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Experimental Music: Blast, Fred Frith, R. Stevie Moore

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BLAST: Sift (CD on ReR Megacorp, distributed in USA by ReR USA, and in Japan by Locus Solus)

This release from 2009 offers 43 minutes of austere art rock.

Blast is: Dirk Bruinsma (on saxophones), Frank Crijns (on electric guitar), Paed Conca (on bass, guest guitar and clarinet), and Fabrizio Spera (on drums). They are accompanied by Elio Martusciello (on electronics).

Horns provide the pivotal center for guitar and drums as the instruments strive to violate conventions and generate music that delights in its grating resonance.

The horns blare out strenuous notes in isolation that surprisingly fall into a melody after a while. The instrument becomes enslaved to a fashion of opposition between classical modes and freeform jazz, generating passages of antagonistic ambrosia.

The guitar tends to have a very pointillist style, restricting itself to expressing chords in a choppy manner, almost like percussion. After a while, though, this methodology flourishes in conjunction with the rest of the instruments’ dedication to the unexpected.

At times the percussion almost seems random, but then cohesion kicks in and the rhythms rollick with bewitching allure. The beats pursue a devout locomotion, matching the unpredictability of the tunes.

The bass is a constant undercurrent of controlled discord that manages to establish a relentless shifting foundation.

These compositions exemplify the potential of crafting coherency out of chaos. The tunes are contrary structures in which the instruments seem to often clash with themselves and each other, yet the result produces a surprising unity of engaging depth.

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FRED FRITH: Nowhere * Sideshow * Thin Air (CD on Fred Records, distributed worldwide by ReR Megacorp, in USA by ReR USA, in Japan by Locus Solus)

This release from 2009 offers 77 minutes of discordant music.

Nowhere was commissioned by the Korzo Theatre, Den Haag, Netherlands, for choreographer Paul Selwyn Norton’s production “Proxy Trilogy.” The music was recorded in September/October 2000, and features: Carla Kihlstedt (on violin) and Frith (on electric guitar, keyboards, bass, percussion, voice, and samples).

Violin strains undulate in conjunction with a gritty auralscape punctuated by periodic guitar (nimble plucking counterpointed by crashing electric chords). Percussion lends an edgy undercurrent without offering steady rhythms. There are passages in which the guitar and violin coexist as they contest for superiority. While a melodic definition exists, it is quite secondary, leaving the music to throb with esoteric contention.

Sideshow is a dance-theater piece commissioned in 2001 by the Behnke Center for Contemporary Performance as part of the Northwest New Works Festival. The music was recorded in January/February 2001, and features: Carla Kihlstedt (on violin), Frith (on electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, bass mbira, percussion, low-grade violin, and computing), Gail Brand (on trombone), and Fred Giuliani (on samples).

The same type of sonic strife flourishes in this batch of tunes. While the pieces exhibit a shade more melodic presence, a template of discord rules, pitting the violin, guitar, percussion and other incidental sounds against each other, as if the instruments object to the potential of flow and seek to achieve a jarring demeanor.

Thin Air was composed for choreographer Donna Uchizono’s work of the same name, which premiered at the Dance Theater Workshop, New York in 2007. The music was recorded in May 2007, and features: Hande Erdem (on violin), Theresa Wong (on cello), and Frith (on electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, computing, samples, radio, and running).

More of the same in this set. Tantalizing riffs are generated, then seasoned with disquieting peripheral aspects, resulting in a tension that continues to build without ever bursting into anything other than a deeper form of chaos. Granted, melodic elements appear, but are submerged by the dominant confusion.

If dissonance is your thing, this music offers an excellent dose of it, crafted with a high degree of professionalism.

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FRED FRITH : Impur II (CD on Fred Records, distributed by ReR Megacorp, in USA by ReR USA, in Japan by Locus Solus)

This release from 2009 offers 44 minutes of experimental classical music recorded live at RamDam, Lyon, France, on December 20, 1997.

This release is Part 2 of Fred Frith’s epic collaboration with l’Ecole Nationale de Musique de Villeurbanne. Frith composed and conducted the music, which was played by Nation Unique: Fred Smith (on guitar solo), Gilles Laval, Guillaume Quemener, Ghilem Lacroux, & Bader Gharzouli (on electric guitars), Jean-Michel Quoisse (on bass), Stephen Tissot (on violin and violin), Denic Mariotte (on drums, batterie, and melodica), Claire Mollard, Stepane Grosjean, & Cyril Cambron (on marimba and percussion), Philippe Madile (on piano and synthesizer), Laurent Frick (on voix and trumpet), Stephane Lambert (on baritone saxophone and shenai), Serge Sana (on klaviers and echantillonage), Pascal Pariaud, Laurent Vichard & Joel Jorda (on clarinets), and Samuel Chagnard (on soprano saxophone).

For the most part, this music features discordant classical music in which periodic flashes of coherency make appearances. As the music progresses, harmonies assert dominance, casting aside the pandemonium.

In the opening, the instruments are crisp and adroitly played, while their union generates an elite chaos that is as mesmerizing as it is grating. A variety of effects and sounds are utilized to enhance the turmoil, including emphatic vocal gibberish.

Later, though, the tuneage moves beyond chaos and coherent scoring slides into place. Traces of discord remain in play, however, exemplified by conjoining various instruments in an uneasy fashion.

Since the majority of instruments are of an orchestral nature, the milieu is demonstrably classical in nature.

While these compositions are divided into two classes--melodic and discordant--the composer has chosen to maintain a blend of the two styles throughout, so that even the melodic tunes possess disquieting elements.

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R. STEVIE MOORE: Phonography (CD on ReR Megacorp, distributed in USA by ReR USA, and in Japan by Locus Solus)

This release from 2009 is a reissue of Moore’s debut album from 1976 and offers 44 minutes of quirky pop music.

For several decades, Moore has maintained an undisputed reputation of weirdness. Shunning every trapping of the music industry, his tunes strive for individuality far beyond that achieved by even such iconoclasts as Frank Zappa or the Residents.

Crude electronics blend with jarring guitarwork and lilting keyboards, achieving a union that is remarkably charming despite its oddness--or perhaps because of it. A wide range of instrumentation is utilized, expanding the scope of the music peculiarity.

The guitars present themselves in diverse fashions: twanging, searing, strumming, crashing, mangling chords as easily as they produce flowing passages.

Keyboards provide sweeping phrases in conjunction with piercing riffs, depending on Moore’s mood. When electronics are used, they tend to be shrill and extremely coarse.

Basslines wander through the tunes, carefully immersed so that their presence is more hinted at than demonstrative.

The percussion pursued similar variety, from crashing rhythms to clever little tempos that come and go.

It is literally impossible to lump Moore’s music into one genre or style. His predilection is to fuse country and rock and pop and jazz into unique structures that defy codification--all of which is one of his most bewitching traits. His quirkiness shines like an electric candle in a hurricane, appealing but difficult to reach. And yet, these songs possess a universal allure: bouncy and captivating if one can abide the overall bizarreness.

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