6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 3 - November 2016

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(The Light) at the

(The Light) at the Burdock on November 9. Blue Glass Pedram Khavarzamini; Siamak Aghaei; Efrén López Independent ( !! The studio session which resulted in the Blue Glass album began life as an improvised collaboration between three modal music adepts. The santûr (Iranian hammered dulcimer) virtuoso Siamak Aghaei, and the Spanish fretless guitarist Efrén López were joined by the accomplished Canadian-Iranian tombak (Persian goblet drum) player Pedram Khavarzamini. Recorded in Heraklion, Greece in 2008, where the participants met while teaching at the Labyrinth Musical Workshop, the album has finally been released in Toronto on Khavarzamini’s label and is available on Two of the musicians may be known to Canadian world-music followers. Aghaei has worked with the Montreal-based ensemble Constantinople which was “conceived as a forum for creation, encounters and crossfertilization” between the East and the West. Pedram Khavarzamini, who has been described as a “keeper of traditional Iranian tombak technique and repertoire” and also “an innovator who has pursued cross-cultural collaboration and musical experimentation,” served as the 2015/2016 world music artist-in-residence at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. López, who on this album plays exclusively fretless guitar, is well recognized in Europe also as a hurdy-gurdy, rabab, kopuz and laouto player in medieval and traditional music groups. Building on his in-depth practical study of several global modal musical systems including makam, dastgâh and raga, he has enjoyed a career working with master musicians of Greece, Turkey, Afghanistan and India. The first four titles for the duo of Aghaei’s eloquent santur and Khavarzamini’s incisive tombak playing offer extended moments of sonic stillness, marvellously coordinated improvization and flashes of Persian virtuosity. The album takes off on an altogether different and exciting transcultural vein however when López joins them on fretless guitar in the last two tracks, Abyss and Minaayee. His plucked string instrument’s mellow baritone melodies, elaborated with plenty of modally inflected fretless note bends resonate eloquently against the santur’s treble voice and the tombak’s soft and subtle agogic accents. It is music which can produce an overall timeless and geographically ambient effect on the globally open-eared listener. Andrew Timar Tse Tak Bulo/That’s How It Was ZeelliaChickweed Productions #ZL003 ( !! With its mix of field recordings and original arrangements and compositions, Zeellia’s new album Tse Tak Bulo/ That’s How It Was explores pre-Soviet Ukrainian migration to Canada. Containing snippets of interviews and songs from elderly migrants, which the ensemble founder Beverly Dobrinsky collected in Alberta and Saskatchewan in the 90s, the CD is both a historical document and an artistic statement. Zeellia’s approach to these traditional songs lives firmly in the realm of artistic re-interpretation, rather than an ethnographic recreation. With her mixture of vocal and instrumental textures, Dobrinsky takes great liberties with the found materials pushing them into the realm of original compositions rather than mere arrangements. The most striking track is Oy byv mene cholovik (My Husband Beat Me). In my own explorations of Ukrainian folk music, I have found that domestic abuse is, unfortunately, a common theme and I commend Zeellia for not shying away from it. Dobrinsky’s recomposition of the tune is a highly effective combination of playful rhythms and dissonant a cappella vocal harmonies punctuated by woodblock knocks. As I Walk across Canada is a gorgeously mournful song steeped in loneliness and nostalgia for the homeland left behind. Among other instruments, the album features the hurdy-gurdy, known as lira in Ukraine. Dobrinsky’s approach to the instrument both nods towards its traditional role as accompaniment to spiritual minstrel songs and reframes it in a new light. Anna Pidgorna Max Richter – Songs From Before Robert Wyatt; Max Richter Deutsche Grammophon 4795566 !! For some years now you could have confined your re-imagined and exploratory music CD buying to releases by the German-born composer, pianist and electronics manipulator Max Richter and found your shelves start to sing with depth and invention. And that would hardly be surprising. Richter is among the foremost of the talented new musicians who have developed a sharply individualistic, difficult-to-classify personal genre. Here, on Songs From Before, as is customary, roots in and branches from folk and classical often surface, but there is so much else going on: Richter skilfully, imaginatively and (by-and-large) subtly mixes in elements of electronic music, rock, contemporary composition and the occasional nod to the fantasy of poetic recitation. Although most of the pieces develop from beguiling, elegant melodies, what makes them so special is Richter’s manner with arresting textures and colours – achieved not only with his keyboards, but also with the strings. These sonic creations stimulate mental pictures of mysterious narratives – especially when on Flowers for Yulia, Harmonium, Time Passing, Lullaby and Verses, Robert Wyatt is called upon to recite sparse verses – evoking the work of such chroniclers and visionaries as Bach and Arvo Pärt. And yet with every phrase unfolding a new mystery as if by aural magic, one is irresistibly drawn to this music because it is distinctly and uniquely a part of Max Richter’s own sound world. Raul da Gama Land of Gold Anoushka Shankar Deutsche Grammophon 4795459 !!“Everyone is, in some way or another, searching for their own Land of Gold; a journey to a place of security, connectedness and tranquility, which they can call home,” writes sitarist Anoushka Shankar in the liner notes of her new album. Themes of separation, isolation, journey into the unknown, parental love and hope, are all inspired by the refugee crises across the globe and the current state of the human condition. Shankar is an evocative storyteller – her compositions (co-composed with Manu Delago) are intensely hued with raw emotion. The journey from darkness and uncertainty to light and acceptance is portrayed with a powerful musical drive and in collaboration with many wonderful musicians. The album opens with Boat to Nowhere and Secret Heart – two sitar-driven numbers, featuring yearningly poetic cello lines (Caroline Dale) in the first and the dynamic Indian reed instrument shehnai (outstanding Sanjeev Shankar) in the latter. M.I.A. is a guest artist in Jump In (Cross the Line), adding a contemporary feel and expression, and Alev Lenz’s touching lyrics and vocals are the pulse of the title song Land of Gold. But the heart of the album is Remain the Sea – featuring heartbreaking poetry of Pavana Reddy, spoken with much feeling (Vanessa Redgrave), and landscaped beautifully with traditional chanting and sitar. In this piece one cannot help but feel the weight of emotion, coupled with responsibility. The mix of Indian classical styles, electronica, jazz and textured soundscapes, has an admirable fluidity. This album makes a difference – as a social commentary and as a powerful musical creation. Ivana Popovic 82 | November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016

Ice and Longboats: Ancient Music of Scandinavia Ake & Jens Egevad; Ensemble Marie Balticum Delphian DCD34181 ( !! What would the music of the Vikings have sounded like? This CD offers a partial response to this question and more, as it takes the listener on a journey through soundscapes of two periods: music improvised on Something in the Air Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and tabletop guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on and off for 40 years. Although the other sets can be likened to North American self-serve buffets that on the same sideboard offer an assortment of dishes, the Rowe-Tilbury box (SOFA 548 is like a superior fishand-chips restaurant. The fare is phenomenal, but no substitutions are entertained. At points each musician appears to be following an intense chess game from another room – you know concentrated cerebral strategy is taking place, but you’re unable to observe the participants. A good portion of the four, hour-long Tilbury-Rowe faceoffs also involve protracted silences. Perhaps the liveliest disc is Second Part where interactions are more audible. Like the tantalizing hints of understated perfume before a person enters a room, Tilbury’s single note chiming unfolds into serialism-like suggestions and more surprising near-impressionist echoes. Perhaps fancifully reflecting his radical-left politics, Rowe sets himself up as the disrupter, twisting dials and shuffling objects with percussive gestures. The upshot is desiccated textures that still reflect back on the pianist’s paced narrative. If anything the music is Feldmanesque – like Morton Feldman. The performances take a great amount of time to not advance that much. Still the final section of Second Part spawns a sequence where what sounds like heavy-object moving transforms into conga-like slaps and cymbal-resembling pings on the guitarist’s part met by piano bottom board rapping from the keyboardist. Tilbury’s noodling that dwindles to a single key stroke at the end relates back to the piece’s low-pitched introduction. A similar bagpipe-like tremolo shuddering on Rowe’s part is matched by mallet-on-strings pop from the piano innards during the ending of Third Part. Those cognizant with the ingredients of improvised music will revel in the set. But most should approach it one disc at a time. A British pianist whose style is Tilbury’s antithesis is Pat Thomas, whose solo CD, Nasqsh, is one of the highpoints of Making Rooms Viking era (800-1050 AD) instruments, as well as notated songs and instrumental items from the early centuries of Christianity in Scandinavia. The second volume in Delphian Records’ groundbreaking collaboration with the European Music Archaeology Project, Ice and Longboats showcases the work of the versatile Ensemble Mare Balticum, as well as the remarkable father/son team of Åke and Jens Egevad. The Egevads are musicians and reconstructors of ancient instruments. They built the wooden lurs (trumpets), frame drums, bone flutes, hornpipe, animal horn and Viking lyres heard on this recording. The selections mostly alternate between instrumental and vocal songs, with occasional KEN WAXMAN dramatic shifts in mood and texture between tracks. The delicate medieval bone recorder is contrasted with the declamatory sounds of the lurs, and the simplicity of the bells provides a foil to the more elaborate medieval vocal and ensemble sections. Standouts include the lyre duet on In the Village: evening, the Jew’s harp solo (played by Ute Goedecke) on Gaudet mater ecclesia and the sublime vocals on Nobilis humilis. The overall sound is pristine, as the music was recorded in the historic (ca. 1100s) Oppmanna church in Sweden. A beautiful and illuminating recording, Ice and Longboats is a voyage worth taking. Barry Livingston (Weekertoft 1-4 With Mopomoso Tour 2013 celebrating the 21st year of this initiative in free-form music, the others discs in the set are vocalist Kay Grant and clarinetist Alex Ward’s Seven Cities; violinist Allison Blunt, violist Benedict Taylor and bassist David Leahy’s Knottings; and Chasing the Peripanjarda with saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist John Edwards plus Mopomoso founder, guitarist John Russell. Playing nine selections Thomas ranges chameleon-like over and inside the piano producing textures ranging from buzzing string swirls to aggressive, staccato lines that involve the piano’s wooden components as much as its strings and keys. On for Martin Lings Thomas’ theme balances echoing glissandi, key clicks and a faux waltz; whereas for al Battani is a near-boogie-woogie with flashing chords reflecting back unto one another. The letter is as romantic in execution as ibn Arabi could be musique concrète, with Thomas cascading harp-like arpeggios from the strings. Named for the seven cities in which it was recorded, the Grant-Ward recital finds the vocalist and reedist operating like conjoined twins, with fascination lying in how many timbres each replicates from the other. With Ward’s tone frequently altissimo and atomized, and Grant eschewing lyricism for quickened yelps and screeches, the effect is like peering at two near-identical drawings from which you have to intuit the subtle differences. Like a distorted funhouse mirror, Blunt/Taylor/ Leahy create loosened-up chamber music. They use so-called classical tunings to rub and wiggle unexpected, contradictions from their instruments. Thickened pizzicato with mandolin-like plucks keeps a track like Sheet Bend exciting. A sense of hairline-triggered dynamics allows Noose to loosen from nearly inaudible to detonate into an exercise in col legno and sul ponticello trills. Slip Knot is like an upstairs-downstairs soundtrack as Edwardian drawing room formality is swept aside by shrill runs which jump and split like a jitterbug dancer. The trio’s skill is confirmed in how it manages to impart a romantic patina while distorting themes. The latter skill is habitual for Parker/Edwards/Russell. Like a reversible garment that’s both familiar and flashy, each of their tracks defines in-the-moment improv. Gunpowder, for example, never detonates into smithereens but stretches elastically without breaking. Parker’s focused snarls and tongue extensions transmit the theme decorated with no-nonsense strums and smacks from Russell, as Edwards holds the road like a racing car driver. The triple connection is such that partway through you notice that the tempo has sped up immeasurably from a canter to a Olympic-level race yet neither the tune’s seemingly limitless motion nor the trio’s interaction has perceptibly altered. The Auction November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016 | 83

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