Sunday, October 30, 2011

Steve Reich - Music For 18 Musicians (3 Versions)

Steve Reich - Music For 18 Musicians (ECM New Series, ECM 1129, 1978) (320)

Steve Reich - Music For 18 Musicians (New Recording) (Nonesuch Records, 7559-73448-2, 1998) (320)

Steve Reich - Ensemble Modern - Music For 18 Musicians (RCA, 09026686722, 1999) (256aac)

So, the original is an insanely good album.  It should be required listening.  As we learned here, there was a rerecording of the album, also presented here.  I haven't heard that one as much to be honest.  And I just heard about the last recording yesterday, so I haven't heard it yet.

While I usually try to stay on top of newer releases with this site, I'll admit that I often have to simply drop everything in the pile of things that I want to review and go back to hear a familiar sound. I want to pull a well-worn release off the shelf and know that I can put it in and find an hour of bliss. Over the course of the past week, I found myself doing it more than once with Music For 18 Musicians, and while many have already heard his name before and listened to his work, I decided that I would try to review this release, one of my favorite pieces of work by him, if only to expose one more person to its majesty.

Composed in 1976 by Reich, this is a piece that goes down as a classic in my view. Although some of his earlier work with tape manipulations now sounds a bit dated and simply doesn't hold up as well, the beauty of Music For 18 Musicians still sounds as fresh to me now as anything that I've heard lately. This particular release on Nonesuch, recorded in 1996 is actually about 11 minutes longer than the original composition, but that length really only adds to the bliss of the piece. At 14 tracks and almost 67 minutes of music, it's just over an hourlong excursion into what feels like a safer place.

Performed by musicians, just as the title states, it actually might fall into what many would consider 'trance' music. It's highly repetitive, and while it bears no relation to the crap being pedalled as trance music these days, it's nearly as hypnotic as any music you'll find. With vocals, stringed instruments, lots of percussive elements (vibraphone, gamelan, marimba, maracas), pianos, and clarinets, it's one of those pieces of music that you can trace back to as a starting point for not only individual artists, but genres as well. It blends non-western, classical, and even a touch of jazz for something that was original at the time, and still stands solidly on that ground.

With all this praise I'm heaping on this piece, I must warn that if you don't enjoy repetitive music, you probably won't appreciate this release quite as much. While it is repetitive, though, it's far from minimal (although it's grouped into that category often). Unfurling over the course of 11 different parts, as well as phasing pieces that lead into and end the overall composition, it breathes like something real and organic as each instrument and voice take their place with the harmony and again blend back down into the mix. It's constantly moving and shifting, and while there are moments of quieter transition, there are also ones of breathtaking splendor as melodies overlap and change speed while different instruments come into and out of focus. It's like taking several different minimal paintings printed on transparencies and subtly shifting them over one another to create new pieces as you see colors blend into one another and fold into something new each time.

Considering that the piece is one that's performed by actual people, the juxtaposition of the different elements is quite amazing (of course, imagining how you would program something like this electronically also staggers the mind), and as mentioned before, you can hear little bits of everyone from Tortoise to different electronic artists like Vladislav Delay and Gas (Mike Ink) having developed parts from it. While their were groundbreaking pieces both before and after it, it's one of those recordings that will envelope you if you allow it to. So, if you're a fan of modern electronic music or even post rock, you should probably hunt down this release and hear it at least once. If you can, simply stop doing everything else, pop it in the CD player and relax with it on a pair of headphones for the entirety of the release. You'll come to just under 70 minutes later when the CD stops spinning, and chances are you'll want to do it again sometime. I certainly do.
Info on rerecording:
"This new recording is eleven minutes longer than the original [ECM Records]" Music For 18 Musicians revisited by K. Robert Schwarz. Recorded October 1996 at the Hit Factory New York City, the piece was originally composed twenty years earlier in 1976.
A very good Amazon review on the Ensemble version:

I own all three recordings of Music For 18 Musicians; I suggest that for anyone who is truly interested in the work, owning all three is a must.

In order of preference for me, the recordings go ECM, RCA, and Nonesuch.

No recording of 18 quite captures the piece as it sounds live. (I've had the luck to see it twice with Steve Reich & Musicians at the San Francisco Symphony.) However, the ECM version comes close to duplicating the timbre of the real thing. To my ears, it sounds the most "live".

The RCA/Ensemble Modern recording is perhaps the best performed. Ensemble Modern emphasizes Reich's earlier philosophies about music as a process; they clearly delineate the various instruments and lines in the recording, and they properly accentuate the lead mallet lines. (I say "proper" because that's what it sounded like when I saw 18 performed live.) What this recording lacks in lush beauty, it gains in near-academic perfection.

The new Nonesuch recording was designed from the ground up to be a recording, not a live performance. Most instruments are close-mic'd, which gives the odd feeling of standing next to all of the instruments at the same time. I love it for its open spaces, surprising tempo, and stunning imaging of the mallet instruments. It is as lush and beautiful as the ECM recording, but I prefer the subtleties and pacing of the ECM more.       

discogs here and here and here
buy it here and here and here

Monday, October 10, 2011

Proswell - Merck Mix 4

Proswell - Merck Mix 4 (Mixed by Proswell) (Merck, MERCK MIX4, 2004) (320)

This mix is a bit different as all the tracks are by Proswell.  I'll be honest, I haven't listened to this one as much as the other ones.  I don't even remember why, I probably bought a bunch of cds at one time and this didn't get as much love.  I should throw this in my car to recheck it out.

EDIT:  I guess Proswell renamed this to Death Incarnate and is giving it away also here:

We are proud to announce Merck Mix #4, a record marking the 5th anniversary of Merck Records. The mix also serves as a celebration of the accomplishments of Proswell. His music knowledge and networking contributions have expanded electronic music in Chicago and around the world in new directions for the past 10 years with online projects such as inpujet. This disc all together is a milestone of work in the discography of Proswell and the first artist exclusive mix in the Merck catalog. The mix consists entirely of original Proswell material selected by Proswell himself, and browses through previous Merck releases Konami (2003) and Carrot Dossier (2004), as well as new unreleased tracks. Starting off the CD is a track recorded live at the very first Native Instruments Artist Highlight [NIAH] in Chicago, and it continues from there to delve into dancier remixes and headnod breaks from various points in his catalog.

Various - Merck Mix 3

Various - Merck Mix 3 (Mixed by Ben Cormier & Dan Hartrell) (Merck, MERCK MIX3, 2004) (320)

This mix has a ton more songs, but also includes some killer tracks by the likes of Secede, Proem (that last song is so so good), Adam Johnson, and Landau.  Probably my favorite of these four mixes.

01 Landau - Six Ways To Sunday
02 Machine Drum - New Too
03 Adam Johnson - Some Say
04 Sense - Korma
05 Machine Drum - Lackluster Mix (28/04/01)
06 Ilkae - Setzer Remix
07 Esem - Kyes Ivrload
08 Proem - Pinching Point
09 Proswell - Columbo Theme
10 Secede - Bye Bye Gridlock Traffic
11 Proem - When Frailty Fails
12 MD - 5n9
13 Ilkae - Proem Remix
14 Deceptikon - Way Of The Samurai
15 Helios - Velius
16 Frank And Bill - MA0x4
17 Ilkae - Smok Ballet
18 Aphilas - Collective Memory Loss
19 Proswell - S Sixty E
20 Landau - Brokenfader Break
21 Blamstrain - List
22 Chimerical Child - Serene
23 Ilkae - Cinnamon Dragon Blues
24 Tiki Obmar - Adolescent Blues
25 Secede - Greetings Twinsunian
26 Machine Drum - Hello My Future
27 Ilkae - Landau Remix
28 Vae - Possible To Rue
29 Deceptikon - Germanic
30 Mr. Projectile - I Am Black
31 Oblq - Pain In My Gulliver
32 Deceptikon - Inaccessibility
33 Lackluster - Suntrapez (Brothomstates Timing Techniques)
34 Aphilas - Blind Matador
35 Lackluster - 030503
36 Mr. Projectile - Slow Rewards
37 Shift - Bottle Caps
38 Deceptikon - Narcissus
39 Ilkae - Scarlet
40 Syndrome - Cessation; Summation
41 Lackluster - Strateface
42 Landau - Ways Home
43 Helios - Clementine
44 Mr. Projectile - You Need
45 Proswell - Duck
46 Proem - Place Gun To Head

Various - Merck Mix 2

Various - Merck Mix 2, Summer 2003 (Mixed by Ben Cormier & Dan Hartrell) (Merck, MERCK MIX2, 2003) (320)

This is like the previous mix.  A great sampler of tunes from the fabulous Merck catalog.  You should check it.  Also way out of print

01 Machinedrum – Half The Battle
02 Morris Nightingale – N.Y. Highrise Hotel
03 Machinedrum – T.V.M. (All Bitches & Wheels Proemix by Proem)
04 Ilkae – Tev-Lev
05 MD – Kkowboy
06 Proswell – August 31st
07 Ilkae – Orange Line
08 Kristuit Salu – Usually
09 Machinedrum – Wishbone Be Broken
10 MD – Kingsizebullmaster
11 Esem – Swift Urban Departure
12 Syndrone – Triskaideka
13 Adam Johnson – Kriegspiel
14 Brothomstates – Mdrmx
15 Esem – Alipe Lacks
16 Blamstrain – Turn Back
17 Lackluster – 28-06-00
18 MD – Untitled 7
19 Machinedrum – Reiveurs (Brothomstates Remix)
20 Lackluster – 18-10-99
21 Proem – Negativ Reinforcements
22 Ilkae – Sushifruit
23 Ilkae – Hublander
24 Machinedrum – Def In It
25 Ilkae – Concord Low
26 Proswell – Jasmine My Serious Flower
27 Ilkae – Pear Vale (o9 Remix)
28 MD – Untitled 5
29 Adam Johnson – Anex
30 Syndrone – Candidate
31 Blamstrain – Linja
32 Adam Johnson – Version02
33 Proem – Below Me Reds
34 Machinedrum – Jewlea
35 Brothomstates – 24101999
36 Ilkae – Elve


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tortoise - Remixed

Tortoise - Remixed (Thrill Jockey, thrill 12.09, 1998) (320)

I love Tortoise.  Easily one of the most talented band going right now.  I got the pleasure of seeing them a couple times a few years back, and both shows were fantastic.  I almost saw them a few years earlier with Daniel Lanois, oh well.  A buddy of mine saw them play with Mouse On Mars... now that would have been nuts.  I don't care, I'm glad I saw 'em.  I think the Standards album is my favorite of theirs, but this is a solid package from a while back.  Remixes by UNKLE, Luke Vibert, Markus Popp (of Oval and Microstoria), Jim O'Rourke, Spring Heel Jack, and band members: John McEntire and Bundy K. Brown.

1. DJED (Bruise Blood Mix by UNKLE)
2. TJED (Remix by John McEntire)
3. Bubble Economy (Remix by Markus Popp)
4. Learning Curve (Remix by Markus Popp)
5. Galapagos Version One (Remix by Spring Heel Jack)
6. Reference Resistance Gate (Remix by Jim O'Rourke)
7. Taut & Tame (Luke Vibert Remix)
8. Find The One (Remix by Bundy K. Brown)

I doubt you need another review on this one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Polar - Still Moving

Polar - Still Moving (Certificate 18, cer18 cd013, 2001) (320)

I remember seeing this on the store rack used for like $8.  I quickly demo'd it at the station and immediately bought it.  It is a release that I continually go back to.  For those who liked that Partisan comp I posted a few weeks ago, this is way up your alley.  Drum n bass, done right.  But not strictly dnb.  I'd really recommend hearing it once.  The guy's production of beats and sounds are very good.

01. Bipolar Suns
02. Backlight
03. Inside The Plot
04. Nascent Dream
05. Near The Horizon
06. White Walls
07. The White Chambers
08. Still Moving
09. Red Triangles
10. Ill-Formed
11. Nightwatch
12. 5am

Good discogs review:
On his second album, STILL MOVING, Polar is still chill, but this time moves into sci-fi territory. The strange tones and disembodied voices on “Backlight” sound like a haunted space station, especially with that Vincent Price chuckle in there. The heavy drag of “Ill-Formed” sound similarly futuristic. But there are a few moments of warmth that seep through: the harmonic tones and fiddle of “Inside the Plot,” for instance, or the music box tinkling of “White Walls,” even as a freaky snippet from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” bridges it and its companion track, “The White Chambers.” The title track certainly does keep things moving at a quick clip, and “Red Triangles” maintains the melodic tip. There are less exciting moments too, like the cliché drug-related samples on “Nascent Dream,” but the double dark dose of “Nightwatch” and “5AM” pull things through at the end. Still moving isn’t quite right, since Polar hasn’t stopped.