirsch, co-owner and founder of the cafe and a long-time friend of Cole's, however, was concerned that the reading wouldn't draw enough of a crowd to make any money.

As Hirsch told the story: "So she said, 'Well, how about me and Roald Hoffmann?' and I said 'Who's he?' 'He's a poet and he's a nobel laureate in chemistry.' And I said, 'Well in all candor, nobody is going to come for him either.' 'Well, so how about me, Roald and Oliver Sacks?' And it was an incredible night."

There was a write-up in the New Yorker, pegged on Sacks' appearance (Sacks is an NYU neuroscientist with an interest in unusual psychological phenomena, and is the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Awakenings and Uncle Tungsten, among other works). Anywhere between 150 and 300 people showed up, depending on whom you ask. Either way, it was more than the 85-person occupancy of the basement room where the event takes place. According to Sacks, "it was very much an experiment then, which rose almost by chance," but Hirsch and Hoffmann decided to make it a monthly event, with Hoffmann becoming the event's curator.

In January, 2002, the series began, individual nights usually centering around a theme, such as "Heavy Metals," "What's So Funny About Science?" and "Get Lost in Translation." With his vast network of friends and colleagues, Hoffmann manages to find three people per month to round out the program, though he sometimes uses fewer if a scientist can also sing, dance or otherwise entertain. No one gets paid, but there is a free dinner in it for the participants. "They sing for their supper," Hirsch said.

Sacks, who has attended almost every month, said it has been so successful because it's "informal, not like going to a lecture, and it's conversational, interactive. Roald has had some extraordinary and important people coming and there's a great hunger for contact with scientific ideas and artistic expression."

But the informality can also lead to difficulties in booking people used to academic settings. "Sometimes I have to twist the scientists' hands a little bit to get them to participate," Hoffman said. "There are a lot of great scientists who are just afraid of standing in front of a stage in a Cafe."

About a month after "Heavy Metals," the subject of the next "Entertaining Science" event was music itself, or "Music on the Brain." Neurobiologist Fredrik Ullen of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and psychologist and cognitive scientist Carol Krumhansl from Cornell spoke about the brain's perception of music. Krumhansl discussed the perception of musical key and how that relates to the idea of expectation (such as you expect the song "Happy Birthday" to resolve in the same key in which it started). Ullen, who is also a renowned pianist, discussed the organization of various parts of the brain involved in making the rhythmic movements involved in playing an instrument, and performed compositions by Gyorgy Ligeti and Frederic Chopin on the piano.

There was, though, a disconnect between Ullen's lecture and his performance. His style on the piano, even while playing Chopin, was sober and unromantic. He played crisp, clear notes that brought out the structure of Chopin's writing rather than getting lost in the emotion of the piece. Then, even if the audience was still caught in Chopin's lilting melodies or Ligeti's churning rhythms, Ullen was not. He had stood up from the piano and he was already speaking and giving a PowerPoint demonstration. He would sit back down at the piano again, but just as an interlude oras an example during Krumhansl's talk. His music was his music and his science was his science. That his science was built around music did not seem to feed anything back into the music-making.

This is the difference between the science of music and the music of science. From one side of the table, scientists like Ullen and Krumhansl, or Sacks with his studies of music as a blueprint for motion for Parkinson's patients, attempt to find out why existing music affects us like it does. On the other side, Sharp is intent on creating music that seizes on the patterns that science has detected in nature. His compositions often follow structures based on the discoveries of mathematicians such as Fibonacci and Mandelbrot.

In the early 1970s, Sharp was studying music at Bard College and living in a house on the Hudson River. "I spent a lot of time walking along the river," he said, "and we had a porch, and you would see literally thousands and thousands of butterflies. There were times they would form patterns and almost seem on the verge of spelling out things. That led me to thinking about all the rhythmic structures we were composing, structures that are open-ended. It was all right there, all the fractal shit, pine cones and branches, streams and currents. It inevitably found its way into my thinking and I did a Hudson River series of compositions. They were all instruction sets, basically conceptual pieces, it being the '70s, but with a mathematical subtext.

"Self-similarity, mapping from the micro to the macro, is something that became very much a part of my approaches to composition, where I'm creating structures that echo each other both on a micro and a macro level, in the shape of the phrase from a 2-bar or 5-bar level out to its full structure."

But this kind of structure isn't obvious to every listener, and to many a piece made up of such algorithms might sound like a whole bunch of noise. In response to a questionabout the people who left the Heavy Metals show before Sharp had the chance to play, he explained that "music is the most abstract of all of the arts, and people either like it or they don't. The thing about music is you can't shut your eyes. Even with earplugs you're going to feel the vibration in the room... People are able to take in dissonant visual images much more easily than they can dissonant audio."

Sharp might be understating the point that visual dissonance is easier to stomach than audio dissonance. Ken Jolls, an Iowa State thermodynamics professor, jazz vibraphone player and January, 2003 Entertaining Science performer (he played the vibraphone and talked about its physics), has found that visual images of thermodynamic models make the traditionally undergrad-torturing concepts of thermodynamics far easier to understand for most students.

"The beauty of Gibbsian thermodynamics with its precisely connected functional structure can be demonstrated through computer imaging.... Ideas that have long been hidden under layers of abstraction now emerge through their understandable, spatio-geometric analogs," he wrote in his paper "Visualization in Classical Thermodynamics".

As with the intricate and beautiful images of Mandelbrot's fractals, a visual representation can make a concept more accessible. But we don't, for some reason, process sound the same way.

And yet Sharp wants the abstractions in his music to sing for themselves. For him, the listener shouldn't need to be versed in science or mathematics, or to have a copy of the score or an explanatory statement, to recognize the abstract structures from the sound of a given piece of music.

"I'm hoping someone hearing this music will understand, like a piece like 'SyndaKit,' they'll hear the complexity in it, they'll wonder how it's generated, maybe they'll hear the order, maybe they'll hear the rules," he said. "And they'll go backwards from thesound of the music to the systems that went into it, thinking about birds flocking, thinking about the way RNA molecules combine, thinking about genetic mutation, thinking about African drum choirs, thinking about how nature creates an algorithmic structure."

It's an ambitious approach. And it has won him a fan in Hoffmann, who said, "what attracts me to Elliott is a combination of just plain good musicianship and then this interesting thing where he plays on real instruments but he also does this computer work, simulates real things. And there's a deep intellectual structure to the work. My general feeling is there's something smart and intuitive about music, and if both are there, that's where Sharp is."

While some audience members might not yet be ready to skip their dinner reservations for the audio abstractions, Hoffmann likes what Sharp's getting at. Sharp uses science as an input, but creates something outside of science. Some scientists might stop at the boundary, waving at the bald-headed, black-wearing musician from inside their classrooms, but Hoffmann's humanized science brings him outside and into the cafe.

Hirsch and Sacks each brought up C.P. Snow when discussing Hoffman. Snow is best known for his mid 20th century work The Two Cultures, in which he examined the gulf between literary and scientific academics at Cambridge. He was disheartened by the ways in which academic specialization could work against the open sharing of knowledge.

Sacks explained that "Roald once gave a talk of the 'One Culture', against the Snow idea of two cultures, that comes out of the similarity of the creative processes, and also from, in many instances, some focusing on the same subjects. For example, language can be studied by a linguist, by neurolinguistics but also by a poet."

Hoffman is a Renaissance Man. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981 for his explanation of the geometric behavior of molecules, and he has published four books of poetry. He spoke six languages by the time he was 12 years old, all while he was traveling across Europe, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis. Now his goal is to "humanize science," because, simply, he is a human and a scientist.

"I think the image of science and scientists is of dry, insensitive people, also super-rational," he said. "I think [the image is] that science is just for smart people and that it's dry and that it depends just on the facts and that there is no ethical edge to it. And I think that all of that is guaranteed to distance human beings from scientists."

Hoffmann benefits from a growing collection of friends and acquaintances who hail from all over the academic world, some who aren't academics at all. "Entertaining Science" revolves around his curiousity and his enthusiasm, and is the only place where you might find a microbiologist singing about leprosy (Helen Davies in February) or a program that highlights the similarities between tae-kwon-do and songs about aliens (The Two-Fisted Singing Universe in June, 2002).

As a result, the series offers "great minds at play," presenting science at a palatable, even entertaining, level, Hirsch said. "What Roald has achieved is to speak without condescension to the intelligent man on the street," he added.

Asked if he learns much science at the events, Hoffmann responded, "I do always learn something, if factually, but I think I experience something emotionally: even the science turns into a performance art here, and I experience it as an art form."



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