we focus, largely, on improvised music
Spring 2002 Issue  
horrendous/martian/starfish    "hms"
benjamin horrendous    "arse inferno"
UK musician(bass, violin, clarinet, guitar)/artist/Beefheart arcana expert Ben (Waters) Horrendous shows both cheeks of his ass on these two recent CDs.  the eponymously initialed "HMS" is a stripped down version of the band The Fourfathers (guitarist Fast Paul Table and saxist Vital Will are absent), and the record was created via the mail, with each member contributing a layer before passing it on to the next.  Spartan, everything audible, no clutter, like a walk in the park...except it was landscaped by Salvador Dali, who quit, and the job was finished by Rene Magritte.
"arse inferno" is a solo effort - opening with a raw (unaccompanied guitar/voice) cover of John Lee Hooker's "old black snake", with a big emphasis on SUCK (for the metaphorically impaired), followed by a slowed-down instrumental Beefheart cover ("A Carrot is as Close.."), and then pure Horrendous - proto-cave bass, imagery-laden Beatnik poetry, instrumental splatter and froth, backwards swoopz an' twunkz, strummin', lap-percussion,'s good. -Bret Hart

turkey makes me sleepy    "the fluff of a feather pillow"
this creepily insistent voice sounds like someone selling shares for Ralph Records ("That's borrrrr-ing!"), simple and place-creating bass behind a phased and metronomic drum machine figure, each 'song' is a psychodrama unto itself - perfectly in the very literate and equally edgy spirit of other Charles Rice Goff III projects and involvements...signal processing figures heavily across the board, with sweeping old flangers, diminishing echoes, and crusty fuzz and distortion crackling like overdone bacon. then, as here, waxing into an orchestral place, like an electronic chamber quartet, evoking feelings like those I get when experiencing paintings of the Impressionists.  -Bret Hart 
greg segal    "in search of the fantastic"
greg segal    "experimental guitar music"
jugalbandi    "the cram and stuff method"
jugalbandi    "the view is better from the top of the food chain"
some of us geezers remember the tumultuous final years of the much-remonstrated Californ-y SST label, when they seemed hell-bent on surrounding (the often lacking) recordings made by the incestuous Black Flag-offshootz and Good Ol' Boy Band Network with incredible top-shelf experimental music by such artists as Elliott Sharp, Fred Frith, Universal Congress Of, and (Segal's) Paper Bag. OK, Greg Segal is a many-talented and prolific guitarist/drummer/songwriter/ signal-processing magician in the Pacific Northwest. Segal's is "art which, far from weakening over the years, has become, amid critical indifference, more secure in its techniques, more all-encompassing in its strategy and more iconoclastic in its goals."  [Those words come from the back cover of Marc Chenetier's biography of Richard Brautigan, but aptly apply to the musical pallete represented here.]  Both "isotf" and "egm" show us more of the ambient, atmospheric, "landscaping" side of Segal.  More sustain and tone-oriented composition and instant composition, entire paragraphs, smoothly easing out aural dialogues in almost familiar tongues.  it's what'cha think of when you think of the non-song oriented Eno that.  Jugalbandi, on the other hand is live and unadorned, naked, shakin' that thang, and hollering "You want some of THIS?!"  With jazz drummer, Hyam Sosnow, Segal explores the limits of what can be done with one guitar in real-time. Any Jugalbandi CD is quite like a useful, textless, textbook on improvisation.  The Jugalbandi discs I've heard sound like extracts from the same, year-long, jam...and a good one it was.  "Hey guys, I gotta piss...anyone need a hot pretzle?"  -Bret Hart 

atomfoam    "3 phases of atomfoam"
yet another ass-clenchingly varied collage of mindfug from my young and very serious Cape Cod, MA-area acquaintance, atomfoam.  this is some of the only post-RIO (I think I coined that one back in '90) music I've heard since Doctor Nerve that doesn't suck.  Farty reeds, throbby bass, obtuse percussion, melancholy keys, bent stringed things and warped voices wrap around interesting core melodies and phrases, bringing to mind Von Zamla, Marc Hollander's 'Aqsak Maboul', and such.
he ought'a make this available to creditcard buyers somewhere.  -Bret Hart

kevin brennan's revival tent
in an Oregon Daily Barometer write-up, was this apt descriptor: "Picture the Mothers of Invention with Frank Zappa erupting on a saxophone.." Brennan and his large session boil up a deep pot of ass-wiggle and brain-stew...gotta love the hornwork, got'cha gospel vocal-trio+ on the horizon, and a hard groove plowing furrows in the foreground...a Randy Newman-esque smirk dominates, peppered with surreal Christian referents...yeah, confusing if yun'z think about the "How Cum?" too much.  I got several loud guffaws, no less than 10 sit down and shut up moments, and left kevin brennan's revival tent on the porch when I was done listening, which means I'll be back for more.  -Bret Hart

verde     "modern electronic circuits"
verde     "asill"
verde     "karhun epaillaan paskantaneen golfkentalle"
verde     "traffic light"
verde     "osta oma tampere"
verde     "acib"
verde     "lokki"
Finland's Mika Rintala is a man of many talents - able to create sound generating 'synthesizers' out of vacuum cleaners and sewing machines, weaving together sounds collected - like butterflies - from the world around him ('traffic light'), and no slouch with a guitar or keyboard in front of him. this frighteningly prolific man sent me such a stack to hear that it lay fallow for almost two months, as I awaited an appropriate opportunity to give it my whole mind.  Rintala's discs took me on a dreamlike journey in which there were few referents... I kept internally commenting on how much his sounds didn't sound tacky, in the ways I'd heard other recording artists lull me into disinterest with their noodlings.  Mika Rintala creates beautiful tapestries of looped, sampled, cold-forged ear-candy...the kind you can't buy at the corner store, something you only get when you're lucky, like the cotton candy and caramel apples you can only get at the circus.  Yum.  I recommend that you buckle in for a ride with Mika Rintala at the wheel. "pick a CD, any CD"  -Bret Hart

miya masaoka/tom nunn/gino robair    "crepuscular music"
a mating of all this - m.masaoka: 21-string koto/cymbals/preparations, t.nunn: 'bug' and 'baboon' [homemade instruments], and g.robair: percussion/motorized implements/toy horns/calls/dustpan/
calabash...these Bay-area improvisors explore the possibilities of their combined pallete, blending  percussive thwack with sustained moan, bent note with things falling down imaginary staircases, "It's Harry Partch in the center of an Aboriginal orgy!!  LEMME IN!"  Improvisation is Fate. "Fate smiles on the doomed man."  my friend, Bob Jordan, maintains that "the best live improvisation always confounds proximate recording technologies" (this when I explained that my live performance -w- C. Cutler last month "must have vexed" the ADAT, as it didn't get recorded).  I think Bob's wrong; as a particularly entrancing, expansive, courteous and fruitful session exists for our enjoyment right'chere. Beautiful. this is how I like to travel to California.   -Bret Hart

bonehouse    "click"
amere 3        "trees"
two discs featuring the wind/reedwork of talented UK improvisor, Phil Hargreaves.  bonehouse pairs PH with shred-guitarist Phil Morton; and amere 3 in a grouping with drummer Rob Dainton (whose playing w- John Jasnoch has been reviewed here) and double bassist Simon H. Fell. both recordings share a mood, a tone, hmmm... an approach to creating and manipulating density, which I associate with only Phil Hargreaves - his stamp on things, if I may. Hargreaves has a huge sack of technique and extended technique, from which he instrinctively pulls expected, unexpected, and sometimes soothing sound-balms and blams... you can hear the valves opening and closing, feel him try to shove both lungs through a flute in a tornado blast.  Morton's guitar sounds BIG, like the Trojan Horse, with splinters and rough-hewn edges, secrets inside...he's like the Neil Young of top-shelf improvised guitar; Dainton's drums dance, dodge, drip and dribble - as he deploys a vast range of tone, a noteworthy and remarkable talent; and Simon Fell's bass is clothed in such a colorful and disparate rack of hand-technique that, like Lon Chaney, it can become unrecognizable as itself. Two CDs of high quality, considered and sensitive improvisation, both worth having.  -Bret Hart

sucking strange divine   "will to provoke"
A large grouping and coalescence of nine or more improvisors and idiosyncratic noise makers 'led' by multi-instrumentalist Joshua Duringer...nice dynamic growth, horns screaming "splork!" and "tweetz!", unison MOI-like phrases, horns and drums and stringed things and lil' black and white keys going up and down...culled from sourcetapes nailed down between 1998-2000, many facets of this alien crystal are made visible.  like The Residents, Art Bears, Automatic Music, and other groovy groupings, SSD uses the studio almost like another instrument, permitting the source materials to be elevated to a level or plateau unobtainable in performance.  Tasty, varied, and I haven't tired of this fascinating collection yet.  -Bret Hart

linda smith    "emily's house"
modern pop songcraft, a la (these come to mind for me) PJ Harvey and the Boston-chix (Tanya Donnelly, Kristin Hirsh, Aimee Mann) who have above-average lyrics and production.  nothing I wouldn't mind hearing on he car radio, which is where I hear other people's stuff first and most. simplistically orchestrated, female 8th Grade students should hear this, they might dig the relationship-centered poetry.  Smith's voice is smoky and sultry, lounging in a tub o'short reverb, and her songs here tell it through the mind of Emily Dickenson. neat!  -Bret Hart 

garrett sawyer    "anthem"
sample lyric: "he hits me with creative destruction and shoots me with a comedy gun"...I usually don't know what to make of people's spiritual songs, as I have yet to meet a man who wears his whole heart on his sleeve, particularly religious people.  (How many cars with the fish symbol have shown you their road-rage this week?  Yes, we do it too.)  unabashed Christian pop, with occasional hints at Celtic vocal phrasing, some soft Bluesy/Jazzy settings, James Taylor-y acoustic fingerstyle guitarwork peppered with some tasy licks throughout. In fact, the guitar playing is this CDs real strength.  -Bret Hart 

don campau    "whatever sticks"
LOVE IT!  y'no, it's great to listen to Don after getting a chance to soak in some of his strange guitarwork first, as I did while listening to some of his solo guitar stuff last year.  now, I can better recognize the wierdness of his muse and the other puzzle pieces are more audible to me than before.  this is like an improvisational-song album, with most of the 'Pop' you'd hear on other of Don's projects submerged, or even surgically removed, from the end product.  I like that. you're either gonna like or hate Don's voice, and that's what's been said about Bob Dylan and Liz Phair.
of interest are the media loops Don has woven into these recordings, as they add a smirk, another tint, and a smile. very nice.  -Bret Hart 

richard cholakian/phillip gayle    "hud pes"
phillip gayle    "solo live '98"
Gayle is new in improvisational circles (too young to be a name I recognize from before the '90s), who's dotting his I's and crossing his T's carefully.  Cadence Magazine will be glad that he's avoided leading imagery in his titles, pleasantly worded explanations are included to aid those unfamiliar with writing about improvisation, and some very clever and interesting techniques are employed by both Gayle {water bottles, mandolin,waterphone, guitars, harmonica}and Cholakian {drums, gong, voice, percussion}on "hud pes". you get four, long, live recordings, the second of which ("OK") is divided into two 39m chunks. on Gayle's "solo '98" disc, one has a chance to hear what differentiates Gayle from his aesthetic granddaddies, and what he's likely listened to (Bailey?,Kaiser?,Chadbourne?
traditional Japanese/Korean music?) on his path to a pure style. I admire his patience with held-tones (koto-like), and how he catches fleeting overtones and hand-manipulates them before they've left; I also like Gayle's willingness to retain all of the sounds of live play - hum and line-noise in the space- for our ears. His abrasives are nothing new, nor are the simple harmonics; but Gayle exhibits a respectable percussive sensibility which probably partially accounts for why "hud pes" works so well.  good stuff...see if you can keep it up 'til you're in yer 40's!   -Bret Hart 

mahlon hoard/ian davis    "15 conversations regarding the possibility of finding intelligent life on cable television"
in March, I had the pleasure of playing music with Ian Davis again.  here is a man, a magician, who can transform a handful of simple things into a rainbow of sound and splatter.  both times we imporvised, he had a drum and hand-percussion; which is what this sounds like to me.  Davis has many involvements, and here, mated with soprano and tenor sax, one can get a ringside seat under that rainbow.  Hoard swings, bops, and "Lacy's" with the best of 'em, and it's a real joy to listen to how smoothly he can segue from an exploration of one domain into the throes of another.  sort of a one-man Rova, y'dig?  nicely can feel and hear the room. a good'un.  -Bret Hart 

robin o'brien/david mitrous    "home flag"
Mitrous builds moody, quasi-Celtic, minimalistic settings for O'Brien's gripping voice.  she layers herself, like a cake, around lovely romantic texts that ache and moan, long and cradle. I hear lots of music of this quality on Keith Weston's 'Back Porch Music' on Chapel Hill's WUNC each weekend. David Mitrous, as he has proven for years, is a composer of carefulness, exactitude and beauty.  the title song charges along riding a busy, slanting piano figure, reminding me of slashed, battle-weary horses, galloping, riderless, home.  -Bret Hart 

wayne wesley johnson/ruben romero    "hypnotic safari"
an interesting and diverse gathering of South of the Border guitar candy. both guitarists whip out clean and tasty chops, in a Jazziz magazine kinda way. safe, smooth and pleasant bass guitar, sax, and Afro-Cuban percussion and drumming underpin the string-exchanges of Johnson (leader of The Yellowjackets, able to chameleonically blend guitar genres) and Romero (who's played, in the Flamenco style, with the Denver and Minneapolis Orchestras)', as they politely allow one another to take the foreground for a few bars, then step back again for the other.  "A bottle of wine, some brie and bread, this CD, and my baby...."  -Bret Hart

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Summer 2001 edition
Summer/Autumn 2001 edition
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