album reviews + press
Soheil Shirangi + Shervin Abassi
Brilliant, Haunting New Works From Iranian Composers Soheil Shirangi and Shervin Abbasi
by Delarue – New York Music Daily
Teheran-based composers Soheil Shirangi and Shervin Abbasi have released an aptly titled, haunting new album Maelstrom. It’s a diverse but persistently dark collection of works for both solo instruments and small ensembles. The two draw on influences from European minimalism and traditional Iranian sounds. In a year of one horror after another – especially in Iran, which was one of the first countries crippled by propaganda and hysteria – this is indelibly an album for our time. Yet the music here also offers considerable hope and even devious humor.
The first work is Trauma, a Shirangi trio composition played by cellists Ella Bokor and Mircea Marian with accordionist Fernando Mihalache. The strings enter with a syncopated, mutedly shamanic drive that quickly rises to an insistent pedal point. The accordion first serves as a wary chordal anchor while the cellos diverge and then return with an increasingly stricken intensity, then wind out with plaintive washes.
Violinist Mykola Havyuk, clarinetist Yaroslav Zhovnirych and pianist Nataliya Martynova play Abbasi’s The Rebellion, beginning more hauntingly microtonal, its austere resonance punctuated by simple, forlorn piano incisions. Eerie, circling chromatics from the piano underscore troubled, anthemic phrases. A couple of vigorous flicks under the lid signals a wounded call-and-response: slowly but resolutely, a revolution flickers and eventually leaps from the desolation. The obvious comparison is the livelier moments in Messiaen’s Quartet For the End of Time.
By contrast, To Lose Hope – another Abbasi piece, featuring clarinetist Mykola Havyuk and a string quartet comprising violinists Marko Komonko and Petro Titiaiev, violist Ustym Zhuk and cellist Denys Lytvynenke – first takes shape as a hazy cavatina, Havyuk’s crystalline leads balanced by brooding cello and shivery vibrato from the rest of the strings. It’s the most distinctly Iranian piece here. The jauntiness, acerbity and suspense that follow are unexpectedly welcome. The point seems to be that hope is where you find it.
Afrooch, an Abbasi solo work played by violinist Farmehr Beyglou, requires daunting extended technique, shifting back and forth between ghostly harmonics, moody atmosphere, insistently hammering riffs, shivery crescendos and a call-and-response that grows from enigmatic to puckish. The ending is too funny to give away.
The closing composition, Shirangi’s The Common Motivations is a solo piano piece, Sahel Abaei’s low murk contrasting with muted inside-the-gestures, expanding with spacious minimalist accents and eventually forlorn, Messiaenic belltone chords. If this is characteristic of the new music coming out of Iran these days, the world needs to hear more of it.
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Campsites — Doug Haire
“[Campsites is] atmospheric and rich in nuance.”
by Guillermo Escudero – Loop, Santiago, Chile
Doug Haire is a experienced sound artist with 30 years as a recording engineer and producer. He has credits in something like 400 albums and 8 albums of his authorship.
He’s member of Seattle’s Phonographer’s Union, a collective of sound artists, composers, and recordists who improvise live in real time with unprocessed field recordings.
He founded the Sonarchy radio show in Seattle 22 years back and he has produced hour-long live broadcasts that provide avant-garde musicians with a space to perform, experiment, and develop their ideas.
“Campsite” collects field recordings such as the sounds of a train horn, a campfire, a barking of a dog, while thick layers of drones are the backdrop for this environment which is in the outskirts of the city. Silence is also an element in this album because behind those minimalist processed sounds, there is a pristine, pure space on which our listening is focused. As an example, on “Campsite # 16 River Donner und Blitzen” a subtle heavenly choir hovers in the environment as birdsongs and streams of water complete this bucolic image. The flip side of this album are the haunting atmospheres of “Jackblock Campsite” as well as the track that opens this album, “Campsite Nocturne # 3”. This album displays a soundscape rich in nuances and atmospheres.
“Campsites is as pictorial as a sound-work can be and leaves a lasting impression of an artists vision, offering his experiences to any open-minded listeners.”
by Carston S.– Chain D.L.K., Germany
This collection of sound-pieces is the work of a very experienced recording engineer—Doug Haire from Seattle, USA. He has dedicated many years to supporting experimental musicians with the radio show “Sonarchy” and recording exclusives for it. He is also a member of the Seattle Phonographers Union—a collective working and performing with unprocessed field-recordings since 2002. Campsites is his first solo release since 2012’s Removed And Haunted.
I imagine him now retired from session work, sitting by the campfire and capturing the moods. It is really incredible how he transmits the atmospheres with his field recordings which are later supplied with resonant drones. This reflecting on the reflection is executed with true mastery.
The overall calm sounds aided by the underlying subliminal drones lead inescapably to a loss of the sense of time.
The seven tracks are all subtle individual works, but a coherent whole. None are too lengthy and all mixing, mastering and production was done solely by Doug Haire himself.
I’ve found myself sitting suddenly in the last fading light of the day, mentally completely caught up in the moment – just like a campfire meditation – with engaged senses fully aware of the never ending surroundings. Campsites is as pictorial as a sound-work can be and leaves a lasting impression of an artists vision, offering his experiences to any open-minded listeners.
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Bile Noire from
Strotter Inst. + Peter Vukmirovic Stevens
“[Bile Noire] really stirs the fireplace and stokes the mental boilers…”
from The Sound Projector – London, UK
Quite taken with Bile Noire (ARPAVIVA AVLP 001), which is a vinyl item housed in a moody black cover on a new label Arpaviva which cites business locations in Los Angeles and Paris. It’s a team-up between Strotter Inst. and Peter Vukmirovic Stevens – Strotter Inst. is Christoph Hess, the Swiss turntablist who can’t put a tonearm wrong as far as we’re concerned and like most sensible folk we worship the very belt-drive of his kit. We last heard him on Miszellen, a double LP of fairly staggering proportions for the Hallowground label which showed him teaming up with notables and big names from the world of art music and underground noise.
Today’s record could be read more as a showcase for the piano of Peter Vukmirovic Stevens, and Strotter Inst. exhibits grace and restraint with his subdued, minimal contributions to the work – almost relegating himself to a background, time-keeping role – but his distinctive imaginative moves still win through. Stevens appears to have achieved a certain worldwide renown already with his compositions for orchestras and orchestral music, has picked up a few prizes for his mantelpiece, and still finds time to make colourful abstract and pictorial art. But his piano work here really stirs the fireplace and stokes the mental boilers, mainly by his use of lower-register notes to evoke dark and brooding emotions. Already I feel like we’re in a dank 19th century salon in some non-existent European country where, due to time warps and inter-dimensional distortions, the course of history has been drastically altered and everyone lives under the yoke of multiple right-wing regimes, yet people still find time to act the part of the decadent dandy type replete in velvet cape and top hat. Matter of fact such a figure has left his gloves and cane on the piano lid and set down to deliver himself of these six exercises in grimitude and ghastlery.
“[Bile Noire] is a great musical experience. Terrific!”
by Zipo – Aufabwegen, Germany
“BILE NOIRE a perfect conceptual addition to the collection for both fans of electronic experimental music, as well as followers of contemporary classical music.”
from Baze.djunkIII – Nitestylez, Germany
Postcard from Heaven by
“It is impossible to describe what 20 highly electronically manipulated harps sound like, but it certainly confounded my expectations…there is much delicacy here, fantastic detail, and sound combinations that are unique.”
by Peter Burwasser – Fanfare Magazine
“Jordanova performs with a wide range of sound quality and with the greatest devotion to the music’s profound absence of dramatic rhetoric.”
by Haskins – American Record Guide
“I hear polyphonic texture of various melodic parts, often in different rhythms, while other times I hear cascades of complex, ravishing chords. Jordanova performs with a wide range of sound quality and with the greatest devotion to the music’s profound absence of dramatic rhetoric. She also adds Cage’s ossia vocal part…beautifully performed by Pamela Z.”
“This music is so surprising, it approaches in some kind of free fall, totally relaxed and yet powerful, like the orbit of the International Space Station as it keeps on falling and falling around the Earth…”
by Ingvar Loco Nordin – Sonoloco Reviews
“I rarely get the sense of sheer beauty or spacious spiritual or physical realms when I listen to John Cage’s music…It’s often more of a witty practicality that comes to mind, or an auditive intellectualism with a quirky smile added in the corner of the mouth….but not this soaring beauty. That’s why this music is so surprising, as it approaches in some kind of free fall, totally relaxed and yet powerful, like the orbit of the International Space Station as it keeps on falling and falling around the Earth…”
“Mesmerizing…, Jordanova’s approach has given the work new life”
by Frank J. Otery – NewMusicBox
“Cage’s prophetically-titled Postcard from Heaven, a mesmerizing, roughly 40-minute 1982 composition scored for 20 harpists, receives its world premiere recording on this new disc from Arpaviva. Jordanova’s approach has given the work new life and, in fact, the work does sound like a postcard from heaven written by John Cage.”
“[Postcard from Heaven] is a strangely cool and cooling listening experience.”
by Josef Woodard – Notes on Film
“The “heaven” connection, with visions of spaced harpists playing without a coffee break for eternity, is half tongue-in-cheek. But only half. Victoria Jordanova does the harp honors, oscillating between a solo setting to rippling overdubs of 20 harps. Pamela Z supplies sustained and delayed sung tones, in what is a strangely cool and cooling listening experience.”
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In A Landscape by Victoria Jordanova
“…A blow-your-socks-off new sound—indeed a whole new realm of sound.”
by David Wolman – Fanfare Magazine
“I guess I always thought of harp as a delicate instrument suited for Debussy and played by long-haired pretty women. I had no idea it could be souped-up, amplified and multi-tracked, producing a blow-your-socks-off new sound—indeed a whole new realm of sound. Victoria Jordanova, originally from Yugoslavia, lives in America now and we are the richer for it, as she has single-handedly revised the script for harp and harp music. As performer, composer and curator, as well as producer of her own CD label, Jordanova is breaking new ground not only with the harp but with performance, improvisation and concert programming to boot.”
“Very strange and fascinating, very personal and delicate, full of great imagination is what Jordanova sounds [like].”
by Jan de Kruijff – Musicalifeiten, Netherlands
“[Jordanova] never lets tradition wear her down.”
by Ingvar Loco Nordin – Sonoloco Revews
“Jordanova uses a variety of harps and swings their lofty properties through technologies of her choice, always shaping new realms of audio; never playing it safe, never retorting to clichés or down-home formulas or principles. She never lets tradition wear her down. On the contrary, she shakes all those gluey, sticky memories off. This is a rare quality, not least among contemporary and avant-garde artists, who oftentimes are the most traditional ones, sticking to and canonizing an avant-gardism that was in swing a few decades earlier, in the 1960s or -70s.”
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Innerland by Stéphane Furic-Leibovici
“This is an incredible album…unlike anything you’ve probably heard. It’s one of the best things I’ve heard in a long while, and well worth discovering.”
by David Toub – Sequenza21
“An atmosphere achieved through research and conscious use of electro acoustic techniques in order to create sound spaces and dimensions yet unexplored.”
by Fred Audin – Classique Info Disque
“Innerland highlights fascinating [and] unusual idioms.”
by Jan de Kruijff – Musicalifeiten, Netherlands
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Panacea by Peter Vukmirovic Stevens
“Three crystalline works that bring a lot of light to our ears..”
by Marçal Borotau – Sonograma, Spain
Composer, pianist and visual artist Peter Vukmirovic Stevens presents a new album, Panacea, with music written for string quartet. There are three works, Panacea, Stateless and Inter Nos, were written between 2006 and 2016. The album was released by Arpaviva Recordings, an independent music label founded by composer and harpist Victoria Jordanova in 2002 in Los Angeles.Vukmirovic Stevens, with a great musical background, is a composer committed to the sociological and artistic movements that are provoked as a result of political and societal events which permeate our days.. In this album, the American composer has left his mark on the terrifying terrorist attacks in Paris and the political drift in Europe and the United States. And that’s where the title of their latest album comes from. Stevens states “Music and art serve as a panacea for the ills that humanity creates.” The composer transmits expressive force and inner fire through the musicians who perform his music. Misha Shmidt, Blayne Barnes, Mara Gearman, Paige Stockley are four leading and gifted performers. The three quartets maximize the sounds of the instruments, whether slow or fast movements. The thematic material, very vigorous chromatic themes, seeks to create ideas that live in the imagination of the composer and realized with great virtuosity by the performers. The result is three crystalline works that bring a lot of light to our ears.
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Phantasmagoria by Michael ZT Rose
“[Phantasamagoria] is the most succulent feast for the ears!”
– Jan Hocek, His Voice Magazine
“Immerse yourself into the mercilessly driven robotic-minimalism, with the lighting flashes of piano runs and the relentlessly flowing cascades of music in which the makeup of each song becomes the blueprint for the album as a whole. It is the most succulent feast for the ears!”
“It is immediately clear that composer [Michael ZT Rose] has something special and individual to offer.”