On Repeat: Sakamoto; Kasten-Krause + Pavone; Longobardi

Recent favorite listens

I’m getting back in the habit of posting brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ It’s hard not to think about death when listening to the new Ryuichi Sakamoto album, 12, since the Japanese legend has been fighting Stage 4 cancer, and his recent livestream has been described as potentially his last concert. In addition, earlier this month his fellow co-founder of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Yukihiro Takahashi, died at age 70 (Sakamoto is a year older). It’s a gorgeous album, and a somber one, as well, with echoes of Erik Satie, Angelo Badalamenti, and even William Basinski, thanks to frequent elements of glacial soundscapes, notably on the opening cut. Sakamoto has at least one more release due out this year, his score for the film Monster, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda (whose Shoplifters was scored by the third co-founder of YMO, Haruomi Hosono).


▰ The first track to appear from the upcoming collaborative album, Images of One, by Tristan Kasten-Krause (double bass) and Jessica Pavone (viola) is the record’s final of four, “On Axis.” Despite the instrumentation’s broad range in timbre and audio spectrum, it becomes admirably difficult to tell where one part ends and the next begins, so simpatico is their exploration of such contemporary classical modes as stillness, atonality, and silence.


▰ Luca Longobardi, based in Italy, mixes widely spaced tones with crackly sound design in this understated live performance. I recommend his Instagram for glimpses into his creative process, including work that went into his forthcoming album, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Recomposed.

On Repeat: Earth, Wind, and Conceptual Guitar

Recent favorites

I’m getting back in the habit of posting brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ The opening of the new Earth album, Even Hell Has Its Heroes, the soundtrack to an upcoming documentary (directed by Clyde Petersen) about the band, is the perfect way to celebrate Droneuary. And then it evolves into something revelatory, as only an Earth performance can. It’s just Dylan Carlson, guitar, and Adrienne Davies, drums, though several other musicians do appear later on the album, including Mell Dettmer on Moog (what Moog specifically I’m not sure). Even by Earth’s subharmonic standards, this is an often rewardingly subdued collection. (Oh, and the striking cover art, featuring Carlson’s profile, is by Richey Beckett.)


▰ This cover of “I Put a Spell on You” by Alice Smith is an incredible rendition (veering-on-minimalist reduction when it starts) of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song, heard here as channeling the accusatory syllabic insistence of Nina Simone’s classic recording (Smith herself recorded it previously for the various artists compilation Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone, back in 2015, and it’s clear that subsequent years of consideration have given her insights into every nook and cranny of the composition). It’s part of the Gagosian gallery’s ongoing video series (which included a Bill Laswell / John Zorn team-up I mentioned here last week). Smith is supported on piano by Dennis Hamm, who manages to stay out of her way without being utterly erased by the sheer power of her voice. It’s quite something.

How Will I Know This Will Make a Memory, the latest from Cinchel, is gorgeous both sonically and conceptually. The title/opening track is a live concert recording from back in the middle of last year: layers of processed guitar achieving a cloudy, looping ambient quality that extends for three quarters of an hour. Two other tracks rework that material into even denser, at times downright orchestral, splendor. And the final track is a test run that precedes everything we’ve heard thus far: it’s Cinchel’s recording of his rehearsal for the concert performance that constitutes the first track.


▰ The Golden Gate Bridge has gained unintended renown in recent years because of how recent re-engineering has led to it emitting singing-like tones when the wind picks up. I live less than three miles from the bridge, as the (numerous and territorial local) corvids fly, and I can often hear it from my backyard. This tweet from during the recent storms captures that drone from inside a car as it crosses the bridge — and for bonus cinematic flair, it features an overturned tractor trailer. The footage is like a clip from a Michael Mann or Nicolas Winding Refn film, score and all.

On Repeat: Schulz, Zorn, Seidel, Quayle

Recent favorites

The new year is still new, and I’m getting back in the habit of posting brief mentions each Sunday of my favorite listening from the week prior:

▰ The prolific Jeannine Schulz closed out last year with three tracks of lightly abrasive ambient mist. Interestingly, the accompanying image shows a cassette, though the release is digital-only, so presumably some of this texture has to do with cassettes being employed as part of the recording process.

▰ John Zorn and Bill Laswell improvise in the richly reverberant space of the Gagosian gallery in Manhattan, responding to the array of paintings by artist Sterling Ruby. And it’s worth mentioning how well the filming and editing, by Lea Khayata’s Pushpin Films, function.

▰ Not only has Dave Seidel released a beautiful experiment in slow chord progressions, but he’s posted the performance — in this case using the free VCV Rack software synthesizer — with step-by-step annotation:

▰ I’ve never seen the 2022 TV series Gaslit, but I’ve listened repeatedly to its music, which was composed by Mac Quayle. Quayle worked on some of my favorite Cliff Martinez scores, including Arbitrage and The Company You Keep, as well as Drive, Contagion, Spring Breakers, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Only God Forgives. The track “Trash Can S’mores,” with its noir-ish use of horns, acoustic bass, percussion, and other jazz elements, is a standout.

136 Strings Can’t Be Wrong

Ellen Fullman and company

You should, I hope, have a spare two minutes and ten seconds. And if you don’t, then you need this video even more than those of us to whom such a concept is not entirely foreign:

This is footage of musician Ellen Fullman performing with Travis Andrews and Andy Meyerson, a duo who go by the Living Earth Show. Ellen Fullman just goes by Ellen Fullman, but she does have a sonic biosphere of her own. That would be her Long String Instrument, a massive installation of fine strings that can be extended for dozens upon dozens of feet. Wherever Long String is installed — and I’ve personally experienced the tremendous impression it makes — not just her music it emits but the instrument itself fills the given space majestically.

The video is an excerpt of Elemental View, a forthcoming document of an “expansive installation [that] inhabits an industrial sized space with 136 strings.” And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s a screening on November 19 in Oakland at Mills Performing Arts, where Fullman is currently the David Tudor Composer-in-Residence. This event will occur in the Littlefield Concert Hall foyer, which is apparently where Fullman first installed her instrument 37 years ago.

Arve Henriksen’s Ambient Jazz

Re-listening to Towards Language (2017)

Arve Henriksen’s album Towards Language (Rune Grammofon) came out just over five years ago. It’s an essential catalog item for the growing library of what has come to be called “ambient jazz” — what used to be, when there was far less of this stuff, simply thought of as “music in the tradition of Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way.” The lush-yet-minimalist record teamed the Norwegian trumpeter with his countrymen Jan Bang and Erik Honoré (who have worked with numerous electronically mediated trumpeters, including Jon Hassell and Nils Petter Molvær).

Here is Towards Language on YouTube. You should start at the beginning, but if you’re looking for a key track, I recommend “Hibernal.”

And once you’ve gotten it under your skin, check out this live performance, which turns the trio into a quartet with the addition of guitarist Eivind Aarset: