SUBOTNICK – The Making of Silver Apples of the Moon

Morton Subotnick

Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon was released fifty years ago.

In celebration of this milestone, fundraising is being undertaken to create a documentary about its creator. You can support SUBOTNICK’s Indiegogo campaign here.

Marc Sabat and JACK – “Harmony” (CD Review)

Marc Sabat

Harmony

JACK Quartet

Canadian Composers Series #5

Another Timbre

 

Euler Spirals Scenery (2011), Claudiu Ptolemy (2008), Jean Philippe Rameau (2012)

 

A long time fixture on the Toronto scene as a string performer, improviser, and composer, Marc Sabat now resides in Berlin. However, he has taken his experimental penchant for tuning systems with him, writing in extended just intonation with a fluency that rivals Harry Partch and Ben Johnston’s own explorations of pitch. On the CD Harmony, JACK Quartet plays two quartets and a duo with rapt attention to the detailed nuances of Sabat’s pitch language and a keen sense of its corresponding flowing rhythms.

 

Euler Lattice Spirals Scenery (2011) is a five movement work that name checks various elements and personages of the intonation studies milieu. The first movement, Preludio, is subtitled “Les Quintes Justes” and it indeed does deal with sustained pure fifths in evocative fashion. Two of the movements, numbers two and five respectively, are titled Pythagoras Drawing. Movements three and four are each dedicated to a different composer who has been influential on Sabat; they are titled Harmonium for Claude Vivier and Harmonium for Ben Johnston. Each successive movement sends us a little further into the dark forest of dissonant overtones that accumulate on top of “Les Quintes Justes.” Thus, the entire piece can be seen as gradually revealing the compass of Sabat’s pitch palette.

 

Claudius Ptolemy (2008) is a duo, played by JACK violinist Christopher Otto and cellist Kevin McFarland (note: Jay Campbell now plays with the group). Open string double stops as well as dissonant intervals, harmonics, and ambling melodies combine in this adagio essay to make a fresh-sounding conglomeration of familiar playing techniques. The aforementioned “ambling affect” is one that Sabat shares with a number of his Canadian colleagues, not least Linda Catlin Smith, whose volume in the Canadian Composer Series (#1) appeared as a review here earlier in 2017. The final work on the Sabat CD is named after another important music theorist: Jean-Philippe Rameau (2012). Here the simultaneities are particularly fetching, with double-stops from multiple quartet members overlapping into beautiful chords. In one of his treatises( from 1737), Rameau struggled to describe the consonant and dissonant properties of just intonation: Sabat’s Rameau lays it out for all to hear with abundant clarity.  

 

 

 

Xordox – Neospection (CD Review)

Thirlwell

JG Thirlwell

Xordox

Neospection

Editions Mego

xordox - neospection

JG Thirlwell has recorded under several monikers and with various bands (Frank Want, Clint Ruin, Foetus, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, et cetera). Xordox is his latest project, recorded both at Self Immolation Studios in Brooklyn and as part of a residency at EMS in Stockholm, Sweden.

Thirlwell primarily plays synthesizers here, employing an almost martial barrage of digital patches redolent of 80s sci-fi soundtrack work alongside more ethereal analog electronics and breathy samples. Sarah Lipstate joins Thirwell on three  tracks, adding hyper-processed guitar to the proceedings. “Diamonds,” the opening track (listen below), overlays multiple arpeggiations and pulsating synths to create a fascinating rhythmic grid. Over this are added still another layer of dramatic chord progressions. “Antidote” features an ostinato pattern of unequal beats (3+3+2) over which portentous strings are at play and underneath which a gloomy bass line holds court. Lipstate makes a cameo to revel in the groove, which is followed by a massive pileup that leads the piece towards its conclusion. Suddenly, the brakes slam on the forte sounds and we are left with a puzzling piano outtro.

On “Pink Eye,” synth brass stabs and thrumming electronic drums are set against ominous sustained notes and whirring glissandos. The most substantial track on the recording, the fourteen and a half minute long album closer “Asteroid Dust,” is a sly nod to game music. At the same time, it also contains a fascinating use of ostinatos as unifying factors over which melodic scraps and extraterrestrial explosions are given relatively free reign. On the latter half of the track, there’s an adroit incorporation of pitch bends to give microtonal inflections.

Neospection strikes a nice balance of process music, ambience, and spacy aggression. Imagine Blade Runner’s denizens visiting a club where Whovians congregate in the parking lot and you have a fair sense of the affective juxtapositions Thirlwell successfully undertakes.

Rey Pila: “Wall of Goth” (CD Review)

Rey Pila

Wall of Goth

Cult EP

 

Mexican rock band Rey Pila channels two different generations of music: eighties synth pop and early aughts indie rock. The latter is abetted by Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), who produces their EP Wall of Goth (out now via Cult). The four songs contained therein are replete with vocal hooks and instrumental breaks that help to carbon date their influences. However, the amalgam of these makes for an unusual, often fascinating, melange.

 

The trick today, of course, is that influences from yesteryear’s pop, especially often a pile-up of them from different eras, are the norm for many artists. In face of the fear of being written off as merely “retro” by publicists and the public (in which order?), bands seek to transcend an easy genre or era tag via a combining of signifiers the likes of which are found on Wall of Goth. Perhaps this is an opportune time to make the listener work a bit harder; since it is no longer enough to play “spot the influences” before rendering peremptory judgement, one may have to deal with artists like Rey Pila, who combine elements exuberantly, on their own merits rather than on the vintage of their effects pedals.

Friday: Houlihan Premieres Lash

Houlihan pedals
Christopher Houlihan

On Friday, June 23rd at 8 PM, organist Christopher Houlihan finishes his tenure at Church of the Holy Apostles with a recital on the space’s J.L. van den Heuvel organ.

J.L van den Heuvel Organ

The program will include staples from the repertoire – J.S. Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542 (a piece that Houlihan plays compellingly on his latest all-Bach CD for Azica), and Maurice Duruflé’s Suite, opus 5 . It also features a transcription by Alexandre Guilmant of the Andantino from Claude Debussy’s String Quartet and the premiere of a commissioned work, Ludus by Hannah Lash. This is Lash’s first work for organ, but given her imaginative use of colorful scoring in both operas and instrumental works, one imagines the van Den Heuvel will get a workout.

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The event is free (directions here).