Marcus Schmickler with Hayden Chisholm: Amazing Daze

Kraig Grady: Beyond the Windows Perhaps Among the Podcorn

A-Musik associate and experimental composer Marcus Schmickler (MIMEO, Pluramon) collaborates with saxophonist Hayden Chisholm on two long drones titled Amazing Daze (for Phill Niblock) and Infinity in the Shape of a Poodle (for Björk Gudmundsdottir). The album title's well chosen, as both pieces are immense slabs definitely capable of pulling the listener into their respective vortices. Eschewing saxophone for this outing, Chisholm plays bagpipes and sho (a Japanese free-reed mouth organ traditionally used to produce a chordal texture in Gagaku, the music of the Japanese court ) though often their sounds are absorbed into the massive electroacoustic rumble generated by Schmickler. The intensity escalates slowly in the first piece until it reaches an awesome and almost unbearable pitch at the nineteen-minute mark; opening with the shimmer of gleaming tones, the second is initially a little easier on the nerves, but eventually swells too until it becomes a disorienting caterwaul of nightmarish dissonance.

A drone of a considerably less harrowing kind arrives in the form of just intonation composer Kraig Grady's premiere full-length release, Beyond The Windows Perhaps Among The Podcorn, a 55-minute piece performed by a sextet comprised of Jessica Catron (cello), Elizabeth Schenck (saxophones), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Kris Tiner (trumpet), and Mia Doi Todd and Tara Tavi (voice). The players maintain an extended pitch throughout the recording which utilizes a tuning by Erv Wilson called ‘Meta-Meantone' which exploits vibrating chords and different tones. The album lends itself especially well to headphones listening as its subtle modulations, deviations, swells, subtractions, and additions are clearly audible. The core pitch is suspended in place as instruments and voices, wave-like, join the tonal flow and then recede. At times, the central tone thins out while, at others, it expands as more instruments contribute to the mass. The ‘colour' of the sound changes throughout, too: when voices move to the forefront, the sound is brighter; when the instruments take over, the sound darkens, even sometimes approximating a blurry, foghorn-like merging of baritone and trombone brass instruments. There's a climax of sorts here too, as the piece grows in intensity as it approaches the fifty-minute mark, but the effect here is neither unpleasant nor overwhelming.

August 2007