Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A coupla good new ones from Prefecture Records

My favorite listen of this young year so far is FLIGHTPATTERNS, a recording of an encounter between Open Graves, a duo consisting of percussionist/instrument maker Paul Kikuchi and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Olsen, and "sound gatherer" Stuart Dempster, recorded live in a cistern outside Seattle and released on lovely vinyl and beautifully-packaged CD by Kikuchi's label Prefecture Records.

The cistern is the same one in which Open Graves recorded their previous release, Hollow Lake, which impressed me when I heard it last year. Kikuchi comes from a jazz background (dig him with Empty Cage Quartet) and also leads Portable Sanctuary, an ensemble that employs his sculptural percussion instruments. Jesse Olsen is half of the "experimental folk" duo Ramon & Jessica. Dempster's a noted classical trombonist, academic, and familiar of Pauline Oliveiros.

Put 'em all together, and you get a music that's leisurely and spacious, like watching time lapse clouds roll by. Comparisons being odious, I'll still say that this music puts me in mind of two of my favorite Japanese psychedelic outfits, Taj Mahal Travellers and Ghost, both of which have in common with Open Graves a penchant for recording in "sacred spaces" like caves and temples. It's a cliche to say, when listening to classic jazz and R&B recordings from the '50s, that you can hear the room where the music was recorded. That's definitely true in this case; the cistern lends the sounds generated by the musicians a stately, hypnotic beauty. The four tracks total 38 minutes and change, but feel as though they're over in a heartbeat.

Also new on Prefecture: Prism, a limited edition CD-R of solo works by Kikuchi's frequent collaborator, percussionist Alex Vittum. The pieces were recorded in real time, sans overdubs, using a "signal processing software environment" Vittum created for use with his drum kit. You're more likely to be aware of the mechanics of sound production when listening to Prism than you would be while immersing yourself in FLIGHTPATTERNS' sonic bath, but it's still a rewarding spin.


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