May 18, 2017

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 13: Joanna Brouk Tribute

My newest mix for NTS Radio is a two hour tribute to Joanna Brouk, who passed away this month at 68. Considered one of the early founders of New Age, Brouk never referred to herself as a composer, but rather insisted that she was a vessel for the music that flowed through her. Her work sat somewhere in between new age, drone, minimalism, and classically inclined ambient, with a curiosity and a roughness reminiscent of pioneering early electronic music. You can buy her excellent compilation released last year by Numero Group here. There's also a great interview with her here in which she talks about her early processes and her work in sound healing.

She often said that it was the space between the notes in which interesting things start to happen, and that music has to slow down in order to get there. I put this mix together of things that, to me, are similarly interested in space and silence. Some of these songs were written by her contemporaries; others are just things that I hope she might have liked. If you like it, there will be an mp3 download link here in a week. Thank you for everything, Joanna!

1. Joanna Brouk - Healing Music (excerpt)
2. Francesco Messina - Prati Bagnati Del Monte Alalogo (excerpt)
3. Kudsi Erguner & Xavier Bellenger - Apu-Caylioch / Le Seigneur Des Étoiles
4. Kevin Braheny - Lullaby for the Hearts of Space (excerpt)
5. John Clark - The Abhà Kingdom (excerpt)
6. Masahiro Sugaya - 水-(1)
7. Craig Kupka - Clouds II (excerpt)
8. Iasos - The Winds of Olympus
9. Daniel - Quartz Crystal Bells (Side A) (excerpt)
10. Daniel Kobialka - Planetary Mysteries
11. Ojas - Shiva Dance (excerpt)
12. Jansen / Barbieri - The Way The Light Falls
13. Hiroshi Yoshimura - Water Planet
14. Alice Damon - Waterfall Winds
15. Joanna Brouk - Golden Cloud Layers

May 11, 2017

Daniel - Quartz Crystal Bells, 1988

Pristine crystal overtones. Most of this moves at glacial speeds, with a few stretches of more active composition. While singing bowls go back hundreds of years, crystal singing bowls (made from silica quartz) weren't manufactured until the mid-80s when they were used to grow silicon computer chips. They weren't marketed as healing instruments until the early 90s, meaning Quartz Crystal Bells is one of the pioneering recordings of crystal singing bowls. Recorded live on a set of twelve bowls between 8" and 18" in diameter, with Daniel Lauter as well as Donna Soszynski and Kim Atkinson on the bowls, and recorded by Bernard Xolotl (reminder to post some Bernard Xolotl).

This is a decent quality tape rip with some room tone, but if you like it I'd highly recommend buying a re-mastered version directly from Daniel, which is divided up into five tracks rather than two sides.

May 8, 2017

Cristina - Cristina, 1980

So good. Cristina was a Harvard drop-out who was working as a writer for The Village Voice when she met (and eventually married) Michael Zilkha, who was in the process of getting the now-legendary ZE Records off the ground. He encouraged her to record a song called "Disco Clone," written by a former Harvard classmate of hers, which became ZE's first release in 1978 and featured John Cale production (and, moreover, is really good).

Cristina (later reissued as Doll in the Box) was the first of her two full-lengths. Short and sweet, it was produced by August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts, and you can hear his signature brassy tropical camp all over it. The heavily textured Latin-jazz percussion brings to mind some of New York no wave's more polished, dancefloor-ready groups, except it's fronted by a snarky, jaded Betty Boop. Cristina's vocals are simultaneously flippant and flirty, often splintering off into multiple personas in dialogue with each other. She leans into that heavy-handed sardonicism even more on her follow-up, Sleep It Off, a grittier piece of electro boasting a proto-Slave to the Rhythm Jean-Paul Goude cover. While Cristina was met with moderate acclaim, Sleep It Off was a commercial flop (so dumb! it's really good!), leading to Cristina's musical retirement (though she's still a writer). Thank you Caroline for putting me onto this!

May 3, 2017

John Clark - Faces, 1981

Another gem from the ECM catalogue. Brooklyn-born jazz horn player John Clark hasn't made many records as a bandleader, but has been hugely prolific and has recorded and performed with Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, Chick Corea, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Leonard Bernstein, among many others. He's still a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music.

Faces is disarmingly beautiful in ways that I don't typically expect to hear from a jazz record (though I'm admittedly a jazz idiot). The cover image feels very apt: in addition to much of this being a very quiet record, it also has a ghostly quality, suggesting faint impressions from a carbon copy done too lightly. That vaporous, trailing-behind sensation is echoed in the generous reverb on both the horn and the electric cello, suggesting watercolors or streaks of neon in street puddles. Despite all these murky descriptors, there's joy to be found all over it: "Silver Rain, Pt. III" is a nod to steel-drum tropical sunshine, and closer "You Did It, You Did It!" is almost baroque in its exuberance. There are some really nice notes about Faces on ECM Reviews, which, incidentally, is an excellent resource if you're as daunted as I am by the ECM catalogue. Thank you Gil and all day breakfast for bringing me here!