Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A couple of new gooduns from Prefecture Music

Modern improvised music challenges us to expand our definition of what music is, and provides interesting new ways to hear it. If Clean Feed is the Blue Note for the current decade, then Prefecture Music -- a Seattle-based nonprofit run by creatives Paul Kikuchi and Tiffany Lin -- could be said to be the ECM. The label's signature sound is spacious ambient music, recorded in unique acoustic environments. As 2013 draws to a close, they've released two sterling new examples of said sound on sweet, sweet vinyl.

The Seattle Phonographers Union is a cooperative ensemble that uses field recordings -- either treated or raw -- which are juxtaposed in live, unedited improvisation and affected by the spaces where the performances took place (in this case, a decommissioned aircraft hangar and an unfinished nuclear power station). The sounds they produced in Building 27 & WNP-5 reverberate and interact with the sounds of audiences and environments, building to crescendoes and receding to near-silence. The players are respectful of the spaces and each other, and the sounds they create ultimately take on a life of their own.

On Ascendant, multi-reedists Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury perform solos and duets, mainly on bass clarinets, in the Dan Harpole Cistern in Port Townsend, WA -- a favorite recording location for Prefecture artists. The performance was a conclusion to a decade-long musical partnership (Canterbury left the Seattle area a week later), as well as a marker for other transitions in Canterbury's life (his son was born two months later, and his father died the following year). The sound is meditative and reflective, relying on long tones and the sound of harmonics. (And how refreshing it is to hear anyone play bass clarinet without referring to Eric Dolphy.) Together, the two men create stately and majestic sound sculptures that exemplify all that's best about this label.


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