The Squid's Ear
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Satoko Fujii / Joe Fonda: Mizu (Long Song Records)

With commanding instrumental skills and a growing history of collaboration, bassist Joe Fonda and pianist Satoko Fujii are heard again in two live concerts as part of their 2017 European tour, two duos from Belgium and one in Germany, the CD taking its title from the Japanese word for "water" as the two converse in powerfully emotional and technically breathtaking ways. ... Click to View


Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) [2 CDs] (Pi Recordings)

With his earliest and most current performance history tied to the enduring Manhattan jazz club The Village Vanguard, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman records his Five Elements in a 2017 live show with Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Anthony Tidd on bass, and Sean Rickman on drums for a fiery, exuberant and masterful concert of modern jazz. ... Click to View


Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi Recordings)

Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse brings together 9 musicians in a chamber jazz setting without a drum set--Jonathan Finlays(trumpet), Jen Shyu (vocals), Matt Mitchell (piano), Mara Grand (tenor sax), Rane Moore (clarinet), Kristin Lee (violin), Greg Chudzik (bass), and Neeraj Mehta (percussion)--performing 9 of Coleman's sophisticated original compositions. ... Click to View


Barker Trio: Avert Your I [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

After releasing drummer Andrew Barker's duo with Daniel Carter, "Polyhedron", Astral Spirits takes on Barker's trio album with sidemen Michael Foster on tenor & soprano sax, plus electronics, and Tim Dahl on bass, Barker also adding synth & electronics, for an album of ruggedly intense, propulsive playing with a probing inquisitiveness. ... Click to View


Charles Barabe : De la Fragilite [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Victoriaville, Quebec electronic composer Charles Barbare creates abstract electroacoustic works, here in an impressive 6-movement work that covers a wide ground from minimalistic rhythmic sections to time-stretched voices and electronics to musique mystery, his inquisitive approach allowing his scores to unfold in decipherable, dramatic and coherent ways. ... Click to View


Hvizdalek / Nergaard / Tavil / Garner: Juxtaposition (Nakama Records)

Sonic sources of a wide variety of timbre, rhythm and tone, mixed with voice, feedback, even bird sounds, make up the strata of this intriguing album from Oslo Improvisers Agnes Hvizdalek (voice), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (electric bass, electronics, field recordings), Utku Tavil (snare drum, no input mixer, sampler), and Natali Abrahamsen Garner (voice, electronics). ... Click to View


Hvizdalek / Nergaard / Tavil / Garner: Juxtaposition [CASSETTE] (Nakama Records)

Sonic sources of a wide variety of timbre, rhythm and tone, mixed with voice, feedback, even bird sounds, make up the strata of this intriguing album from Oslo Improvisers Agnes Hvizdalek (voice), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (electric bass, electronics, field recordings), Utku Tavil (snare drum, no input mixer, sampler), and Natali Abrahamsen Garner (voice, electronics). ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee / Christian Meaas Svendsen: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel (Nakama Records)

Three "nonsensical" musical conversations between Malaysian experimental musician and Herbal International label founder Goh Lee Kwang, and Norwegian bass player and Nakama label leader Christian Meeas Svendsen; a first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations, packaged with a pencil to let you draw your own cover. ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee / Christian Meaas Svendsen: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Three "nonsensical" musical conversations between Malaysian experimental musician and Herbal International label founder Goh Lee Kwang, and Norwegian bass player and Nakama label leader Christian Meeas Svendsen; a first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations, packaged with a pencil to let you draw your own cover. ... Click to View


Hal Hutchinson: Factory Metal Sound [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

British noise artist Hal Hutchinson (Der Bunker Records) in a record of apparent field recordings of metallic factory sounds, a machinist's daydream of rotating and subdued lathe sounds, each side of the cassette with a distinct timbre and recording ambiance as the mysterious sounds provide a cantankerously complex set of audio environments. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Musaeum Clausum: Musaeum Clausum (Umlaut Records)

Musaeum Clausum is a French-German trio that features Louis Laurain on cornet (Die Hochstapler, Umlaut Big band, ONCEIM), Hannes Lingens on drums (Obliq, Konzert Minimal) and Sebastien Beliah on bass.(Un Poco Loco, Ensemble Hodos, Umlaut Big Band), in an album of patiently developing improvisation giving each player freedom and flexibility within a composed framework. ... Click to View


Sebastien Beliah : Nocturnes (Umlaut Records)

Sebastien Beliah is a Paris-based double bass player, a member of Umlaut Big Band, The Coquettes, Un poco loco, &c., here in a solo album of bass noir, dark and resonant tones evoked through strong bowing, finding harmonics between the strings and from the instrument itself, creating beautiful passages in a mirage of engulfing deep timbre. ... Click to View


Charles Noyes K. / Owen Maercks w/ Henry Kaiser / Greg Goodman: Free Mammals [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

A great example of open-minded West Coast free improvisation around the late 70s from the quartet of Charles K. Noyes on percussion & saxophone, Owen Maercks on guitar, Henry Kaiser on guitar, and Greg Goodman on piano & percussion, side A from a live concert in Berkeley recorded by guitarist Henry Kaiser, side B from sutdio sessions in San Francisco. ... Click to View


Toshimaru Nakamura : Re-Verbed (No-Input Mixing Board 9) (Room40)

Tokyo-based electronics artist Toshimaru Nakamura's 9th album of No-Input Mixing Board music, elucidating sound from the mixing board without any audio sources, showing the amazing evolution of his approach as he turns this "empty" "instrument" into an amazing source of rhythmic and assertive sound that's both surprising and wonderfully musical. ... Click to View


Paul Flaherty / Chris Corsano: The Hated Music [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

Gary Panter's artwork is updated and the format is vinyl this time for this welcome reissue of the 2000 Ecstatic Yod CD from the now long-running duo of tenor & alto saxophonist Paul Flaherty and drummer Chris Corsano, a superb free jazz album of great invention and seriously deep playing, from hard attacks to introspective musing, truly impressive! ... Click to View


Sidsel Endresen / Jan Bang: Hum (Confront)

Using sampler, dictaphone, and voice, the duo of Sidsel Endresen and Jan Bang improvise and interact to create unorthodox hybrids of fractured electronics and articulated word, as edgy and engaging as it is unusual, captured live at Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene, in Oslo, Norway in 2016, a great followup to Bang's "And Poppies From Kandahar" Samadhi album. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps, rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary author Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out [VINYL 2 LPs] (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps, rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary author Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


Small Cruel Party: ἡσυχασμός (complacency) [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

The first new release from William Key Ransone's Small Cruel Party, two 12 minute pieces, the first a work of subtle noise that ebbs and flows in subliminal ways; the second a work of strong tone combinations with distracted percussion and unusual tonal interruptions, a unique album of atmosphere and tension. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner / Jason Kahn: For Berner Munster (Confront)

The pairing of German trumpeter Axel Dorner, and NY-born experimental artist Jason Kahn living and performing in Zurich, brings the tradition of avant free jazz and nonidiomatic improvisation into an unusual merging of techniques and approaches, each applying their advanced virtuosity to this intense concert, recorded during Hamburg's Zoom In Festival, 2017. ... Click to View


Douglas Benford : For Now (Confront)

Sprawl Imprint label leader Douglas Benford developed this fascinatingly layered composition with a diverse set of instruments, objects, and field recordings from captures made at the Stockholm Music Museum and at performances in Lithuania and England between 2009 and 2017, assembling them to create this exceptional odyssey of concrete, ambient and ethnic sources. ... Click to View


Isotope Ensemble: Barium (Creative Sources)

Large scale improvisation of the most subtle nature from Portugal's Isotope Ensemble led by Ernesto Rodrigues, 17 musicians slowly unfolding this beautiful work of consonance and dissonance dedicated to element atomic number 56, recording live at O'Culto da Ajuda in Lisbon with instrumentation including acoustic reeds, strings, brass, percussion, and electronics. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Andrew Lafkas / Bryan Eubanks: 0 Minutes And 0 Seconds (Creative Sources)

Lisbon-based viola player Ernesto Rodrigues joins three Berlin-based musicians--cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, double bassist Andrew Lafkas and electronics artist Bryan Eubanks--merging the lowercase approaches of Creative Sources groupings with experimental electronics for a 5-part album that ranges from the subliminal to assertive tones and momentum. ... Click to View


Sergio Merce: Three Dimensions Of The Spirit (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Conservatory trained Argentinian saxophonist Sergio Merce uses a prepared tenor sax and a microtonal sax to create rich harmonics and slowly moving tonal works, layering aberrant and alluring tones in restrained configurations that allow each stratum of sound to be distinguished and appreciated, creating mesmerizing compositions of elusive and illusionistic sound. ... Click to View


Beuger.Boon.Susam: (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Pianist and composer Dante Boon performs his own work "Years, Numbers", alongside Antoine Beuguer's "Pour Etre Seul(e), Sans Reserve" and Taylan Susam's "Tombeau", and Bueger's "Nov. (piano)", four works of graceful and introspective beauty using minimal approaches to tone, chord, or spaciousness, recorded live at University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2014. ... Click to View


Cyril Bondi / d'Incise: Kirari-Kirari (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

A sextet of Cyril Bondi (vibraphone), d'Incise (metallic objects), Magnus Granberg (piano), Anna Lindal (Baroque violin), Anna-Kaisa Meklin (viola de gamba) and Christoph Schiller (spinet) perform two works composed by Bondi and d'Incise, recorded by Simon Reynell of Another Timbre, works of repetition with distinct variations that evolve as each piece progresses. ... Click to View


Johan Lindvall: Giraffe (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Fourteen pieces for solo guitar from Norwegian composer Johan Lindvall, sparse yet warmly spaced pieces that focus on the individual notes or simple chords in intimate ways, meditative yet warmly evocative; two sections are presented in multiple movements, with "five songs for voice and guitar", Rasten singing words written by Marianne Moore; lovely and refined. ... Click to View


Stephen Cornford : Battery Acid [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

UK Sound experimenter Stephen Cornford took the bare wires of two microphone cables and submerged them in the cavaties of a large but run-down car battery, plugged it into a mixer, panned hard left and right and recorded, adding a 12 Volt trickle charger to the external terminals of the battery and made a second recording, the results heard here unchanged. ... Click to View


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  In the Air There's a Feeling of Boombox  

Phil Kline's Unsilent Night Marks its 10th Anniversary


By Kurt Gottschalk
Photo by Zak Sherzad 2003-01-08

Phil Kline Phil Kline was standing on a bench in Washington Square, shouting to a crowd that had grown to thirty times the size when he began his annual avant Christmas pageant in 1991.

The rules were few: press play on your boombox (if you have one) on three, and follow him across town to Tompkins Square.

"Should we turn off our cell phones?" someone yelled back.

"I don't care," he replied. "They sound great."

Later, city sounds, traffic noise, diesel brakes and conversations from passers by would all become part of the roving installation. It's almost as if the city is bordering on breaking into song, car horns punctuating an arhythm through an East Village rendering of "Silver Bells."

Kline counted to three and together the assembled pressed 'play.' The effect was immediate. A New York City park becomes a holiday haven, a quiet, heavenly, surreal space. There actually is something magical about it. And spreading a little cheer might be the only thing left that would shock fashionably nonplussed New Yorkers. It's a Christmas tradition for a cynical, and not entirely Christian, city.

New York is a city of transplants, different cultures, different religions, and different levels of attachment to the beliefs brought with them. It's a place where Pakistani restaurants have prayer and meditation rooms for cab drivers to use during long shifts, and where parts of the prevailing Jewish population disparage others as "conveniently Kosher," becoming devout only on the high holidays.

Kline describes himself as "ethnically Christian." It's a spiritual nuance he said he envies in Jewish friends, and which people raised in Christian homes (he hails from the heartland, having grown up in Akron, Ohio) don't claim as eloquently: retaining the cultural aspects of a religious tradition without holding on to the more devout practices.

And, in a sense, being ethnically Christian is what led him eleven years ago to organize a group of friends and walk through Greenwich Village with two dozen boomboxes playing ethereal, angelic sounds to celebrate Christmas.

The motivation was to "do something that's about Christmas that's not about buying gifts, getting plane tickets, hating your parents," he said. "I thought 'Let's do something to put the magic back.'"

In the ensuing years, the soundtrack to his Unsilent Night has been revised, but the concept hasn't changed: a prerecorded Christmas caroling parade, tape recorders playing church bells, choirs and celestial sounds. There's a recording of a12th-century chant incorporated in his soundtrack, as well as a hymn by Martin Luther. "There are no bits of "Silent Night," however.

"In the first one there were, but they were so buried in the mix no one would ever know," he said.

Call it New Age with an edge. The tape recorders, dispersed through the crowd, create a formless, constantly changing soundscape, and because they don't all play at the same speed, and can be further affected by the cold, dissonance and overtones resonate as the boomboxes become increasingly out of sync.

Unsilent Night has been performed by groups working with Kline's permission across the US and Canada, and as far as Berlin. Kline makes tapes available to anyone willing to pay shipping and organize the night.

"I decided from the get-go that this piece should always be free," he said. "How can you charge someone to go Christmas caroling?"

Like the recording, the parade route underwent several revisions before settling on its Washington Square - to - Tompkins Square route, crossing from the West Village to the East Village in about 45 minutes.

At this season's parade on December 14, Kline led nearly 600 people in his DIY rite, gathering a group who heard about it through his email list, local press, and word of mouth. Most came without boomboxes, relying on the two dozen he brought (in 11 years, he's only lost one, and had two given to him after one parade).

The numbers were bolstered by a crew of drunken Santas, members of a noisy anarchist group calling themselves "Santacon." In the last few years, The parade has grown far too big for traffic laws to easily apply (and Kline doesn't go through the process of getting a parade permit). Now, self-appointed crossing guards stop traffic to let the carolers cross.

As the parade wound through the streets, reactions varied from eyes lighting up to confusion to holiday road rage and Village denizens too cool to let on they've noticed. With a wide grin across his face, Kline stopped at the entry to Tompkins Square -- a park famous for drum circles, homeless riots and young punkers asking for spare change -- and watched his flock walk past.

"It's not just any Christmas party," he said quietly.



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