Friday, 2 January 2009

three new releases on prele records

Various – ‘revenant: topolo’ (prl005)
Frederic Nogray – ‘Nelki’ (prl004)
Eric Cordier & Denis Tricot – ‘Orgue de bois’ (prl003)

For those readers new to this blog or to me in general should know that if I don’t like a disc I don’t bother writing about it – life’s too short & I prefer to give space to the things I like or feel have something to offer, so this quartet of mini-reviews kicks off with a trio of worthy releases on the Prele records label that arrived through my door late last year. After a decent amount of listening to each I feel able to offer a few words of support for all, each focusing on very different areas of creative music / sound but all three having a united sense of clarity and artistic vigour.

The ‘topolo’ cd concentrates on what the sleeve describes as ‘activated environments’. As many of you will be well aware the concept of performing acoustically using only materials found in-situ is a well established element of both improvised music & the approach of many artists working with ‘field recording’ methods. To interact with natural or manmade structures is not, as a few of the dumber whale song collectors will have you believe, a betrayal of the act of sound gathering. It is simply a way to interact with ones surroundings which has at its heart a respect for and understanding of the environment at hand.

The pieces captured on ‘topolo’ feature Yannick Dauby, John Grzinich, Hitoshi Kojo, Patrick Mcginley & Olivier Feraud & were recorded in an Italian forest close to the Slovenian border. Here we find obvious elements such as leaves, branches & whole trees sounding, well like one would expect. However with experienced artists like this around you’ll also encounter some sounds that will have you scratching your head wondering what the hell they had their hands on at the time. The first track uses bows on tree bark I believe but the result actaully reminds me of techniques using various pieces of grass as rudimentary reeds - a long standing traditional form of communication between hill farmers in the valleys of France & Northern Spain – there was a fine disc of grass calls on Silex many years ago & that’s well worth tracking down if you can find it! The last track includes the use of harmonicas too & for me it's the one track I tend to skip - but don't let that put you off.
further info & mp3 extract can be found by clicking here

When it comes to the humble singing bowl, it is now so widely used in improvised music that it’s almost a cliché, especially in clumsy hands (isn’t everything ?). However Frederic Nogray’s cd features only the sound of the large crystal bowls. Patrick Farmer has one of these & used it to great effect during the quartet we performed at Cafe Oto last year. They are big white glass bowls that emit (forgive the pun) crystal clear tones of varying intensity depending on the rate at which said bowl is sounded by means of the player rubbing a special mallet like object around the rim of the bowl. Now, to create music made only with these instruments without it ending up sounding anything like those god awful new age / music for massage cd’s is damn hard. It takes a keen sense of composition and timing. Frederic has both & has created a 51 minute listening experience that offers the listener both a sense of calm and of musical depth. I dare say the difference between this kind of music & the dull new age singing bowl approach is actually a thin knife edge for the performer – something so small & yet a million miles apart in the result. It is this difference which is the reason you should get hold of this cd if you appreciate contemporary improvisation or composition. If you’re more into incense & wheat grass enemas then look elsewhere.
further info & mp3 extract can be found by clicking here

Last of the three prele releases is the cd by Eric Cordier & Denis Tricot. ‘Orgue de bois’ (wooden organ) is the name the duo gives to their huge public objects – both musical instrument & site specific sculpture. Over the past 4 years they’ve created 30 of these structures, all around 30 metres long & consisting of wooden slats linked together to form elongated wave like shapes. The three tracks on this release capture elements of the performances the duo give once the structures are installed. The process of building these objects draws on principals of instrument design and manufacture so that when ‘played’ various vibrations and resonances emerge. The booklet contains photographs of the structures & also the duo in action during performances, however I strongly recommend listening to the disc first without looking at the booklet – I think, unless one is able to witness the experience firsthand, it helps one find the ‘music’ of these instruments if there are no visual references as to the methods employed to play them. So that’s three new releases on prele records & three worth tracking down!
further info & mp3 extract can be found by clicking here

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