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Morrow: Ash Black Bufflo (note the missing A) is the recording moniker of Grails keyboardist Jay Clarke, and his debut release, Andasol, is the culmination of five years of solo composition. Like Grails, the music here is extremely eclectic and skillful, but the styles found within Andasol are more segregated from track to track, not stirred in the melting pot like his group endeavor.
Hajduch: The music is mostly understated, minimal, and minor. It’s very cinematic and seems designed to be unobtrusive, with occasional snippets of dialogue to fill the gaps. With the soft nature of the music and the truncated length of the tracks, it’s an album that flies by.
Morrow: The 18 tracks do go quickly, and they’re sort of built like musical vignettes — which makes sense, because Clarke’s other material as Ash Black Bufflo has been used for movie soundtracks, theater productions, and dance recitals. Even though some of the tracks are a medium length, nothing overstays its welcome.
Also, even though certain tracks are minimal or start out as such, many build into much more, with intricacy after intricacy added to the mix. The album’s second track, “Misery is the Pilgrim’s Pasture,” is a perfect example, and it strikes a very Steve Reich vibe as flute, piano, harpsichord, and percussion work on top of the repeated foundation.
By the end of the 1960s, The Beatles had been absent from any kind of live performance for years. This supposed retirement from commercial concerts, however, never fully quelled speculation that the group could return to the stage in some way. Of the various conjectured shows, none held more what-if potential than a rumored collaboration between the Fab Four and German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
According to a vague report noted in a biography by author Michael Kurtz, Stockhausen was said to have arranged a meeting with one of The Beatles at his New York apartment in 1969 to discuss a joint concert, but a blizzard ultimately kept the two parties apart. Between Paul McCartney occasionally citing a fascination with Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Junglinge” in interviews, The Beatles including a image of him in the cover crowd of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and John Lennon’s “Revolution 9” getting regular critical comparisons to Stockhausen’s Hymnen, The Beatles and Stockhausen maintained at least a shred of connectivity to make such a collaboration possible.
Though the rendezvous, like most hearsay, has been proven to be devoid of truth, fiction has never gotten in the way of inspiration. Such is the case with avant-garde ensemble Alarm Will Sound and its most recent work, 1969. Mixing musical composition, scripted acting, audio dialogue, and archival video, the group’s live production uses the myth of the would-be collaboration as a jumping-off point to examine a time period rife with political, artistic, and social change. ALARM recently spoke with the ensemble’s conductor, Alan Pierson, to discuss the new work, its combination of history and falsehood, and why the year of 1969 was such a big deal.
Let me ask you about 1969. How did this concept develop?
We had been working on this for a long time. In a way, it goes back to those composer portraits as one-composer concerts. Those sorts of concerts, we felt, were a really good way for us to be developing our reputation in New York. But at a certain point, we felt like we wanted to do something broader than that. What I liked about the composer portraits was that they were a way of creating a contemporary music concert that really felt like an event, rather than just a collection of pieces.
There was a really special kind of vibe that you got when you had people walking into a hall to experience an entire evening of Steve Reich or of György Ligeti. The question was “How [do we] create that kind of experience with a broader repertoire?” and “What is a way to bring together really different kinds of music in a coherent framework?”
We did a couple of things along those lines. We did a show called Odd Couples at Carnegie Hall in 2006, which I think was really successful. But as we started brainstorming ideas for concerts, one thing I started thinking about was this idea of doing music of a single year and using a period of time as a way to connect really different kinds of music. Nineteen sixty-nine just emerged pretty quickly in that process as a really interesting time to look at. In the process of looking at that more deeply, I stumbled on this story of the planned meeting between Stockhausen and The Beatles, and it just seemed like too great a story not to tell.
Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on AlarmPress.com. Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.
It’s rare to think of tranquil music as “unlistenable,” but Austin, Texas ambient musician Cory Allen’s latest album, Hearing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Hears, arguably challenges the listener’s concentration because it is so easy to listen to.
Founded in 2000 by Eric Singer, LEMUR is a collection of robots designed to play virtually any instrument in any style imaginable. Though the mechanical musicians may elicit skepticism and raised eyebrows, Singer’s bots have worked with acclaimed musicians such as Pat Metheny, JG Thirlwell, Morton Subotnick, and others.
The Dillinger Escape Plan begins recording a new album in July; El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Madvillain post tracks; Sunny Day Real Estate is rumored to be reuniting; Steve Reich wins a Pulitzer. Keep reading in the roundup.
ALARM columnist Sean-Michael Yoder shares his first five electronic picks in 2009. The list includes Aether’s “melodic” Artifacts, London’s John Tejada with Fabric 44, the pop/dance beats of Hercules and Love Affair’s self-titled album, a Lollapalooza mix, and Jaga Jazzist leader Lars Horntveth’s 37-minute song, “Kaleidoscopic.”