Listening - Thursday, Nov 21st 2019

I Don't Want To Live Forever

I finally sat down with Brent's new album today -- which is actually a reissue of the audio portion of a 2007 CD/DVD release on his Trust Lost label. I'd love to see the DVD portion re-released someday which includes two performances of Composition 32 (performed by an 11 piece ensemble) and a solo performance of Composition 30 for Computer, Turntable and Cigarette. I feel like Brent told me a little about the Composition 30 performance, and if my memory serves the computer does not survive it, but maybe I'm thinking of something else.

Anyway the two audio recordings that were recently reissued on JMY are also large ensemble recordings -- with a stellar lineup of improvisers including Jason Roebke, Aaron Zarzutzki, Kevin Drumm and many others.

Composition 36a was recorded at Elastic Arts as part of the Chicago Sound Map festival and was performed by the Chicago Sound Map Ensemble (which has also released performances of compositions by Olivia Block and Ernst Karel). Composition 36b was recorded later the same year at Jason Soliday's venue Enemy by the TV Pow Ensemble which adds 12 members to the core TV Pow trio of Gutzeit, Todd Carter & Michael Hartman.

These pieces sound very much like a group of people in a room playing Brent's music. I mean, that's what it is! But the performances really retain all the qualities of his acousmatic / collage work -- the wide dynamic range, moments of balanced extreme density, lightswitch shifts and timbral contrasts, the presence of harmony inside a context of sound mass that makes the harmony sound other-worldly and naturalistic for lack of a better way to put it... With a large ensemble (also featuring electronics) playing often dense & partially improvised music like this the typical outcome is mumbling mush, but these both have a clarity and precision to them that is not easy to accomplish.

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Brent actually reminded me recently that I have the Roland Kayn box set and have so far listened to only one disc! Oops. The second disc picks right up where the first left off -- pure texture gymnastics and clusters of tape on tape on tape on tape. I'd be satisfied if the whole collection never strayed from this trajectory but I am curious to know if there is a meta-structure to the collection spanning across the discs. Anyway I'm happy to have many more ahead to listen to.

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I was ready and expecting to like this Greg Kelley album, but what I wasn't really expecting is how narratively suggestive it would feel to me. The opening begins with a patient exploration of basically a single sound object repeated perfectly but erratically and with sparing interruptions from a rupturing chaotic sound mass that will reveal itself completely later.

I can't see the timer on my CD player so I'm not sure when, but after a while, this re-exploration of the same sound object starts to have a psychedelic effect. I can't remember how long I've been listening. Is it still repeating or is this new? It's so familiar I can't even hear it anymore. And it starts to get trying, there is palpable tension by the time the chaos finally overwhelms it completely. When that happens and it finally stops repeating, the long undulating and never-repeating chaos (well, I think it does repeat almost in entirety once, but the effect is more like a callback to a memory of the previous tension than an actual tension) is such a welcome release from the increasingly tedious re-presentation of that initial sound object.

Hey, like life! I really don't want to get too literal with the interpretation of the title, but the drama that that the sounds present really does fit a tidy little pantomime of life as intricate tedium, with the threat of the unknown (death) looming. The section following the chaos of death which is a release into a static low frequency texture could be the calming stasis of the (lack of) afterlife...

After that comes a short revisit of the intro, and again a launch into chaos but this time the chaos stabilizes into something pretty & organized at regular intervals. And then there is another more melodic iteration of the chaos, followed with a comparatively angelic drone-like section and well my little story falls apart completely after that. (Hey, like life! No, no just kidding.)

This record is probably as it suggests on the tin: just a nice edit of a bunch of live recordings paired with a provocative title. The drama of the arrangement of the excerpts is suggestive though. So, choose your own adventure.

All this said, I guess I prefer what feels like the less formalistic approach taken in the second half / final two-thirds of this which to me seems like more of a straightforward parade of nice textures & long gestures with more overall variation and a throughline you can lose yourself in if you're not careful.