FRED SIMON: Remember the River – [TrackList follows] – Fred Simon – piano; Paul McCandless – English horn, oboe , sop. sax, bass clarinet, pennywhistle; Steve Rodby – doublebass – Naim CD081, 55:15 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:
Sundog – Insofar – [TrackList follows] – Arthur Jeffes – piano, dulcitone, Rhodes; Oli Langford, violin & ring modulator; James O. Lisle, Fender (tr. 14) – Editions Penguin OPC103, 67:00 [10/9/12] [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Fred Simon is a composer and pianist who has worked before with versatile reedman McCandless (of Oregon and others) and bassist Rodby. They assembled on a large concert stage in California and were recorded with top-quality fidelity for the audiophile label Naim. Simon’s dozen selections are in a sort of fantasy environment between New Age and jazz improvisation and immediately attractive. The variety of instruments McCandless comes up with contributes to the feeling of the program, and each one seems very appropriate to the particular selection. This will be yet another disc that I’ll go nuts trying to decide where to file it. The album was also released by Naim on vinyl.
TrackList:1. Kore (O Love, Where are you Leading me now?) 7:08
2. Remember the River 5:12 3. Double Dream 3:57 4. December Together 3:45 5. Time Will Tell 4:07 6. Revolver 4:55 7. Folk Songs of the Cold War 4:48 8. Listen to the Colour of your Dreams, part 1 3:19 9. Miracle Enough 6:44 10. Listen to the Colour of your Dreams, part 2 3:03 11. WWJTD 4:46 12. Isabel 2:34
The second CD comes out of the Arthur Jeffes’ Penguin Cafe world and is the debut album by his new group Sundog. He and his collaborator Oli Langford said they started out with the idea that would only use the sounds produced by their instruments, but wouldn’t stay in the chamber music area that seemed to indicate. Instead they used the tools of their studio to enhance, suppress, fiddle and in various ways get more original sounds of their instruments. They say while sometimes this resulted in simply pieces for piano and violin, other tracks proved more odd. And I can say bully to that!
For example, for the first track they decided all the sounds would come from the piano, but what they did to that piano! They used prepared piano techniques, making use of “boxes of stuff that inevitably get stored under a piano in a small studio.” They tapped, scratched, bashed and stamped on the bits of the piano they could get at. They particularly liked the satisfying thwack sound they got out of the pieces of wood at each end of the keyboard.
A later track “Machell” is the name of the inventor of the instrument heard here, the dulcitone, which I guess is producing the other sounds besides the piano which are heard; the piece is in 5/4 time. The closing track comes from a direction which Erik Satie put on one of his pieces: “To be Played with Both Hands in the Pockets.” They used a rock which they found could be made to sing, and balanced it on top of a contact mic placed on the frame of the piano, running the mic into an amp and speaker which they pointed directly back into the piano. They turning up the gain gradually while playing the piano they learned which note the rock wanted to sing. It was C Sharp, and they played it using a special technique that seemed to only work on Bluthner pianos.
The resulting sounds are not nearly as crazy as their descriptions sound; in fact they’re most enjoyable. My only complaint is Who got the increasingly popular idea to put liner notes all in CAPS? Makes them almost unreadable!
1. Light On Stone
3. For You, When It Rains…
4. Boso I
5. Boso II
6. The Heart Waits…
7. Shadows In Water
8. Parise (Song For Wayland)
10. Je Crois…
11. Things Fall Apart…
12. A Simple Loss
14. Both Hands In Pockets