Posts Tagged ‘echoesblog’

From Miles in space to Jazz for the Deaf: Ben Neill & Mörglbl

May 19, 2009

Two distant jazz mutations from opposite directions when Ben Neill and Mörglbl hit Philadelphia.

Ben Neill @ The Gatherings (photo: Jeff Towne)

Ben Neill @ The Gatherings (photo: Jeff Towne)

I caught two very disparate shows in Philadelphia this weekend, both drawing upon elements of jazz, but ultimately having little to do with jazz at all.  First up was Ben Neill, performing at Saturday, May 16 at  The Gatherings concert series.  He’s released several recordings including Green Machine, Tryptical, Goldbug and Automotive.  A new CD is slated for the fall.

Neill doesn’t make it easy on himself.  He wrestles with his “mutantrumpet” a Rube Goldberg contraption with 3 trumpet bells, one of them muted, 2 sets of valves, a mini-trombone slide and electronics that trigger other sounds.   He creates a layered, realtime performance with trumpets sometimes having contemplative inner dialogues and sometimes shout out call & response exchanges.  All the while,  electronic sounds  swirling to the rafters on waves of synth pads.  As near as I can tell, he was controlling everything in real time with rhythm loops triggered in Ableton live.  Even the screen images were being manipulated via his trumpet, pulsing and warping in sync to what he was playing.

Ben has roots in the usual sources, notably Miles Davis and Jon Hassell, but he’s staked out his own terrain in the sonic landscape, mixing fractured jungle loops under his free-form improvisations.  His music is like a digital river, with a different fractalized scene around every corner, the constant being Ben Neill greeting you on your way.

As usual at Gatherings shows, it could’ve been a lot louder.  The opening act, Soporus, especially suffered from low volumes.  A guitars and bass quartet, they play melody and rhythm free textural drones soaked in reverb. Immersion is the key, but their volume was so low, you could hear the acoustic sound from their electric guitar strings when they tuned up or strummed their strings before a volume swell.  Note to The Gatherings, turn it up as loud as “you” think it should be, then put another 5db on it.

Jazz for the Deaf At the other end of the spectrum was Mörglbl, the French power trio that features shredding guitar playing from Christophe Godin.  Ben Neill makes you want to stop and ponder things.  Mörglbl doesn’t let you catch your breath in a nonstop delirious charge, punctuated by pulled faces, devil horns and mock-crotch symbolism.

They appeared Sunday, May 17 at The North Star Bar, a return to the area after their triumphant showing at NEARfest in 2008.  Their new CD is called  Jazz for the Deaf and that title says a lot about both their humor and their music.  Godin is a formidable player ripping off fret-defying runs, squonks and squeals, all while mugging for the audience.  He has self-deprecating wit, simultaneously mocking guitar hero mannerisms, while also embracing them.  Yet, no matter how fast he plays, or how often he strikes a Spinal Tap pose, every note is crafted with the perfect inflection, then slammed and twisted with more whammy bar than I’ve ever seen used in a concert.

Godin’s bandmates are with him all the way through heavy metal riffs to lightning rhythm shifts.  Mörglbl seems so tightly wound as a band that I was surprised to read that they claim most of their music is improvised.

“All the solos on stage are all improvised. In fact, the only written things are the riffs,” said Godin in an article from

But they sounded completely tooled within razor thin tolerances.  Except for some bass solos by Ivan Rovgny, it didn’t seem like they were ever winging it, to the point that things got a little predictable over the course of nearly two hours.  “Our next song is going to be a ballad.  No really!” they quipped in a running joke.  Then they’d lay into another rip-your-head off tune, with Godin filling every available space with a flurry of notes.  But in fact, a few slower, more pensive tunes would’ve provided a bit more dynamic for the show.  I’m sure they’ve got one somewhere.

Mirthrandir opened for Mörglbl.  They sounded like you’d expect from a 3rd tier prog band who takes their moniker from the Elven name for Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.  That is, stylistically accurate symphonic prog ala Yes circa 1972.

You can hear Mörglbl on their new CD, Jazz for the Deaf due out June 2.  And they still have a several dates left in their North American tour.   Catch them if you can.  Ben Neill’s new album is due in the fall.

For Philly readers/listeners, if you want to get a mostly-weekly update of Philadelphia concerts like these, email us Philly Concerts in the subject line.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

The Real Story behind Vangelis

October 15, 2008

From the Vangelis list, I came across an alternative history of the Greek composer who scored Chariots of Fire and Bladerunner.  It’s in the Uncyclopedia.   Chariots Of Fire I’m probably the last person on the planet to discover this take-off site on Wikipedia.  The Vangelis entry scores a direct hit on the enigmatic composer who is praised as a modern day Mozart by supporters and a modern day Mantovani by detractors.   I think the critical concensus on Vangelis has shifted over the years.  Parodies making him out to be practitioner of shlock and pomposity have been the norm, but I’m hearing more and more younger musicians name-checking Vangelis as an influence.    He’s been cited in recent years by artists like BT and Digitonal, the latter who said that their song, “93 Years On” from Save Your Light For Darker Days, was directly inspired by Vangelis’ Bladerunner score. 25th Anniversary [3 CD] While Vangelis can lapse into sappy melodies and bombastic arrangements, he’s also made some of the most propulsive, driving electronic music of the modern age with Albedo 0.39 and Spiral as well as some music that seems to reach out and grab you by the heart on albums like Opera Sauvage and his score to 1492: Conquest of Paradise.  The composer, who turned 65 last March, has slowed down in recent years, but his influence continues.     But enough of praise, go have a laugh at Vangelis’s Uncyclopedia entry.

John Diliberto ((( Echoes )))

The Nerve-Music & the Mind

September 14, 2008

On Echoes, I’ve frequently sought the answer to the big question, Why?  Not the “Why do we exist?” question, but the “Why do we like the music we do?  Why do we respond to it the way we do?  Why do some people love crappy music and why doesn’t everyone like Echoes music, which of course, is so much better?”   😉  I suspect the answer to some of these questions might lead to an answer for the big Why?

The CBC has launched another great new music series called The Nerve: Music and the Human Experience that attempts to answer the Why music question.  It’s produced by Jowi Taylor who also produced The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music. That series explored the world of electric music in all its manifestations and not only covered some profound territory, but was beautifully produced as well. I was jealous.

The Science of a Human Obsession The Nerve is the follow-up, taking it’s cue from the Daniel Levitin book,  This is Your Brain on Music. It explores how music affects the mind, why we love music and why we respond to music in specific ways. Levitin appears in the series, as do a cast of philosophers, scientists and musicians including my hero, Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), a member of Kronos Quartet, and producer/musician Daniel Lanois.   I think he could’ve gotten some more thoughtful musicians, especially in the Enchanted, Entrance: Music and Spirituality section, but that could be a whole other series.   In fact, it was one, Sound & Spirit.

The Nerve is currently running on the CBC, but don’t worry, they put it on-line the Monday after the initial weekend broadcast.  You can also go back to list to The Wire.

 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Lights Out Asia and Near the Parenthesis

September 10, 2008

Lights Out Asia and Near the Parenthesis create an ambient rock

You can hear an audio version of this review, with music.

The n5MD record label began with a suspect business plan. They were going to release their music only on mini-disc. Although commercially that format went the way of the Apple Newton and sock puppet, n5MD hung on, switching to CDs and building a roster of moody, electronic shrouded rock acts. Among their latest releases are CDs from Near the Parenthesis and Lights Out Asia.

L EixampleNear the Parenthesis is just one guy, Tim Arndt. He lives in San Francisco where he plugs in his laptop and keyboard to create glitch strewn landscapes that frequently start out as noise and slowly converge into something quite melodic and beautiful. Although Near the Parenthesis is an awkward name, the music has a post-modern elegance as Tim fine tunes a filter on digital detritus honing in on haunted melodies buried in the noise. His latest album is called L’eixample, a Catalonian name for the area in Spain that has many of the surreal architectural works Antoni Gaudi. Near the Parenthesis captures some of that otherworldliness in his music.

Eyes Like Brontide While Near the Parenthesis is chilled and ethereal, another n5MD act, Lights Out Asia has roots in shoegazer rock. The Milwaukee-based trio combines guitars, keyboards, drums and computers in cinematic landscapes. On their album, Eyes Like Brontide, Lights Out Asia has a heroic sound to their music, even when some of the titles are full of foreboding, like “Radars Over the Ghosts of Chernobyl.” Gothic chords and Latin voices that sound like an oblivion mass slowly merge into surging guitars, powerful rhythms and Chris Schafer’s anguished vocal.

Although their roots are in shoegazer and electronica, Lights Out Asia have been accused of being New Age and they’re not ashamed to admit that they enjoy some New Age music. Chris Schafer says he has the complete Enya collection. You can hear that influence, but Enya didn’t ever sound like this.

Lights Out Asia has just released their third album, Eyes Like Brontide. Near the Parenthesis CD is called L’eixample. I’ve got an interview with Near the Parenthesis on Monday, September 15 and look for Lights Out Asia in October. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.

You can hear an audio version of this review, with music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

A Trip to the Drone Zone with Furthernoise

September 4, 2008

It’s difficult finding reliable reference material about the music you hear on Echoes. I’ve yet to locate a single site that reliably covers the music heard on the show, or even some of its significant component parts. One interesting site I recently stumbled across is  out of the U.K.  It travels through the darker regions of the Echoes soundscape, deep into the drone zones of noise and soundscape music, but they do a good job of surveying that often opaque range. Their new issue covers recent releases from the Hypnos label which we often play on Echoes.  Coincidentally, one of the albums they cover is Stewart Brand’s serenely textured “Bridge To Nowhere.  I wonder if that’s on Sarah Palin’s iPod.   Another label called Gears of Sand is also featured with some compelling textural composers.  

Furthernoise states their mission as:

Furthernoise is an online platform for the creation, promotion, criticism and archiving of innovative cross genre music and sound art for the information & interaction of the public and artists alike.

Furthernoise wears their avant-garde tastes like badge of honor, but those of you into the murkier, more experimental side of Echoes, might enjoy some time here.  The site is also heavily laden with soundfiles that continue to play with a control panel that remains on top no matter where you move within their site. A nice touch.    They’ve just put their September issue on-line.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echo Location: Ronn McFarlane’s 21st Century Lute

September 3, 2008

It’s not your ancient Renaissance lute anymore when Ronn McFarlane creates new music for an ancient instrument.

(You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

Songs from the Labyrinth (Music by John Dowland) In 2006, Sting put out an album of tunes by 16th century composer John Dowland called Songs from the Labyrinth. Sting not only sang Dowland’s songs, but played a renaissance instrument called the lute. He plucked it convincingly, unless you happen to be a virtuoso renaissance lutenist.

Lutenist Ronn McFarlane at Echoes

Lutenist Ronn McFarlane at Echoes

Ronn McFarlane: I think he has fairly modest abilities on the lute but he does what he needs to do, and the most intricate lute playing tends to be done by his partner, Edin Karamozov, and he’s, you know, quite a fine player and quite brilliant.

Ronn McFarlane has been playing the lute for over 3 decades, much of it with the Baltimore Consort. What appealed to him in Sting’s music was less the Dowland pieces, and more, Sting’s own music.

Ronn McFarlane: One of my favorites was actually one of Sting’s original pieces, “Fields of Gold.” When they arranged that for two lutes and voice, I thought it was a haunting arrangement, quite beautiful, and I would have loved to have heard more contemporary music played on the lute.

So Ronn McFarlane decided to create his own repertoire. He’s been writing original compositions for about a decade and collected several of his tunes on an album called Indigo Road.

Ronn McFarlane-Indigo Road

Ronn McFarlane-Indigo Road

If you listen close to McFarlane’s music, you’ll hear techniques like harmonics and glissandos that weren’t part of the renaissance arsenal. Ronn got some of them from his days as a rocker, but also from listening to contemporary acoustic guitarists like the late Michael Hedges. Like Michael Hedges, Ronn McFarlane is an eclectic. Celtic influences infuse some tunes, while on others he sounds like a bluegrass player.

Ronn McFarlane isn’t ready to give up his classical career with the Baltimore Consort, but he has opened up new possibilities for an instrument that, with the exception of Sting, hasn’t seen much new music for a few hundred years.

There will be a full interview with Ronn McFarlane Wednesday 9/03 and you can hear Ronn McFarlane playing live on Echoes on Tuesday, 9/16. More Info on the Echoes website

This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music, heard on Wednesday mornings on 88.5 WXPN Philadephia and other enlightened Echoes affiliate stations.

(You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

John Diliberto ((( Echoes )))

The Best Echoes Songs Ever? O Superman? Music for 18 Musicians?

August 25, 2008

Even though we play individual songs on Echoes, I don’t usually think of the music that way. Being from the pre-digital generation, I still organize music in terms of artists and albums. I thought of this recently as our local Echoes affiliate, WXPN in Philadelphia, has been pumping their latest poll,  The Top 885 Essential XPN Songs. (885 because their frequency is 88.5 FM) Listeners are being requested to submit their top ten lists on-line. 

My Top Ten Artists list has been stable for years, and my Top Ten Albums only changes occasionally. But Top Ten Songs?  I think that could change every 10 minutes. When you think about songs across genres, and open it up completely, how do you narrow it down to ten. Even limiting it to the current core XPN sound of singer-songwriter and alternative rock is pretty broad.  Hell, I don’t even think of Echoes music in terms of songs.  It’s more like sounds, moods, and at most compositions.  I tried to keep that in mind when I submitted my poll.   This is the Top Ten Essential XPN Songs list I submitted that tried to split the difference, but in the end didn’t succeed. There is no ranking to the list.
Miles Davis “In A Silent Way” In A Silent Way
Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” Electric Ladyland
Klaus Schulze “Frank Herbert” X
Dead Can Dance “Cantara” Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Kate Bush “The Dreaming” The Dreaming
Steve Tibbetts “10 Years” YR
Brian Eno “Sky Saw” Another Green World
Beth Orton “She Cries Your Name” Trailer Park
Laurie Anderson “O Superman” Big Science
Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians” Music for 18 Musicians

As I peruse this quickly tossed together list, I realize I kind of blew it.  Most of these are indeed, compositions, not songs and in the context of XPN, it’s a little like voting for the Green Party (no offense).    So here’s my amended Top Ten List:                                                                                               
Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” Electric Ladyland
Dead Can Dance “Cantara” Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Kate Bush “The Dreaming” The Dreaming
David Sylvian “Let the Happiness In” Secrets of the Beehive
Beth Orton “She Cries Your Name” Trailer Park
Laurie Anderson “O Superman” Big Science
The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” Revolver
The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” Out of Our Heads
Moby “Porcelian” Play
Jane Siberry “Calling All Angels” When I Was A Boy

It’s still a bit off base I suspect. 

If you’re a listener to WXPN, you can cast your vote on their website ballot. The deadline is September 7. Who knows what might show up on there amidst the inevitable selections of My Morning Jacket, R.E.M, the Cure, Tori Amos, Coldplay, U2, and Bob Dylan tunes. In fact, I should have put some of them on my Top Ten. Yep, that list took about 10 minutes to change, twice. 

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Blow Your Mind Music Video in Advanced Beauty

August 22, 2008

If you’re looking for some delirious eye-candy to take your mind somewhere else, check out a site called Right now they’ve got a series of 18 computer paintings with original, mostly electronica music in a series called Advanced Beauty. This is some very advanced graphics, synchronized to music. Here’s the blurb from their site.

Advanced Beauty is an ongoing collaboration between programmers, artists, musicians, animators and architects to create audio-reactive ‘video sound sculptures’ using the visual programming language Processing, high-end audio analysis and fluid dynamic simulations alongside intuitive responses in traditional cell animation.

For the lay-persons among us, that means it will blow your mind. Here’s one of them

Advanced Beauty 6 of 18 / Directed by Robert Hodgin from Universal Everything on Vimeo.

For the full effect, note the navigation matrix at the bottom right of each screen. If you click it, it blows the image up to full screen size.

Thanks to Kris on the ResonanceReviews list for this pointer. A great place to find out about leading edge electronic music. You can also read an article called Visual Music on the Echoes site.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Thoughts in Sound: Cage, Eno, Jarrett, Riley

August 20, 2008

Thoughts in Sound from musicians at the bleeding edges of music including John Cage, Brian Eno, Terry Riley and Keith Jarrett.

You can also hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.

Every musician plays notes, but some of them think about the nature of sound a lot more than others. For them, music isn’t just a conveyor of melody and rhythm, but a pathway into sound itself. No one captured the meaning of sound better than avant-garde iconoclast, John Cage. John Cage died 1992, but in the spring of 1987, he was still enjoying the sounds of the city permeating his Chelsea home. In a Landscape Lectures and Writings

John Cage: I have a friend, Paul Zukofsky, the violinist, who used to come and stay where I lived in New York when I left and when Merce Cunningham left because it was so quiet but he no longer comes because this is so noisy. For me it’s a great pleasure though, to hear all the sounds. I find it very, just plain musical.

John Cage finds his concepts reborn in the work of ambient music pioneer and pop music producer, Brian Eno.

Music for Airports His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound

Brian Eno: Music has become part of the tapestry of your life like lighting is or like the environmental sound that you here anyways…. Anyway I was excited by the idea of making music that acknowledged that and said “Here’s a music that is especially for that. Here’s a music that is intended to merge into the environment. “

Eno’s concepts were inspired by Cage and by minimalist composers who wanted to bring out sonic details and focus through repetition.  Rainbow in Curved Air Persian Surgery DeRvishes                                                                                 
Terry Riley:
Tape loop creates a stasis in the sound and you can watch something as if it were stopped in a camera frame and it repeats over and over again. And You start to notice the real deep details that can draw the mind in   also.

Surprisingly, pianist Keith Jarrett, who is anti-electronic, and far from minimalist, still reflects a similar desire to get to the essence of sound.
The Köln Concert Spirits 1 & 2Keith Jarrett: As long ago as when I was at Slugs with Charles Lloyd I had this feeling that I might quit music because all I had to play was one note, you know, and that recurs in different guises now and then. But what it suggests is that I don’t really need all that big an instrument to justify what I want to hear.

Keith Jarrett, Terry Riley, Brian Eno and John Cage. They are musicians who have gone into the microcosms of sound, often returning to produce some of the most influential, and even popular music of the last 50 years. They are among ten artists we’ll hear next week on a special Echoes series called Thoughts in Sound. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.

You can also hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.

Thoughts in Sound is a series we produced through a grant from the Public Radio Exchange.  It includes interviews with Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, John Adams and Keith Jarrett.  You can read a more extensive article about this and hear each complete 5 minute audio piece here.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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