Sunday, December 9, 2018

Anguish - Anguish (RareNoise Records 2018)

The dark, impossibly intense dirges, industrial noise onslaughts and banshee-like free jazz wailing heard throughout Anguish could be an imposing soundtrack for a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future. This powerhouse, inter-generational offering and RareNoise Records debut brings together an unlikely gathering of members of the New Jersey-based experimental hip-hop group Dälek (electronic musician and vocalist Will Brooks with guitarist-keyboardist Mike Mare), the Swedish free jazz group Fire! Orchestra (tenor saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, drummer Andreas Werliin) and the classic ‘70s German krautrock band Faust (keyboardist and 68-year-old founding member Hans Joachim Irmler). 

Recorded in just three days during the summer of 2018 at Faust’s Scheer Studios, located in a former factory perched on the banks of the Danube in Swabia, Germany, near the Swiss border, Anguish stands as a hard-hitting manifesto for the next evolution in the hip-hop legacy. 

From the droning opener, “Vibrations,” fueled by ambient loops and sparked by Gustafsson’s cathartic, blast furnace intensity on tenor, to the slamming, industrial-tinged closer, “Wümme,” Anguish is an iron fist upside the head of complacency. “Cyclical Physical” is the sound of rage with an in-your-face rap from Brooks while the moody title track features a jazzy backdrop that has Gustafsson nimbly shadowing Brooks’ pointed spoken word rap. “Gut Feeling” is a hard-edged noise rock / metal romp with Brooks shouting the combative refrain: “Fuck your frail feelings!” 

The instrumental interlude “Brushes for Leah” is a dark, imposing soundtrack underscored by drummer Werliin’s subtle brushwork while Brooks spits thought-provoking verse with flowing aplomb on the ambient backdrop of “Healer’s Lament.” 

Gustafsson erupts with caustic abandon on the throbbing instrumental “DEW” then blows sinuous lines around Brooks’ vitriolic rap on the low-end industrial groover “A Maze of Decay.” Werliin's thunderous backbeat drives the kinetic closer “Wümme,” a krautrock flavored instrumental named for the rural German town where Faust formed in 1971. 

Will Brooks (dälek) - vocals, SAMPLR, Eventide/Elektron effect pedals, 1 note on MOOG rogue, 3 notes on grand piano
Mats Gustafsson - tenor saxophone,
live - electronics, 3 notes on grand piano
Hans Joachim Irmler - synthesizers, vocals
Mike Mare - guitar, electronics, synthesizer
Andreas Werliin - drums, percussion


Gut Feeling
Brushes for Leah
Healer’s Lament
A Maze of Decay 

Recorded and mixed by Johannes Buff
Assistant Engineer: Jan Wagner
Recorded at Faust Studios
Scheer, Germany July 14 - 19, 2018
Mixed at END NOTE
Bayonne, Basque Country July 23 - 27, 2018

Spiritual counsel - LENNI

Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper
Mastered at Turtle Tone Studios, NYC, NY

All songs composed by Will Brooks, Mats Gustafsson, Hans Joachim Irmler, Mike Mare, and Andreas Werliin
All song published by Mayan Ruins Music (SESAC), Mike Mare Music (BMI),
All lyrics by Will Brooks, Mayan Ruins Music (SESAC) except “Healer’s Lament” by Kamau Daáood.
Executive Producer for RareNoiseRecords:
Giacomo Bruzzo
Design & Layout by Paul Romano
Sculpture by Darla Jackson

Eraldo Bernocchi - Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It (RareNoise Records 2018)

RareNoiseRecords co-founder, multi-instrumentalist and composer Eraldo Bernocchi has created an evocative soundtrack for a new documentary film on American artist Cy Twombly. Imagined and produced by Michele Buongiorno, written and directed by Andrea Bettinetti, Cy Dear was presented privately at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in the Spring of 2018 and will have its festival premiere this Fall. Bernocchi’s soundtrack is suitably atmospheric, underscoring the life and times of the American painter-sculptor-photographer, whose work influenced a generation of younger artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, Francesco Clemente and Julian Schnabel. 

“I had total freedom from the director and the production,” says the Italian guitarist and electronics maestro on creating the soundtrack to Cy Dear. “We worked as a team in order to create the best film possible in total freedom. Nobody ever asked me to change anything as my ideas were reflecting in a natural way those of the director and production. Each one of us melded and worked as if we had known each other forever. The end results are an incredible documentary and this record.” 

While the atmospheric soundtrack to Cy Dear may recall Bernocchi’s previous ambient recording on RareNoise, 2005’s Winter Garden, his very personal statement on Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It casts its own compelling spell on listeners. “This work bears my signature,” he says. “It’s a side of me that’s always been there. Note after note, take after take, I became part of this story. I brought my memories.” 

Though 80% of the sounds heard on Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It were generated by guitars, Bernocchi’s main instrument, they are adroitly disguised by the composer through deft use of echo, delay and reverb. “I used guitars mainly as a tool and when I really wanted to ‘sing’ a theme,” he says. “I had this guitar theme that was ringing in my ears and I started to sing harmonies that were dragging the piece deeper and deeper into the memory waters, where everything starts to blur and only emotions are floating. So I approached the guitars like an orchestra, layering part after part, singing aloud what I was hearing in my head and heart. And when the music was emotionally taking over, I chose and selected those parts pushing on the edge of feelings.”

He cites the track “Like I Wasn’t There” as an example of using his sound processing techniques in the studio to create evocative feelings in the listener. “This is one of the most touching pieces of the soundtrack,” Bernocchi explains. “It’s about the whole relationship between father and son, the absence, the omnipresent art, the emptiness of rooms and palaces, the memories that slowly creep one after another until they build a story that is true but its communication form has been shaped by time and events.” 

Bernocchi adds that none of the tracks on Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It were named for individual Twombly paintings. “The titles are related to moments in the film, to my personal experience/story, to people that were important for Cy Twombly and to words or phrases they said in the movie. This work had actually started as a soundtrack but in the end it became a story — his story, their story, my story. There are a lot of personal things in the music, mostly private. There’s a deep sense of memory in the documentary, a sense of time gone, brief meetings. Scene after scene, I realized there was a lot of my personal path too.” 

As for the album title, the composer says, “It’s such a strong and meaningful phrase, perfectly describing my approach to life since I was a kid — the passion, the flame that in the end often consumes everything around yourself. Twombly painted it as part of the Iliad series but when I saw the paintings and the words I immediately thought it was perfect for the record.” 

The final track on the collection, “Near By Distance,” is the only one that generates a steady, highly charged rhythmic pulse. “It’s dedicated to my friend (Swiss-born Italian trance music producer and DJ) Robert Miles, who passed away last year,” says Bernocchi. “The pulse just happened by chance. I liked it and I kept it. The piano theme reminded me of Robert’s melodies. I often think that I’d love to play it for him.” 

Bernocchi’s created his soundtrack over a four-month span of intensive creativity. “I was inspired by the amazing and immortal story of this art giant,” he says of Twombly. “I was also inspired by his incredible paintings, by my memories, and also by the life he lived with Nicola dal Roscio, the adventures they surfed together. And in certain moments on this project I asked myself what Ennio Morricone, my favourite composer ever, would have done on specific tracks. He very likely would have reduced the number of instruments and layers to concentrate on themes and emotions. This is what I did on tracks where you can clearly ear a theme.” 

Being self taught, Bernocchi has evolved his own vocabulary in the studio. It’s an approach based more on emotion than notation. “I know how I want to feel when I listen to a track and the emotions I’d like to live,” he says. “And the challenge on a project like this, where I played all the instruments myself, was to temper all the ideas I was planning to use. I hate overproduced music. Super-layered tracks make me nervous. I trust one note, one single note, a riff. That riff can say more than a whole orchestra. So, I had to keep the ‘other me’ at bay sometimes and be absolutely merciless. Because in the end, Cy Twombly was the protagonist in this story, not me.” 

01 - Meet me where you know
02 - To make things float
03 - From a distance
04 - White
05 - The silver laugh
06 -A child and a pencil
07 - The gold house
08 - Like I wasn’t there
09 - A letter and a place
10 - The never ending pier
11 - 1-10” of happiness
12 - Swirling colours
13 - We had a good time
14 - A crack in time
15 - The space between
16 - Out in the blue
17 - Like I wasn’t there (reprise)
18 - Near by distance

Music from and inspired by the film “Cy Dear”
A documentary film about Cy Twombly

“Near by Distance” dedicated to Robert Miles
“Out in the blue” dedicated to Sally Mann

All music composed, arranged, produced and mixed by Eraldo Bernocchi
Published by RareNoisePublishing (PRS) and Antiphona (SACEM)
Recorded at Transmutations Studios, London
Mastered at Turtletone Studios (NYC) by Mike Fossenkemper
Executive Producer for RareNoiseRecords: Giacomo Bruzzo
Eraldo Bernocchi plays Nude Guitars and thanks Elektron Music Machines.

Cover image: Cy Twombly, "Fifty Days at Iliam (Part V - The Fire That Consumes All Before It)", 1978
© Cy Twombly Foundation, Courtesy of the Nicola Del Roscio Archives
Graphic Design by Petulia Mattioli

Colin Edwin and Lorenzo Feliciati - Twinscapes Vol​.​2: A Modern Approach To The Dancefloor (RareNoise Records 2018)

Bassists Colin Edwin and Lorenzo Feliciati Blend ‘80s Pop and Prog On Twinscapes Vol.2: A Modern Approach To The Dancefloor 

For their second Twinscapes collaboration, bassists Colin Edwin (of Porcupine Tree and Metallic Taste Of Blood) and Lorenzo Feliciati (Naked Truth, Berserk!) address their respective ‘80s pop roots in the context of the same ambient soundscapes, freewheeling improvisations and prog-rock flurries that graced their 2014 self-titled RareNoise Records debut. Picture Soft Cell jamming with King Crimson, Ultravox with EL&P, Depeche Mode with Gentle Giant and you’ve got an idea of what’s happening on Twinscapes Vol.2: A Modern Approach To The Dancefloor.

In exploring dance floor music on Twinscapes 2, multi-instrumentalists Edwin and Feliciati pay homage to some iconic ‘80s bands while also pushing the envelope on that idiom. “As with the first album, there was no conscious decision or discussion to sound a particular way,” says Australian-born Edwin, “but I guess it’s the case that both Lorenzo and I have a connection with having played progressive rock and also that we were both around in the ’80’s, so that shared history has kind of come out on this record. As before, we’ve simply followed our instincts and common ground.” 

The Italian-born Feliciati recalls that, contrary to popular belief, the ‘80s was indeed a fertile period for musical experimentation. “I remember buying Genesis’ Trick of the Tail, which I still love today, and the first Devo album. And I clearly remember being exposed and enjoying music from new wave bands like The Stranglers, Human League, Ultravox and Japan together with fusion bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. I saw the last tour that Jaco Pastorius did with Weather Report promoting Night Passage…the night that changed my life. And I also remember going to see Talking Heads live with the Remain in Light band featuring Adrian Belew. From my point of view, everything happening in music then was with elements of Prog, Jazz, Rock, African music. So I always disagree that the ‘80s was a poor decade for music.” 

Edwin heartily concurs. “I think there was some really quite unusual and adventurous music on the charts back in the ’80’s, Japan being a great example. They had chart success but the music was quite unique and very original. Though a little more obscure, another example would be Stump, whom I first saw playing live on prime time TV. I can’t imagine a present day equivalent getting similar exposure.” 

Edwin also remembers the ‘80s being a particularly bass-centric era for music. “I was certainly aware of Ultravox, Soft Cell and Human League, all bands who were known for using synths and adopting the nascent technology of the time. But there was also a lot of really upfront and prominent bass playing in that era, from mainstream things like Mark King with Level 42 and Pino Palladino on those Paul Young records to things like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus, Peter Hook with Joy Division and New Order, Bruce Thomas with Elvis Costello and Kevin Hopper with Stump.” 

Edwin and Feliciati apply their own formidable bass chops to the ten potent tracks on Twinscapes Vol. 2, while Lorenzo adds on keyboards and guitars in the studio and Colin contributes rhythm design and programming. They share bass duties on all tracks, with Edwin focusing strictly on his signature singing fretless bass sound and Feliciati alternating between groove-heavy fretted bass and more lyrical fretless bass. “One of the great things about working with Lorenzo is that we don’t really need to discuss things a great deal,” says Edwin. “We often have similar ideas about how things should fit together or how to create a full sound without getting in each other’s way. We’re also a good partnership in that we share enough similar opinions and ideas to fit together without conflict, but we have enough differences to make things move in unexpected directions and push each other to try new ideas.” 

Adds Feliciati, “Twinscapes is a dual bass project but from my point of view it's a creative collaboration between two composers/multi instrumentalists/ arrangers and producers. I am sure that who bought the first album will be delighted from this new one. It's 100% Twinscapes. We are a ‘progressive’ band because we like to let the music show the direction instead of using the same formula again and again. It's been very natural, when we start to compose a song together — or exchange files — to let the music drive us instead of trying to push it in a more planned direction. It’s fun and always challenging.” 

Twinscapes Vol.2 opens with the straight-up dance floor number “Tin Can,” which is actually a nod to’70s experimental German ‘krautrock’ band Can while pieces like "Future Echo," "Precipice" and "Heat Collison" carry more of a prog-rock/fusion vibe. “We certainly have to acknowledge a certain prog-rock and fusion influence,” says Edwin, “but to me it’s all just about making the music work in an interesting and engaging way. And actually I think ‘Heat Collision’ has quite an emotional pull. For me, it has a real atmosphere.” 

The moody “Bedroom Corner” features Edwin playing the melody on fretless bass while Feliciati holds down the groove on fretted bass. “In a Haze” has Edwin exploring eBow on his fretless bass before the pieces builds to a grand bass crescendo. Edwin’s singing fretless bass is also prominent on “The (Next) Level” while the slow rolling anthem “In a Daze” builds to orchestral proportions on the strength of Feliciati’s layered distortion guitars. 

One of the more intriguing tracks on the album is “Severing Suns,” which blends rich chord voicings with Gregorian-styled choral music and prominent fretless bass playing. “This is really quite a special track,” says Edwin. “Voices and vocals in general really fascinate me, and I have a special fascination for the connection between voice and bass. It’s perhaps our most experimental track with a lot of unexpected elements: the blend of basses, vocals, electronics, and textures, but with a strong groove too.” 

The exotic “Ghost of Tangier” is a powerful showcase for Twinscapes drummer Robert Gualdi. “It’s really meant as a space for Roberto to do his thing,” says Edwin. “We often have a track in the live set where we create some textural backing for him to improvise against and this is a quite similar to a lot of those moments. Roberto is an all-around creative drummer, equally comfortable with odd times and slamming 4/4, playing structured parts and also improvising. 
He has the requisite sensitivity for the more reflective moments but he’s not afraid to let his inner hooligan out for the rockier parts too.” 

Adds Feliciati, “On that track we gave Roberto complete freedom. It’s basically a drums solo/composition where we added all the textures to boost the atmosphere that was already there with just drums. Roberto is an incredibly musical drummer, not a common thing. He is a top session man and he is one of the busiest drummers in Italy, but in Twinscapes he helps the music with a very creative approach and doing a deep research for the right sounds. And he is always groovy and in the pocket. After his contribution on the first Twinscapes album we did a lot of gigs as a trio with him and we were extremely pleased by his musicality. There is quite a lot of improvisation in our performance so Twinscapes needs a very solid drummer but one with a creative approach and with big ears. Roberto is all of that, and he is also a wonderful person to work, travel and play with.” 

Regarding the nature of their collaborative process in the studio, Edwin explains, “We tend to make decisions and work very fast, and there’s a mixture of improvisation and carefully structured elements for sure. And in fact, there are a lot of moments across various tracks where I can’t distinguish who is doing which part, or where I’ve completely forgotten who did what. So we’ll certainly have some fun when it comes to playing these tracks live.” 

While this second Twinscapes outing is a continuation of Edwin’s and Feliciati’s indelible chemistry together in the studio, they hint at even more things to come in the future. “We’re still exploring for sure,” says Edwin. “Twinscapes is much more than just an excuse to dig out my ebow and more obscure pedals and pick up the bass. I think Lorenzo and I have a really good creative partnership and we have done some really memorable gigs too. So we still have a lot more to discover and I am looking forward to playing this new material live. As with the tracks from the first album, I am sure they will be great to explore and develop in front of an audience.” 

Steve Kuhn Trio - To and From the Heart (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS 2018)

Having just celebrated his 80th birthday, pianist Steve Kuhn has continued to get to the heart of things with his long-standing trio of bass guitarist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron. The ensemble’s deeply resonant relationship can be heard on their new recording, To and From The Heart, a poignant collection of pieces that showcases these masters’ highly wrought abilities in wringing emotion from the ether. 

The legendary Kuhn has been a notable exponent of jazz’s adaptability and creativity since his professional debut nearly 60 years ago. His early work with the leaders of jazz’s vanguard, including Coleman Hawkins and Chet Baker, along with his forays into the avant-garde with John Coltrane, Gary McFarland and Pete La Roca, amongst many others, have solidified his credentials. 

The past few decades have found the pianist focusing more and more on the expressivity of the piano trio format. Kuhn has worked with a number of different amalgamations of musicians of the highest caliber, including Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Buster Williams, etc. But it has been his most recent trio roster that he has found most comfortable over the last two decades. 

Bassist Steve Swallow is a perfect foil for Kuhn, as he can be a supportive part of the rhythm team or highly tuneful solo voice. His remarkable ability as a composer is also highlighted on To and From The Heart, as it features two of his original compositions. Drummer Joey Baron is the heartbeat of this body, as he can be a font of energy or a cool stabilizer. 

To and From The Heart was recorded at the illustrious Sear Sound Recording Studio in New York in September of 2017 with the assistance of producer Artie Moorhead and engineer Katsuhiko Naito. 

The program begins with Swallow’s “Thinking Out Loud,” a bright but introspective piece that allows for thoughtful solos from Kuhn and Swallow. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly’s waltzing “Pure Imagination” floats in a tide of nostalgia and calm. Swallow’s “Away” is quietly devastating with its simplicity and beauty. The heartrending continues with Raymond Evans and Jay Livingston’s touching “Never Let Me Go,” which leads to Michika Fukumori’s upbeat and lively “Into The New World.” The recording concludes with a long rumination on two of Kuhn’s original pieces, “Trance / Oceans In The Sky,” providing a sweeping and dramatic close. 

Over his career, Steve Kuhn has fashioned his music into a conduit for emotion. His new recording, To and From The Heart, with his grand trio of Steve Swallow and Joey Baron encapsulates his ethos of wearing his feelings on his sleeve and to express them with the most reciprocative of bandmates.

Steve Kuhn - piano
Steve Swallow - bass guitar
Joey Baron - drums

1. Thinking Out Loud 07:49
2. Pure Imagination 06:15
3. Away 06:00
4. Never Let Me Go 04:38
5. Into The New World 05:29
6. Trance/Oceans In The Sky 16:29