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andrewcsmith on 03/12/2010 at 10:45AM


Sharp & Centazzo at ISSUE Project Room: check out those cymbal trees and hanging mini-gongs.

To kick off ISSUE’s Chamber Music Month, downtown regular Elliott Sharp brought himself and Italian-born conductor/composer/percussionist Andrea Centazzo out for a few excellent improvised sets. As one might expect, it’s all good—check out Centazzo’s three cymbal trees in the above picture. Although according to the Wikipedia Centazzo’s a “minimalist” composer he, like Sharp, never seems to fit into that box. What they do both take from Reich & Co., however, is a concern with the effect of repeated sound on the sound. What they don’t take is diatonic harmony and pure “process.”

That downtown improvisation departed in style and content from minimalism is nothing new. This music turns a fixed process into an arbitrary element, and in that it seems to break the mold. Any aesthetic element of minimalism that seeps in—repetition, strong rhythmic pulses, ebow drones—is arbitrary and bound to change, and seems in active discourse and even disagreement with its downtown friend.

In the very last improvisation (below) just a few minutes from the end, Centazzo begins to play repeating patterns on his hanging gongs (parts of a gamelan? I can’t quite tell—check the above picture) and the decay of the gongs never really meshes with the next attacks from his yarn mallets. For one, the yarn mallet does not cause the sound to instantly appear, but rather draws the sound out a split second later, by which point he’s already moved on to the next note. It’s like looking at a spinning wheel that looks like it’s beginning to spin backward, where no percussive hits really make it through—they’re coming too quickly—and instead the focus is not on the actual attack, but on the point at which the tone from the gong becomes audible as a tone.

This takes maybe a half-second, by which point Centazzo’s already made it just about through his loop. Additionally, this repetitive auxiliary percussion calls to mind a certain someone, but evokes no tonality or central pitch, or even mode. This is why I suggested gamelan; these non-equal-tempered tunings defamiliarize a very familiar percussion pattern (extra credit to anyone who transcribes and analyzes these pitches). This is important: as the attacks quieten, and as the mallet sounds soften, the inharmonic sounds take over, and draw ears in. The attacks melt together, like fondue. All important things become as one and the differences have disappeared.

Sharp’s playing is always enveloping, a virtuosic display meant not to impress, and a rarity of form and ethos among musicians. Too often, those with the technique compromise or use it to replace real content, because they can get away with it. But in this—in never seeking to impress, only to convey—Sharp is in a rare territory.

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BTurner on 03/11/2010 at 11:58AM

Welcome S.S. Records to the FMA!

I was a fan of Scott Soriano's Cali-based S.S. Records from the getgo. Exhibiting a full understanding of what made esoteric independent weirdo/garage/artpunk labels of the 80s and 90s so beloved, and globbing handfuls of that stuff into the S.S. aesthetic automatically set 'em apart from the myriad of Bingenheimer-bowl-cut revisionists, Blues Magoos copyist losers, and future fellators of Little Steven's cult of blah rock. Rock is certainly served up by the likes of Lamps, the Intelligence, etc., but the lygergic injection, nods to unlikely sources of influence, and even some heady dozes of Siltbreeze-friendly WTF unchartedness all run through rampantly.

Via his mailorder catalog distro, Soriano has truly scraped into unknown areas to dig up bands completely unknown that you can't discover otherwise (with a special connection to the teeming French underground), and his Z-Gun print zine is the greatest print-media gift to the scene since the halcion days of Forced Exposure. From the Metal Urbain/via gal-garage vibe of Lili Z to the sublime Chairs Missing nods of Germany's excellent Krysmopompas, to the Butthole Surfers-meets-Chrome zonk of Mexico's XYX and the alien transmissions of Los Llamarada (both of whom have played WFMU SXSW events!), S.S. comes up with the goods and it's a joy to welcome some sounds to the Free Music Archive.

Monoshock (a 90's Cali band that ranks in my book as one of the greatest trashmasters of American music period) have their singles comp on S.S. and a few Mp3s on the FMA, and that's reason enough to celebrate! Dig in!

>> S.S. Records' FMA hq

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jason on 03/10/2010 at 01:00PM

Cyclic Bits: The Raymond Scott Variations

Raymond Scott's Videola, invented for composing film scores (learn more about the legendary composer & inventor Raymond Scott at

"Cyclic Bits" is the first remix album of the music of remarkable composer and inventor Raymond Scott.

This album is a series of reinventions of the work of a true musical maverick, remixed by a host of today's most inventive musical mavericks. The diversity of the release reflects the profound influence Scott's work has had on composers working across the board of styles and approaches.

Originally created as a special for Ergo Phizmiz's Phuj Phactory on WFMU, a projected release never happened.

This, at last, is it.

Although this work is FMA licensed, please contact the individual artists regarding any usage permissions.

- via Chinstrap Music, the new noncommercial netlabel from Ergo Phizmiz

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robw on 03/09/2010 at 05:45PM

2010 Golden Festival Mix/Collection

For a quarter of a century, NY Balkan music scene pioneers the Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band have organized the annual Golden Festival. a massive two-night grassroots Balkan and East European music and dance festival at the Good Shepherd School, 620 Isham Street (near Broadway and 207 St.) in upper Manhattan. The festival is the biggest event of its kind in New York City: The second night (Saturday) is a marathon featuring 40-50 bands and artists performing on three stages from 6pm until 4 in the morning. See:

With the help of co-host / tech guru Irene Trudel and our peerless crew, WFMU's Transpacific Sound Paradise broadcast all the music from the Golden Festival's Kafana stage from 6pm until midnight on Saturday January 16th. Kafana is Serbo-Croatian for "cafe"; the stage is located conveniently near the food!

We are now proud to present a collection of recordings from the festival on the Free Music Archive. The full collection is here, while a mix of highlights is available at right (please click "i" for more info about each artist).

>> 2010 Golden Festival photo gallery on Flickr
>> 2010 Golden Festival mp3 collection on the Free Music Archive

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herr_professor on 03/09/2010 at 12:32PM

Us, Cactus

M. Becker

This week we are looking at a musician who has recently come back to chip music thanks to an invite to Blip Festival. More well known to electronic music fans as Khonner, he also released a chip music release for 8bitpeoples under the pseudonym I, Cactus. Owing as much to bands like Boards of Canada as lo-fi chip burbles, the release shows Khonners tracking prowess with easy going and precious beats, still holding up nearly 8 years after its initial release. Finally asked to play the 2009 Blip Festival has seemed to energize Khonner's involvement in the chip music scene, with a recent flurry of uploads to, produced on a Playstation Portable using the simple sample tracker littlegptracker.

Khonner is incredibly prolific, so you can stuff your pods with the tunes found here, or start crawling his discography. Until next time, enjoy Ruby Cactus, and see you in seven.

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jason on 03/08/2010 at 04:05PM

Greatest It: Six Netlabels Join Forces

Six of the world's raddest netlabels -- UpItUp (Italy, Germany, U.K.), Ego Twister (France), Peppermill (Canada), Proot (France), Cock Rock Disco (Germany) and WM Recordings (Netherlands) -- have teamed up for a collaborative greatest hits compilation.

Their reasoning? Well, it's a similar reason to why we started the Free Music Archive: in this era of infinite free music at our fingertips, we need curators like these fine netlabels to help us discover the good stuff.

Each label picked three favorites for this 18-track compilation, titled "Greatest It". Many of these tracks were already on the FMA, but even if some of the labels, artists, or tracks are familiar, there are bound to be some new sounds here as well, and it's a nice bridge introduction to some of the leading lights of the netaudio world for anyone who has yet to delve in.

Though the sound is extremely varied -- from Rafter's vocoder & cowbell-laden smoov jam to Roglok's future disco to The Rabbits' squeeky jazz -- Greatest It maintains a cohesively playful vibe throughout. It's definitely inspired by early netlabel pioneers like Comfort Stand, and sounds of the demoscene.

I'd love to hear some other likeminded netlabels join forces for their own Greatest It-style release. There's a lot of great music out there and the more bridges we can build, the better!

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mwalker on 03/08/2010 at 10:00AM

guilted by the sun

As one of the grand finales for this year’s fantastic Unsound Festival (making it’s first appearance in NYC), the excellent Canadian experimental-drone-ambient-shoegazer-doom-metal duo Nadja -- Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff – conjured an absolutely massive soundworld of near-impenetrable density at ISSUE. Nadja design jagged, skyscraping architectures out of scalding and charred streams of noise and distortion, abstracting gestures of drone and doom into complex, infinitely detailed structures of intense beauty. Amidst sprawling ambient landscapes that are at turns placid, quivering, frightening, and impassable, Baker and Buckareff erect looming, spiraling towers that jut, writhe, and twist into the boundless vertical dimension before culminating into screaming spires of searing energy.  Be braced to emerge/escape in a collapsed crawl – drained, soaked, cleansed, and exorcised.

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macedonia on 03/06/2010 at 12:15PM

There is always comfort in Choklate...

It's always wonderful to stop by the Archive and find some new soul or R&B that hadn't been there before.  It's even better still when it's a live recording from one of the great radio stations serving as curators for the FMA.  Today, let's get to know Choklate, Seattle-based singer and songwriter.  Her voice is Godiva sweet and equally as smooth, stirring the listener's emotions and causing them to reflect upon the ups and downs within their own lives.

While not a widely known name within mainstream circles, her 2006 self-titled debut was the toast of soul music's underground.  Her latest album, To Whom It May Concern, was released last year and many of her fans and peers agree that it avoids the sophomore slump.  I encourage you to check her interview with Fave of the Friday Favecast to learn more about this talented songstress.  In the meantime, here's a selection from her debut album recorded last October in the live studios of KEXP...

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kexporg, soul, live recording
andrewcsmith on 03/05/2010 at 03:59PM

Fields of rising, falling sound

David Daniell works in transparencies and onion-skin shapes, and recurring, overlapping tones. Daniell slices the layers of drone to create something optimistic and mobile. As he layers the sounds, each new sound changes somewhat the meaning of the ones that already exist, and these sounds cycle in and out so that the shapes are constantly shifting. Daniell interrupts these environments with loose, melancholy pickings, that evoke some kind of campfire in the forest, where the pulsing high pitches are a cicada choir.

Daniell’s work gives the impression of travelling through a universe of sound sources, so that they fade in and out with no perceivable order. It is not quite narrative, but a slow transition, building to a one-man guitar army with some clear connection to Daniell’s work as concertmaster for Rhys Chatham’s large-scale guitar performances.

Yet, the one-man performance, while similar sonically, is far removed from Chatham’s compositions. Daniell, in a feat that would be impossible with a guitar army, oscillates between the cosmic and the personal, effortlessly fusing orchestral power and scope with the intimacy of a solo performance.

This recording, from Daniell’s February 12 performance at ISSUE, was a part of the Unsound Festival, presented by the Polish Cultural Institute, among many others. Daniell’s recent Table of the Elements release, I IV V I, was a part of their Guitar Series, which is ongoing. All of his albums are available from his site, as well as from various other independent stores.


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david daniell
jason on 03/05/2010 at 12:17PM

Infinite Limbs: GDFX, Thick Business

At a Monday night Death By Audio show a couple years back, Greg Fox, one of Teeth Mountain's four percussionists, passed along a sampler from his new Infinite Limbs label. This hand-painted cd-r introduced me to so much good music from the likes of Prince Rama of Ayodhya, Twisty Cat, Liturgy, Ducktails, and one Willy Weird...

Willy Weird, now known as Thick Business, is the solo project of frequent Infinite Limbs collaborator Tyler Dussenberry. Take a listen to the bad acid electro-surf jam "French Beach" (off that Infl comp), and the aptly titled, trance-inducing layered minimalism of "Smoothest Runes" (originally posted by 20 Jazz Funk Greats)!

The Infinite Limbs compilation also featured a track from Greg's solo project 5 Limbs, now known as GDFX. Greg's early solo stuff applied a percussionists' approach to loop pedals and sequencers to create hyper-active beat-oriented composition. Take a listen to the epic Altered Ego -- especially the 23rd and 24th minutes...

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