Soundtrack for a short film by Leah Ross
Chris Forsyth: guitar
Floating docks, flag holder, playground equipment, hail, rubber gloves, linear congruential chaos, Frizzante, Xynthi, geese, one of those toys where you have a small tank with plastic things floating in liquid and you push a button that sends a little jet through the tank and the jet makes the things float
When you talk, you hear from the other side was constructed from two wire spool recordings found in an antique shop in Western Massachusetts. The content of the spools makes it clear that they were recorded in 1951 and 1952 on a machine that was a Christmas gift to a nine-year-old boy.
Unsurprisingly, most of the first (and longest) spool is populated by Christmas revelry and multi-generational goofing, but there are captivating passages from both before and after Christmas day: a salesman demoing the unit to various customers; an interview between a snotty eleven-year-old boy and a spirited, if bewildered, four-year-old girl; etc.
When I first heard these recordings, I was with a small group of people, and we listened and laughed for a few hours before I suggested that maybe we should archive the material. We’d already seen the wire snap a few times during playback. (This was a general problem with recording on wire; one that was frequently remedied via a faux- soldering job with the smoldering end of a cigarette. We just tied the wire back together.)
The machine had a line-level output, but the connection hardly resembled any modern standard. So, an RCA cable was stripped of its plugs on one side, and the bare cables were stuck into the output. This worked surprisingly well, and the recording was successfully archived.
Recordings like this can really nag at you. I wanted to be happy just having an amusing trace of a mid-century, middle class, American Christmas and to be reminded of the ridiculous things a recording device draws from people when they feel their way around its place in their lives. But then there’s the voice that says, “Do something with this.”
To be fair, this voice is pretty easy to activate and not always the best judge of material that should have something “done” to it. Still, there was something special about this recording: kids and adults messing around in equal quantities; a newscast (captured from a brand new television) describing the Alger Hiss / Whittaker Chambers trial; a girl explaining that she loves her dog because “she likes to tear clothes”; a man offering to sing “Home on the Range” in “Jewish” (and forgetting most of the words); countless incidents of “regular” people adopting a media affect and stumbling all over themselves. I eventually started doing stuff to the material.
There are a lot of pieces of music, particularly in the realm of Musique Concrète, that exploit and manipulate spoken words to elicit what has become a fairly typical haunting / lecturing effect. I’ll admit that this is the angle I first took with this material: layers of “alien” sounds interspersed with voices from ANOTHER TIME(!) that simultaneously anchor (via comprehensible speech) and destabilize (via disembodiment and decontextualization) the musical experience.
This strategy didn’t work out for me. Perhaps in the hands of someone like Lionel Marchetti, it would have had a brilliant outcome. To me, it sounded forced. Worse, it obscured the qualities of speech and idiosyncratic language that attracted me to the material in the first place. I decided that, instead of using pieces of this recording for some other musical purpose, I would try to amplify its inherent resonances and expose whatever was already musical within it.
With that in mind, the construction of When you talk, you hear from the other side became more effortless. I restricted myself to few effects (the majority of manipulations involve playing the recording back through different speakers) and few musical gestures (sometimes loops of wire and / or microphone noise are added to highlight shifts in content and timbre). The bulk of the piece relies on layering and editing.
By avoiding grand gestures and virtuosic electronic manipulations, I discovered that I was basically showing a love for these people and the glimpse of the world that their recording gave me. The piece became a fond, dynamic remembering of a life I never lived with people I never met. So, at the end, in the spirit of nostalgic indulgence, I let it all fall asleep and dream about itself. Eventually, the dream itself fell asleep; a sleep without dreams (Side B: The other side of what).
Of course, when I’m talking about the piece dreaming, I’m talking about the more overtly “musical” parts (and, really, I would say “dying” instead of “dreaming”, if that didn’t make people feel bad). I say dreaming (or dying) because the music keeps erasing itself; peeling away; evaporating; no longer concerned that you’re listening. The other side of talking.
And this music sat with me for some time. I would revisit it now and then, make some tweaks, but never push to release it. “To publish anything is folly and evidence of a certain defect of character.” (at least, that’s what Thomas Bernhard says on page 34 of the 1984 University of Chicago edition of Concrete). While I’m not without this character defect, I couldn’t make the connection between this music and an “anonymous” audience. I couldn’t imagine it in the world by itself.
Nancy Bernardo presented the opportunity to give it some company. She was asked to participate in a “duos” exhibit, pairing visual and sonic artists, and proposed that I provide the sonic element. Normally, I would take this as an opportunity to do something new, but Nancy’s work has so much in common with When you talk, you hear from the other side, from its material to its production, that I sent her a copy to see if it resonated with her.
It did, and the result was a set of eight layered glass collages that visualize what Nancy felt were key moments in the piece. I loved the set. I felt that it gave me permission to let this music loose and stop protecting it (i.e., protecting myself from being embarrassed by it). Nancy agreed to make two more sets, and I went ahead and pressed a record (99% of the source material is from a wire spool or tape – it had to be an analog release).
So, this path ends in a very limited edition of three records plus glass collages, with each set of collages being unique. When those are gone, 250 EPs remain. When those are gone: traces, echoes, decay, forgetting, work and play and rest (and digital rips, but let’s pretend…).
*Addendum: In the spirit of music as gift, a digital version is now available, and you can name your own price.
When you talk, you hear from the other side
Vinyl and Set of Eight Glass Collages
Audio by Bhob Rainey (with contributions from Jason Lescalleet)
Art by Nancy Bernardo
Limited edition of three sets (eight pieces per set), $800 each
Individual pieces available for $125
Request a digital or personal showing (Philadelphia area)
There is a lot to say about this release, and I do my best to say it in detail on my blog. But, to summarize at the top, what we have here is a limited edition of three (currently two remaining) sets of eight layered glass collages by Nancy Bernardo and one LP (or perhaps something between an EP and an LP) by me. That is, each set includes eight collages and one vinyl record.
The vinyl contains a piece of audio work that was constructed from a found wire spool (the recording medium that preceded magnetic tape). The material on the spool comes from 1951 and 1952 and consists of a wide array of amateur attempts at humor, imitation, interviews, song, and advertisement. A more detailed description is on my blog.
The wire spool material eventually melts into a hypnotic electronic piece (again, more on the blog regarding this and dreams and death), part of which was done in collaboration with Jason Lescalleet.
Nancy Bernardo, whose work frequently involves iconic imagery from the ’50s, created her collages in response to this piece, forming something of a timeline to the audio. The layers in this work are quite striking and somewhat difficult to represent in an image. Below is an attempt to show the play of transparency in one of the pieces.
We understand that visual art can seem expensive to the average music-buyer, and we are keeping the price of this as low as possible (a single collage from this set could easily cost $500). We also have more detailed images and can arrange viewings in the Philadelphia area upon request.
In January, there will be 250 vinyl-only copies available. Pre-order
Visit my blog for a more detailed account of the story behind this release. You will find audio samples there, as well.
Music by the BSC (with Pauline Oliveros)
Book edited by Bhob Rainey with contributions from Damon Krukowski, Aaron P. Tate, Ben Hall, and Mike Bullock
3 tracks, 65’30″
Hardcover and Paperback with Lossless Download: 5.8125″ x 8.25″, 112 pages
Published by NO Books
(Also available as a music-only release — just select "Digital Album")
Manual is a combination full-length album and book focusing on the music and improvisational practice of the BSC, an eight-member electroacoustic ensemble formed by saxophonist and composer Bhob Rainey in 2000. More than just music with copious liner notes, Manual examines the process of improvisation from both within and outside the BSC, encountering topics ranging from genealogy to architecture, the boundaries of sense to the benefits of failure, flows of energy to bouts of guilt. The intersection and unfolding of ideas is often complex, but the writing in Manual is earthy and comprehensible, keeping jargon to a minimum without sacrificing the depth of the subject matter. Manual is not a monument to the BSC but rather an appreciation of improvisation from the perspective of an especially prolific community.
The music portion of Manual consists of three extended improvisations covering a six-year period in the BSC’s history. The most recent piece, a vividly captured concert highlighting some of the more elegant aspects of the BSC’s unique musical lexicon, was recorded in 2009 and includes renowned composer Pauline Oliveros on accordion. The earliest piece was recorded in November 2003 at the end of The BSC’s only extended tour and contains some of the noisiest, most unhinged work the ensemble has ever released. 2007′s “23% Bicycle and/or Ribbons of the Natural Order”, recorded in Somerville, MA, provides a balance between the other two tracks, illustrating the BSC’s strong formal control amidst chaotic conflagrations of feedback, tape degeneration, and general instrumental instability. Stage plots and recording notes are included for each track.
The book portion of Manual contains contributions from five writers. Bhob Rainey (director and founder of the BSC) provides an introduction in which he engages with the book’s other contributors while reflecting on failure, adaptable dispositions, and the upside to being oblique. Damon Krukowski (musician, poet, half of Damon & Naomi, one-third of Galaxie 500, and one-fourth of Magic Hour) contributes a series of prose poems aimed at evoking certain effects the BSC’s music has on him. Aaron P. Tate (classicist at Cornell University whose areas include ancient and contemporary improvisation), through extensive research and interviews, pieces together and examines the BSC’s early history and rehearsal practices. Tate uses this information, along with recorded documentation, to approach the music with great insight from a dynamic, open-ended perspective. Ben Hall (percussionist, gospel archivist, and restaurateur) unravels ideas about genealogy, community, politics, and authority as they present themselves in the tradition from which the BSC emerges. And Mike Bullock (audio/visual artist and bassist for the BSC) develops two metaphors for evaluating music like that of the BSC, applying these metaphors to an analysis of the 2009 performance with Pauline Oliveros featured in this release.
Weasel and I probably would have met anyway, but the person who introduced us was our mutual friend, Bill Pisarri (RIP). In fact, the only time we played together prior to this outing was in 1999 with Bill, Kurt Johnson, and Greg Kelley (Greg and I drove 36 hours straight from a gig in San Francisco to make that show on time. It was at Myopic Books in Chicago. Total fee: $0. It was worth it. We also recorded two short tracks in Bill's apartment immediately upon our arrival, both of which appeared on our first Intransitive release, the title of which is too long to repeat here)
So, Rob Cambre set up this show for Weasel and I at the Mudlark Public Theatre in New Orleans. Probably two of the ten people who heard about it thought, "That's an odd pairing," and by virtue of having that thought, they sucked for a short period of time. I mean, in 1999, there were plenty of people who thought that I was the quietest saxophone player ever, while an equal amount of people thought that Weasel was an enormous asshole (=not quiet, intelligent, musical, etc.). Chalk it up to not caring about the details, but can we move on now?
Anyway, this is what we did at the Mudlark. We like it. It's got a nice structure. We'd do it again. I hope you enjoy it, and Weasel probably hopes so, too.
Recorded in Austin and Marfa, TX, and inspired by the gorgeous desolation of the high plains desert, this is music of exquisite, simmering beauty.
In 2010, after years of friendship and musical intersections frequently revolving around Austin's No Idea Festival, Chris Cogburn brought this trio together for concerts in Texas and Mexico, supported by the Meet the Composer Foundation and USArtists International. Arena Ladridos (roughly, "Barking Sand") captures the intensity, intimacy, and adventurousness of these strong-minded musicians as they methodically bleed this music into existence.
"Arena Ladridos is an aesthetic delight, an album that invites both overwrought analysis — [as the author does in the review - you should read it] — and passive splendor — which I recommend you experience."
- Matthew Horne, Tiny Mix Tapes
Lossless download is $0 (or more, if you like).
The motive behind improvising with new players is frequently to find a new music in yourself. Sometimes, this new music is found in a struggle, where opposing approaches attempt to meet in a play between power and tolerance. More rarely, the new voice simply causes the music to appear - no struggle, all play. The music happens to you, and you just stay out of its way.
When Nmperign met with Jake Meginsky, the music happened to us. Participation was pure joy. Even with long silences and sudden changes, there was always the sense of being carried by a purposeful force. For me, this single, 14-minute piece conveys that force. I couldn't imagine it surrounded by other music. It warrants its own platter; a single object for a singular moment. I hope you enjoy it.
All LP purchases come with a download code for the lossless file, which can also be purchased separately for $3 (or more).
From the label:
REL012 is the recorded debut of the trio Nmperign with Jake Meginsky. Pressed on 160 gram copper plate mastered vinyl, REL012 features Nmperign in an energized, turn-on-a-dime form. Prodded by Meginsky into unnamable, angular textures, the trio is agile and unpredictable, occupying musical extremes with intelligence and grace. REL012 is a one-sided LP cut to 45 for Maximum Dynamic range. Featuring a striking cover, designed by Eli Keszler, printed by Ashley Paul. A light blue fold-over paper is integrated in to a heavy picture disc sleeve, labeled with a color sticker. Screened notes are featured on the inside. REL012 is a one-time, hand-numbered edition of 300 copies.
nmperign are one of the most celebrated and influential bands in contemporary improvised music. Yet surprisingly, more than a decade after their debut, Greg Kelley (trumpet) and Bhob Rainey (soprano sax) have never recorded a studio album as an unaccompanied duo… until now!
The music is spare and peerlessly inventive as always, but the mood rema ins light and joyful, with a subtle undercurrent of absurd humor. While improvised music can sometimes seem airless and precious, Ommatidia opens the window on a sunny afternoon… the album’s gusts of breath, percussive splatter, and controlled explosions form six succinct pieces that feel alive and vital, while still speaking in nmperign’s utterly unique sonic language. A perfect way in for newcomers and a revelation for long-time fans, Ommatidia is the essential nmperign.
Previous nmperign albums have employed guest musicians – notably close collaborator and tape loop saboteur Jason Lescalleet, but also luminaries such as Gunter Mueller, Axel Doerner, Andrea Neumann, and Burkhard Beins – and subversive or dodgy recording techniques; their 2xLP on Siwa was recorded entirely to micro-cassette and cassette walkman, while an early CD on Selektion was edited from live mini-disc recordings. Intransitive is proud to present the nmperign album that fans have been waiting for: the core duo, beautifully recorded in an actual studio with excellent microphones.
When not making nmperign music, Greg Kelley performs with the aggressively psychedelic noise unit Heathen Shame (along with Wayne Rogers & Kate Village of Major Stars), minimalist chamber group The Undr Quartet, and raucous rock band Life Partners. Rainey regularly tours with folk/pop duo Damon & Naomi and leads The BSC, an eight-piece electro-acoustic improvising ensemble. They live in Boston and New Orleans, respectively.
Limited edition CD comes in full-color digipack designed by Mike Shiflet.
Nmperign contributed a track to this beautiful CD/LP to benefit Darfur.
Order directly from Tiny Mix Tapes: http://www.tinymixtapes.com/FOR-SALE-Tiny-Mix-Tapes-Vol-1
In the mid-1800s, Adolphe Sax set out to create what would essentially be a loud-ass clarinet. At least, "loud" was the dominant criterion. He apparently liked military bands and wanted some blaring (and portable) woodwind to enter the ranks. Of course, he also produced "classical" models of his invention, but, according to rumors, a rather vindictive German composer who had a beef with Sax conspired to keep the instrument away from the European canon. I'm inclined to think that the uncontrolled squawking sound contributed as much to this phenomenon as did the putative conspiracy. In any case, the classical models grew quite rare early in the instrument's history.
We all know by now that the saxophone found another home in popular music, which, for a time, was called Jazz. Its strident sound sat very well on top of all manner of percussion, and in the hands of some masterful players, that baby could really cry. And it cried and whispered and sang and screamed... and so much of that still sounds just fantastic and so un-marching band-like that who knows which way the old Belgian is twisting in his grave. But you have to admit that sometimes the crying sounds as if at least one teary eye is gazing towards an Oscar. And everyone knows to regard that coquettish whisper with some suspicion. The sax rarely takes off its performance face.
Still, you might sometime happen upon a stubbly one, alone, hunched over the bar. You're friendly, and it responds politely enough, if a bit distant. The conversation seems bound for nowhere, but a silent gulf, and this late hour, opens into a stammering confession. The sax is talking to no one in particular, using names and mentioning details you could never know about; not exactly making sense, but conveying a kind of hurt - the kind we're better off having trouble expressing. You get it. You know it's a proud hurt, one you wouldn't want to lose but rarely want to show. You want to be the nameless consolation the sax is seeking as much as you want the sax to be too drunk to remember you tomorrow. For now, you're helping each other, and it's going to be okay even if it never changes because it's been okay before, even great, and it hadn't changed then, either, did it? So you cut the guy a mile of slack and just listen. And one little world disappears, so that the other just hovers for a while.
Chris Forsyth at Evolving Ear originally asked me to do an 8" lathe cut for his label. I was hesitant for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I had already consigned a number of pieces to the format fetish void (a 3" CDr, a split LP, download only, etc). Still, I gave it some thought. I had been working on a number of complex, large-scale pieces, some with Ralf Wehowsky, some for dance and film, others to who knows what ends, and I began to feel that the time and conceptual constraints of a "single" might be refreshing. I convinced Chris to let me do a 7" instead of a lathe cut (I didn't need to go THAT lo-fi), and I set about making two formally related pieces with clear, simple trajectories; pop songs from a broken mind. And that's sort of how it went. The two sides of this release, "A Desert of Consolation" and "The Summering Unsound", both follow a singular form: an ambiguously intensifying exposition followed by an unfolding of previously hidden elements. The materials, however, could not be more different: "A Desert of Consolation" consists almost entirely of synthetic sounds lying in a narrow frequency band, while "The Summering Unsound" is made up of a good deal of untreated field recordings, beats, and broadband noise. And, though I followed my dictum of simplicity in the pieces' trajectories, I couldn't stop myself from piling a lot of layers into the mix. So, there's a simple, if perverse, horizontal unfolding, and a morass of detail vertically. Kinda like a nice pile of fall leaves with a rake and skeleton hidden inside. I should also mention that artist Elaine Kaufmann made the beautiful, hallucinatory covers for this release. No photo would do them justice, as they play with real light in a way that's difficult to describe or reproduce.
5 years and a mint's worth of postage bring us this dense, musique concrete epic. Each of the three extended pieces presented here have undergone serious transformations, mutilations, and rebirths, as discs were burnt, sealed and sent from Cambridge to Mainz and back again. Yet, despite all the fine-toothed combing commited by the obsessive perfectionists at the helm of this project, the music is wild, ruptured, assymetrical and WAY INTENSE. Tendrils of possible outcomes camoflage trap doors and the saturated memories of an unclean conscience. This is that kind of sublime that's a bit on the scary side despite the occasional reassurance of a slowly flowing rhythm or an almost major chord. This is the haunted closet you can't keep shut.
Sale until June 30th, 2012!
The highly anticipated double-CD epic by Jason Lescalleet (tape loops) and nmperign (Bhob Rainey - soprano sax, and Greg Kelley - trumpet). The result of six years of live and studio collaboration, LM2X is by far the most ambitious and uncompromising statement yet by this formidable trio. The album begins simply enough with an ominous trio track, but don't get too comfortable... over the course of the next two hours, the ground steadily shifts, the bottom drops out, and any expectations a listener may have had going in are thoroughly trampled. Fans will find the usual ingredients here: crusty old reel-to-reel tape decks, cheap keyboards, amplified and acoustic horns...but rude tape splices, violent humor, and confusingly degraded fidelity push the music far from safe territory. The visceral drama of LM2X does not neatly spell out its intentions, nor does it signal exactly what it has up its sleeve. It exists in its own universe, demands repeat listens and to be taken on its own terms.
In 2000, Greg Kelley and Bhob Rainey made their first trip to Europe as Nmperign. One stop was Kule in Berlin, where they played a show and stayed for five days in the apartment building that, at that time, held Axel Dörner and Andrea Neumann. The plans for the Thanks, Cash tour with Axel and Andrea were hatched at this time, but there was also an informal quartet session with Axel and Burkhard Beins that produced a series of song-like pieces that were unlike anything these musicians had done previously. Twisted Village released the music on LP, which sold out rather quickly. Still, the album is continually regarded as a seminal EAI recording, and so it is presented here, beautifully remastered in its original, full-resolution format.
Recorded and released in 2001 as part of Jon Mueller's "Folktales" series on Crouton, this is the last in a trilogy of improvised solo soprano saxophone "suites" (The Withered Grasses, 6 Standing Desert, Sweet Sonk) that mix cut-up style extended technique playing with microtonal melodic pieces. This one has the most brutally sliced and economical percussive work combined with a drawn-out "song" that makes the rest of the pieces cry.
Recorded on the road in various rooms in early 2000, 6 Standing Desert remains Rainey's most raw and exploratory solo work. A long middle section pushing every sonic nook and cranny the saxophone has to offer is surrounded by mic-bleeing microtonal melodies sounding both urgent and somehow natural. Remastered for girth and warmth with plenty of rawness left in.
nmperign never knew that they would be a duo, but they sure were happy with it when these recordings came up. Three duo pieces make up the bulk of the CD and introduce the sparse-lush-angular question mark that was to become the nmperign signature. Meanwhile, they met Jason Lescalleet and did a noise track that negates any possible alignment with the lowercase crowd. The final track is the final piece played with percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and adds Phil Gelb on Shakuhachi - a meditative transition to duo-hood.