Calling the Experimental Quarters
Greetings fellow adventurers in the realms of organized sounds. My name is Christopher Friesen (aka NuGaia), and I’m here to reveal my perspective on the most interesting releases of this year. Before I start referring you to these alien artists, I would like to tell you a bit about myself. I’m a twenty-something male out of Portland, OR; composer, musician, spiritualist with far reaching roots into Reggae, Modern Jazz, IDM, Ambient, Soul, Afro-Cuban bass playing. If you would like to learn more about me or hear my music, here is my website:
Also, if hit me up via my site’s e-mail, I’ll make sure you have a source for the music I review.
Without further delay, I want to share some music with you. I requested to do reviews for experimental music, partially because that lets me do anything, hehe, it’s all an experiment. These are not in order of most impressive, or anything of that nature, rather I tried to move through the Elements, starting with Fire, Earth, Wind then Water. Genre blending, sound design and time contorting; here we go:
Donny McCaslin – Casting for Gravity (Green Leaf Music)
This record is fantastic, my first experience with Donny, tenor sax player. From what I’ve come to understand this was quite the adventure for him as a leader pulling on influences such as Aphex Twin. The compositions are mature, and amazingly executed by the band. Hints of dub in the harmonized bass lines, and pads with familiar LFO and filter twiddling. It’s like if Joshua Redman Elastic Band and The Mars Volta had a instrumental love child. Although there are dynamic moments in the album, this is by far the most intense record of my bunch, not a lullaby by any means.
Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note)
This is a record of a bunch of jazz trained cats playing soul tunes, with a hint of modern effects. Harmonized sax solos, vocoders drenched in delay, and loads of Rhodes. A busy ensemble (technically), but they have the ears to never step on anyone’s toes. Robert has put together a fantastic band, which backs up a number of vocalists. I’d have to say my favorite track is Erykah Badu doing Afro Blue. This is a currently touring act, so don’t miss them. I got to open up for them in Portland with The Wishermen, and their live show was incredible. The way the passed around solos was really inspiring, letting individuals develop solo concepts as these elaborate segways between tunes.
Yes it Will [Strata EP]– Rafiq Bhatia (Rest Assured / Spectral Voice Recordings)
This ensemble is currently one of my favorites. Rafiq Bhatia is the guitarist and composer for the ensemble with roots in modern jazz. There’s a hint of 21st century minimalist classical influences creeping through repetitive licks with changing roots moving underneath in a Steve Reich fashion. A great example of how a band can use effects to augment the space in which the band is playing rather than the instruments themselves. A few moments of filters changing the timbres of instruments, although most of it is dry. A creative use of vocals give a very eerie feel to Open Spaces.
Another device Rafiq uses is the ability to record the same solo over itself. It’s like a hype man that gives emphasis to certain phrases. The flip side of that coin is moments where he’ll layer multiple solos over each other to build this chaotic form of forward momentum. There is a moment in Endogenous Oscillators where the band breaks into this free feeling textural sound scape and gradually boil back into time. The album is a great purchase, and the ep has one track in particular that I was drawn to, Sunshower. The compositions are extremely inspiring with a perfect blend of ups and downs.
Live – Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (ECM)
This album is a rare treat. It’s not very often you get to see a groups development at this point in the path etched into a cd. All but the last of the tracks feature the bassist Björn who is an original member (of ten years), and then the last track is with the replacement (Thomy Jordi). The line up is six years old, and you can hear the intimate chemistry play throughout the two discs. Another quirk about the music is that Nik (from Switzerland) numbers his compositions, so you can see how new a concept is.
As for the musical observations, the genre tends to be described as Zen-Funk. The eastern mindset is noticeable in the name of the ensemble. They tastefully use dissonance to support melodies I can only describe as yearning. Consisting of minimalistic motifs as drones, twisting perceptions of time, wide dynamics, layers of retrogrades, all presented in incredibly tight grooves. They are architects, engineers of sonic landscapes for a listener to be guided through. It’s like geo-caching in the astral plane with musical maps.
Being a fan of the group for five years, this is the first live record I’ve heard. It is great to compare the studio recordings to how they allow the beast to mutate in the moment. This isn’t a single show either, so you can hear the reliability across the span of continents and years. (Tokyo, Amsterdam, Wien, Lorrach, Liepzig, Mannheim, Gateshead and Salzau, between 2009 and 2011) The last attribute I’d like to mention is that this is an acoustic ensemble; they reach these extrinsic sensations without processing the instruments. Final statement, go see them! I got to meet them in 2008, and exchanged a few emails with Nik. Really gentle giants (musically that is).
Well, that is what I have for you, music to soothe and heal. I hope you find these recordings to be as inspiring for you as they continue to be for me. Thanks for spending your time to uncover new music. Also, I would like to take a moment to thank the boys back at CKTK for allowing me to step in a talk about music. Artists are in need of support, and the world is in need of art. Keep the circle going.
Peace & Blessings
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