Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Maria Finkelmeier, MF Dynamics, Descended


Once again I am glad to write about an album I probably would never had gotten in the pre-review days yet turns out on detailed inspection to grow into an unexpected flower pot of good things. It is one of those not-so-easily classified offerings, so much so that I had to think a minute to decide where the review article belonged. 

The album is by marimba-percussionist Maria Finkelmeier and her MF Dynamics doing Descended (Bright Shiny Things BSTC -157). She further describes the project in the subtitle as Exploring the Supernatural Legacy of Lafcadio Hearn through Sound, Light and Story. It features Maria on marimba, electronics, toy piano, voice, melodica and percussion, Jean Laurenz on trumpet, voice and auxiliary percussion, Greg Jukes on drums, accordion and auxiliary percussion and then Buzz Kemper doing the spoken word/recitation.

And thinking as I listened it has something in common with the influential and superb group Oregon--in that it gives us "music of another present era." It puts to our ears a musically contentful kind of New Music that is like a Folk Music of its own. There is tonality, there is a winding and wonderful sense of rhythm, there is a pronounced presence of inventive line weaving. There is from what my ears tell me improvisation now and again but it is the sculpting of compositional movement that seems key to how this music unfolds for us.

Like in the case of Oregon there is no confusing what happens on each piece with New Age--there is ambiance, for sure, but everything within that framework transcends a heightened lyricism in itself for something a good deal more profound, more musically well wrought, well worked through, with a loose togetherness of the improvisatory element but a tightly structured whole, too. She conceives of the music as taking place inside a thematic performance art totality. There are elements of Jazz, Afro-Caribbean, club music, electronics and "primal cathartic vocalisms." And it all works together nicely so you get a convincing chain of musical sections  that total up to a listen that stays in the mind and satisfies the need for something truly new.

Ms. Finkelmeier teaches at Berklee College of Music, one of my alma maters. Is it ironic that the music she makes is like what I and some other fellow students back then dreamed of making? No, it is fitting that she does. It is some of the music of now, after all. A very rewarding batch of such things. Kudos.

Friday, September 24, 2021

EFG Trio, Transliminal Rites, Eyal Maoz, Frank London, Guy Barash


You can never be sure what is next, be it in music or anything else. But surprise can be good sometimes. That's how I feel about the EFG Trio and their album Transliminal Rites (Orenda  0090). It is some very together outside free improvisational music with Eyal Maoz on guitar, Frank London on trumpet and Guy Barash on live electronics.

Now if you are like me you form in your mind what such an album might sound like. The interesting thing is that you listen and it does NOT easily fit into what you might expect, no Derek Bailey bloops and Evan Parker torrents, nothing in the live electronics you might have heard a few years ago.

It is boldly original in other words. It is very inventive, unexpected in its sonic palette, unusual in what the trio chooses to do. Eyal alters his guitar signal in interesting ways. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are hearing guitar and electronics together, other times Eyal makes the guitar sound more guitar-ish, and that too in ways that keep your interest. What is true of Eyal's work here is true also of London and his trumpet and Barash and his electronics. 

That fact helped me decide to post this review here in the Gapplegate Music Review rather than the Gapplegate Guitar blog, where I have reviewed a fair number of Maoz sides, quite gladly in fact. Here it is the blend of the threesome that prevails and so it will get the attention of guitarists, sure, but also anyone who is up for avant improv electronics.

That this was recorded in New York City makes sense, for it unmistakably seems to fit in with the "hey we do not expect to do anything but scuffle so we play what we hear in spite of all that" school.

The newness of what they are up to makes it a little bit of a challenge to describe. Sound color is at the forefront and they excel at exotic and rewarding mixtures, but it is also true that they play around with tonal centers and get multiple lines going too. It is the sort of thing you need to pay attention to if you hope to understand what is up with it. Once you do, well there you are, right? I think so.

It is a rather stunningly fresh venture into the Avant Improv present. You will doubtless not mistake it for something you've heard before. And so all the better for that. I hope they record some more and keep at it with this lineup. Bravo!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Eunhye Jeong, Nolda


Those who follow advanced Improv/Avant Jazz know that solo piano outings form an important genre within the style. Certainly Cecil Taylor made some of the greatest of all such albums, but then of course there are many others, many excellent ones.

With a new week, a new creative season upon us as I type these words, I accordingly turn  to the very new. This morning it is Korean pianist Eunhye Jeong and her solo album Nolda (ESP-Disk ESP 5068). The title literally means "play," as in "playful activities" and most specifically for Jeong, "a fun, free-flowing action on the piano," as well as the "magic of music making." It is music meant to be heard on a musical as well as a psychological plane. Eunhye's first 20 years coming of age in South Korea is naturally a formative foundation for who she is as an artist today. In particular for this album the traditional painters of the mountainous landscapes of her homeland influence this music, as well as the many hikes she took into those mountains with her father.

Nolda embraces a brilliant inventiveness, a pianism that draws upon creatively open expression to cover a wide embrace of mountain-inspired feelings with no trace of the sort of cliches a lesser artist might rely upon to fill out the aural space. Eunhye Jeong is an original, a pianist with genuine creative thrust, with deeply exploratory expression. Take a listen to this and feel a new immediacy. I look forward to more from her. Meanwhile do not fail to hear this one.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ros Bandt, Medusa Dreaming


The music world today, perhaps in spite of the economics of it all, is wide open. There are a nearly infinite number of ways to go when it comes to creating some kind of contemporary presence. Although it can be dizzying it also can be rewarding and adventurous. The latter is the case with today's new CD, Ros Bandt's Medusa Dreaming (Neuma Records 145). This comprises a very varied eleven work suite, an ambient  meditation on water and its properties, on a cistern and its resonant acoustics. As the composer puts it, "The space is the thing. It's the key player. Medusa Dreaming is a site-specific water symphony in honor of one of the most beautiful water tanks in the world: heraldic, grand mythic, scintillating." It is all about the Basilica Cistern  that lies beneath Istanbul as it has for many centuries. Each movement deals with its history and personality, acoustically and otherwise.

The music is partly written out, party scored for the Hedusa Ensemble consisting of harp, tarhu (Australian spike fiddle), flutes and air whistles, electric "guitarviol" and live processing, plus percussion.

There are very resonant ambiances, heavy metal guitarviol expressivities, and all kinds of exploratory moods and modes, including some very dramatic and appealing harp parts ringing alongside tuned percussion instruments among other things.

In the end we are surrounded by multi-stylistic contrasts, from quasi-Turkish ethnic to new music to undulating, droning sustains to improvisational immediacies. It's collective sonic summation gives us a distinct set of timeless and spacious sonic narrations.

Strongly recommended for those who look for adventure.