“Cast and Work” [excerpt]
Man, percussion/drums get pretty pigeonholed sometimes, you guys. Everyone knows they’re great at creating grooves and serving as the rhythmic backbone for bands, sure. But don’t you think that sometimes drums get tired of that role and want to branch out and do some other work? They’ve so much potential!
Luckily, dudes like Nick Hennies realize the infinite potential of percussion/drums as a sound source. Hennies’ Psalms from 2010 was a brilliant theme, and variations on Alvin Lucier’s “Silver Street Car for Orchestra,” where various percussion instruments’ timbral quality/resonance were altered through minute changes in dampening, striking location, and attack. Hennies illustrated in those works that even slight changes in technique could generate vast sound differences with his instruments of choice. Hennies’ latest release Duets for Solo Snare Drum continues the performer/composer’s exploration of percussion’s sonic potential, but this time with the focus on the microcosmic realm of the snare drum.
The three duets on the record (respectively written by John Cage, Peter Ablinger, and Hennies) all feature a “solo snare drum performer in duets with three non-performative musical elements.” All three of the elements presented here (silence, noise, and tone) in some way reflect a sonic component of the snare drum’s sound, and tonal differences between each track is striking. On Hennies’ own “Cast and Work,” the composer explores the tonal variations that can occur when the snare on his instrument is turned off and then mixed with other pitched elements. Like Cage’s and Albinger’s compositions, “Cast and Work” is mostly a subtle piece until a barrage of pitched noise from Vanessa Rossetto, Brent Fariss, and Henna Chou comes in near the end. When taken together, these compositions alter the listener’s perception of what a snare drum can do sonically and succeed in taking the instrument out of its often typecast role in music.
Duets for Solo Snare Drum is out on CD and available for download September 1 as Weighter Records’ first release as a label. You can listen to an excerpt of “Cast and Work” below:
By the late 1950s, the trumpet and the saxophone took over as lead jazz instruments. Jazz flutists and clarinetists didn’t have a chance against the cheek-busting likes of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. So many of them left US jazz clubs and flew to Asia. Flutist Paul Horn, for example, spent many years in India studying native spiritual and musical traditions, gaining access to pretty much anywhere he wanted to play his flute (like the Taj Majal, The Great Pyramids, The Magic of Findhorn, etc.). Similarly, clarinetist Tony Scott moved around Southeast Asia studying local folk music and performing with native musicians throughout the early 60s.
These two musicians (among others who adopted Eastern practices to create quiet meditative music with typically jazz instrumentation) are the founders of New Age. Scott’s work with Japanese musicians Shinichi Yuize and Hozan Yamamoto to create 1964’s Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys and Horn’s original 1968 release Inside are prototypical examples of New Age.
So what does this have to do with ESPRIT 空想’s new album ｒｅｌａｘ™? Absolutely nothing. Besides the fact that vaporwave is like the grandbaby of New Age, and also because ｒｅｌａｘ™ is all about meditation, which I’m sure Mr. Scott and Mr. Horn would love.
Thee Open Sex
“I Do Not Know What”
When I lay eyes upon the visage of Miss Mess as she traipses through the foliage, I am not reminded of Alice in her assorted Wonderland, but of Jimmy Swaggart. The televangelist — now at the end of his influence — was once a powerful voice for the minions under heaven. He chastised those of us prone to vice and temptation. He turned his nose at sinners even as he rode the coattails of his cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis, to prominence. He renounced the coitus and demagoguery of rock & roll until his own ruse was uncovered, never once batting an eyelash at condemning it publicly while devouring it privately.
Here, Miss Mess plays the role of Swaggart. She fights temptation at every turn, but is curious to what the other side holds. She finds herself lured by the simplicity of action. She keeps wandering down the rabbit hole until she washes herself with the unclean water. Rather than weep and ask for mercy as Swaggart, she embraces her change from a stripped jester into a rock & roll queen, finally given the key to ultimate freedom. Swaggart’s was a sin of hypocrisy; Thee Open Sex’s only sin is that it took them this long to turn on the rest of us to the hyper-psychedelic cocktail they are serving.
“I Do Not Know What” is the second track off Thee Open Sex’s new Self Titled album on vinyl via Magnetic South Records and on reel via Let’s Pretend Records.
“Swallow My Pride”
I definitely wouldn’t have chosen “Swallow My Pride” to be the “single” off Merchandise’s own D. Vassalotti’s solo cassette Live in Infinity, out now on Night People. But it’s still tight and lingering as the rest of the album. Just would have liked it if his single focused more on his guitar-slaying and less on his vocal-/song-writing and electronic talent. Or maybe it’s a ploy to get people thinking this is what D. Vassalotti is all about, and then [GUITAR SEEEEEAR]. I’m just very into Live in Infinity at the moment: D. Vassalotti takes twists and turns no seasoned vocal-listener could imagine. He just builds and builds, bringing us back to level one, confusing the most unintimidated reelers, as if it were musical, not optical, illusion. And as D. Vassalotti will forever “live in infinity,” so shall his cassette tape in my player.
Night People been making moves this year (other than from Iowa City to Minnesota [somewhere]), selecting music that rivals their most important works within the past few years. Scope out Live in Infinity immediately!!
I’ve always thought that the name RAP/RAP/RAP was referencing old Myspace band pages, where the artist could choose three genre tags, separated by forward-slashes, to describe their music. I remember hardcore bands using the same genre tag, repeated three times, but I figured they, being a hardcore band, were perhaps making some sort of point. Especially religious bands. SPIRITUAL/SPIRITUAL/SPIRITUAL, something that gave you no real idea of what the artist was going to sound like.
The same goes for RAP/RAP/RAP, I think, who typically uses tags like Postrap, Universe, and World Music to categorize his songs. But the RAPs in the name seem to refer more to the way those drums always sit right on top of the track, almost entirely unequalized and unmixed, like beat music before computer programs were involved. With HYPERREALISM, those old drum sounds are still heard, but with much more of an ear for equalization and their blending into the waves of synthesizers and video game noises. But that generally unmastered sound so prevalent in early RAP/RAP/RAP releases still defines this release, and I can’t help but feel like it’s intentional, like using music software in an attempt to neglect the sheen of using music software.
HYPERREALISM is out August 12 on INTERSCAPE RECORDS LTD.