The State of the Experimental Music Union
Written by Ricardo Wang on January 28, 2014
In addition to my own program, What’s This Called? I also am the KPSU Experimental Music Genre Director. Which means that if you are a musician playing outside the parameters of what is considered “normal”, you should send a recording to KPSU and ask to have me review it. Of course this goes for experimental and weirdo labels too. KPSU Experimental Genre Director, PO Box 751-KPSU/VG, Portland OR 97207. If it’s really good, not only will it get played on What’s This Called? but I will do all I can to convince other KPSU dis to check it out, and maybe even write about it here on the KPSU website and Tumblr. Below are some of the great new releases that have either arrived at KPSU or I have come by other nefarious means.
Murmurists – i cannot tell you where i am until i love you – Alrealon Musique This haunting album was composed and organized by Anthony Donovan with individual performances improvised by folks in England, America, Germany, Turkey, and Canada between 2007-2011. For whatever reason, Mr. Donovan opted to arrange this whole album as one 45 minute track, which is not exactly airplay friendly for many dis. There are separate songs or pieces listed in the liner notes, but there is no way to digitally access them aside from playing or forwarding through, totally cassette-like. Nonetheless it is worthwhile delving into just about any stretch of this odd collage of noise rock, drone, and, well, murmurs. The album is very cohesive as it weaves from one direction to the next be it field recordings or full band. So far, I’ve played it a couple times on WTC, one time starting at the beginning, and the next jumping randomly into the middle and both times going for a reasonable lengthy stretch in pure bliss.
Amy Denio – Prodigal Light – Spoot Music There is an alternate universe where Spock doesn’t have a beard, but where Amy Denio represents “popular music”. I don’t have a clue how you get there though, you’ll have to mess around with your transporter quite a bit. Multi-instrumentalist Ms. Denio has been playing in her hometown of Seattle for decades in such legendary ensembles as the Tone Dogs and The Tipton Saxophone Quartet, but she is still better known in Europe (Italy in particular) than in the Pacific Northwest. A shame, because her crazy multi-linguistic speaking in tongues, accordion, bass, and saxophone music is absolutely infectious to those in the know. Prodigal Light finds her in the top of her game with fifteen tracks that do everything she has done best since the days when she ruled the cassette underground. Some songs sing a bit more while others chant or speak a bit more instead. Amy’s use of voice proves that experimental music does not have to be an instrumental proposition at all (though her command of her instruments is always stellar as well). Ok, in full disclosure, I am actually one of some 23 guest musicians and a dog to appear briefly on this recording. I happened to be visiting my in-laws in Bellingham this past summer and got an email from Amy to all of her friends requesting that we call her answering machine and submit something to be used on her upcoming album. I was in the Spark Electrical Museum when I called her (something I highly recommend anyone going to the Northwestiest of NW cities should do!) and so I laid down some theremin and other electric toy recordings that got sampled with all of her other wacky friends on the surprisingly listenable song “I’m Glad Today Is Monday”. So, I do have a certain personal bias that will probably prevent Rolling Stone from letting me review the album for them, but honestly, I love all other fourteen tracks just as much as the one I’m on!
Here’s Amy back in the ’80s when she was first getting her unique vision and style heard:
Pas Musique, Ben Link Collins, Shaun Sandor – Of Silence – Alrealon Musique Lets not get our “Musiques” mixed up on this one! Alrealon Musique is a really fabulous experimental music label based out of Switzerland, France, and the USA. Pas Musique is an electo-acoustic and abstract music collective with members all over the united states who happen to put out a lot of releases on Alrealon Musique among other places. On this truly engaging album of pieces considering the concept of silence, they are joined by Ben Link Collins and Shaun Sandor. The nine pieces do not all feature all three artists with the first track “From Silence” featuring just Pas Musique, the second track “For Silence” finding Pas joined by Ben Link Collins, the third track “Beyond Silence” featuring both plus Shaun Sandor, and so on (each artist has a solo piece and each is joined by the other two in every possible combination). All to create pieces that take John Cage’s writing about the meaning of silence and the importance of absence to create sound into consideration. Which is not to say there isn’t quite a lot going on at times, there is.
Uger-Khan – Songs of the Masters – Khei-Aat This album is not actually experimental music at all, it is highly traditional, and just happens to be played by a downright legendary experimental musician. Uger-Khan is an alias for (up until recently!) Portland OR musician Enrique Ulgade, best known for his work as the shamanic drone performance artist/troupe Soriah. Enrique played on What’s This Called? just prior to his rather permanent move to the Siberian region of Tuva where his fiancé will soon have his child. While he has played in Portland and elsewhere as Soriah for fifteen years, he is fully trained in traditional Tuvan throat singing (a technique he frequently uses in Soriah) as well as playing several of their traditional stringed instruments. This album finds him playing the old songs of the steppes he is now living on, and as this music is so far from anything Western ears are accustomed to, it should offer plenty to experimental music listeners in any case.
ARU – Dub Plate Vol. 3.5 – Captcha Records Dubuque IA’s Aural Resuscitation Unit AKA Randy Carter AKA ARU is a one man electro-dub-noise-psych-loop army, but he is not at all afraid to join forces with other musical freaks when it helps him to get the job done with extra finesse. That’s dust what he’s done here in what is on the one hand a continuation of his ongoing Dub Plate series started on his own (possibly defunct) DSMS imprint, and on the other hand it is his most complete and stand alone album release to date. Vocalist/guitarist Jorge Anthony Tapia, long time collaborator Bob Bucko Jr., and tape sampler Jay Schleidt all make select contributions to Randy’s pulsing and throbbing electronics, but this record is pure ARU. Still, one wonders if the overall bigger feel and more upfront aesthetic charge have something to do with this album having an actual producer credited, one Benjamin Funke. How exactly one goes about producing an artist with such dedication of purpose as ARU, we may have to imagine along to the beats.
Various Artists – Alrealon Musique Presents: New Sonic Strategies – Alrealon Musique 16 tracks of the good weird shit! As you may have noticed elsewhere in this report, Alrealon Musique is churning out the hits right now when it comes to underground noises that will only get you dates with other people who like to listen to amplified household appliances, but those are the hot people anyway. So what better way to get all four of your feet wet than to fall right into this awesome sampler that starts right out with Washington D.C.’s always engaging Blue Sausage Infant and then lays down the gospel according to everyone from Philippe Petit to Pas Musique and FluiD (not to be confused with the grunge band). Every track is solid and interesting and it’s almost like listening to a really good experimental radio broadcast to throw this disc on. Headphones recommended.
So that’s the State of the Experimental Music Union in Winter of 2014. A lot of really cool stuff bubbling to the surface in what looks to be a very good year for head scratching sounds.