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Heavy Rotation: Japanese jazz, Fahey-esque guitar, Madlib, Splatter, processed vocals

This is what I’ve been most focused on, listening-wise, this past week:

(1) If it’s possible to imagine a merging of Charles Mingus’s muddy, deeply felt jazz and Morton Feldman’s proto-ambient classical arrangements, this may be it: The track “Itsuki no Komoriuta” off the Fujin Raijin album by the Sakoto Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble (Les Disques Victo, 2007). While the rest of the set tends toward artful chamber-jazz singed with cacophony, this piece starts with  quiet yet feral cat-like noises from piano and strings and ventures into long tones before rising to a late-in-the-game climax.

(2) Even with the John Fahey-esque guitar runs that constitute such as albums as Sunshrine and O True Believers, the latter spiced with sitar, there was little in introspective guitarist James Blackshaw‘s output to necessarily prepare listeners for the Metal Machine Music-quality industrial drone that is “Clouds Collapse” off his excellent recent The Cloud of the Unknowing (Tompkins Square, 2007). (A review last week by nytimes.com‘s Jon Pareles, who described “Clouds Collapse” as “the album’s brief textural diversion,” induced me to check it out.)

(3) There’s a sped-up vocal, yeah, on rapper Percee P‘s “Watch Your Step,” produced by Madlib (it’s off Percee’s Perseverance album — both single and album on Stones Throw, 2007), and those tweaked whines certainly are de rigueur these days in hip-hop (and, perhaps someday soon, they’ll be déclassé), but it’s how that unnaturally high-pitched voice alternates in the spotlight with some taut, 1970s-style strings that truly distinguishes the track. The result, with its almost swinglessly strict 4/4 beat, is like some sort of industrial Zen soul music. Instrumental available on the 12″.

(4) The track “Glitchfarben” on last year’s Clear the Club (Rastascan, 2007) by the Splatter 3 + N (that’s the Splatter Trip plus guests, including Dave Slusser and Les Paterson) homes in on an unlikely genre-parallel: the sqwonky up’n’around-the-instrument of out-jazz horn playing and the pixel-level randomized noise of so-called “glitch” electronica. The Splatter Trio, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, consists of the multi-instrumentalists Dave Barrett (saxophones, ocarina), Myles Boisen (doubleneck guitar/bass, keyboard, sonics), and Gino Robair (drums, synths, organ, theremin, rhythm guitar).

(5) Last week’s Disquiet Downstream entries were a particularly rich group, including archival Morton Feldman (disquiet.com) and a preliminary sketch of a Leafcutter John track (disquiet.com), but perhaps the most singular piece was a live performance of Vesna Pisarovic‘s voice reworked by Roberto Garréton (disquiet.com), posted for free download at dnk-amsterdam.com. For the most of the piece, Garréton’s electronics send the voice through an exhausting exercise course of techniques, from waifish chorale to spectral whisps to data chatter (MP3).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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