Friday, April 13, 2012

Jaap Blonk "Voice Studies" (c20), Janek Schaefer "Asleep at the Wheel...Mixtape" (c40) [My Dance the Skull]

Get rid of notes and instruments! Who needs these tired tropes? Strip naked and express all that is life with only that of the sound which lives within. The crying of children and the preaching of the street corner evangelist exist as song as much as a commercial radio hit. All sound is music. All music needs to be recorded. The London based publishing house and tape label My Dance the Skull dives into difficult music with a series they call "Voice Studies." Their seventh study is a 20 minute tape by noted vocal improvisor - composer - poet Jaap Blonk. Side A is titled "Approximate Air" and is the sound of multi-tracked vocal air. Whispering, sighing, and breathing collide and rumble with one another producing some wonderful polyrhythms. The piece builds with grumble growls and shouts and before you know it, its all over. Side B is titled "Apostatic Aria" and features shouting and aggressive human vocalizing. At times the multiple voices almost seem to be filling the space of classic "loud-soft" guitar riff dynamics. This piece of vocal improv is less exciting to me than the first, but that is a very small complaint. This is adventurous listening and certainly not for everyone, but for those who want a diversion from conventional, Jaap Blonk's contribution to My Dance the Skull's series of vocal studies is worth the time. Great tape! The "Voice Studies" all come in clean white j-cards with simple black font - very serious and no nonsense. I would like to hear them all! (Thurston Moore contributed to the series, but his tape is sold out.)


Janek Schaefer is a London based sound architect, which is convenient because before he began creating musical art he actually studied architecture! This academic training didn't last as he discovered what amazing structures could be built with sonic walls. Since I'm from Austin, TX the phrase "Asleep at the Wheel" brings to mind country music made by a band also named Asleep at the Wheel, but Schaefer's album IS NOT country music. It is a collection of original music from an installation which took place at Milton Keynes International Festival 2010. Side A is labeled "Driving Through Dawn" and contains a variety of compositions that drift by like shadowy figures glimpsed from the peripheral vision of an insomniac driver. The crackling warp of far off melodies disappear then return and guitar lines rise out of half remembered songs before they too become paranoid reminders of dark secrets left behind in a town no one wants to recall. Schaefer's composition is the REAL soundtrack to the movie Drive. Side B is labeled "Wonderful" and is the slight ray of hope at the end of a dark film. Sustained drones are the glue that hold together this piece of ambient music and what a compliment to the first side's fractured half awake state of uncertainty. Very cool!


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