Erstwhile Records box

Bob Burnett: Jon Abbey of Erstwhile Records made my day and subsequently my evening. Earlier in the week I received an email announcing the annual Erstwhile February sale. I sent back a reply, some money via PayPal and asked him to be the curator of his own label for me. I had the box (pictured above) waiting for me when I got home.

I've recently been listening to a few Erstwhile releases: Radu Malfatti/Keith Rowe ΓΈ , Keith Rowe/John Tilbury Duos For Doris as two examples. Over the last few years I've also paid keen attention to releases by Toshimaru Nakamura that were on other labels. (Egrets on Samadhisound and the duet with Tetuzi Akiyama Post Impressionism on Spekk)

I decided to go through this box and write up first impressions along the way.

I started tonight for no particular reason with two releases: Greg Kelley/Olivia Block Resolution and Nakamura's maruto. Both made for highly engaged listens for vastly different reasons.

Resolution is a "roll, pitch and yaw" recording; there's not only left-right imaging but depth. While listening with headphones the sound feels like it's 6 inches in front of your nose as well as
behind your head. Kelley manipulates a trumpet with a variety of gushes and breath action--it becomes a new instrument in his hands. Black creates a wide, creative range of sound with electronics and spare, fleeting almost tender moments on piano that to my ears reference Morton Feldman's four note sequences in his Piano and String Quartet (as well as John Tilbury). At times the piano takes on an almost percussive oil drum timbre. On top of it all there's terrific energy with what appears to be found object percussion--very physical and if that's not enough the sound of a wooden floor either being walked on or giving way to the weight of the activity at hand. This is an intense and colorful listen. I enjoyed it very much.

Nakamura's maruto came next. It's a 46 minute execution of his no input mixing board technique. I decided to listen also with headphones since I've found his work comes across best that way. maruto is a wonderfully warm and drifting recording. I know he's presenting a far
more active range of frequencies than I'm capable of hearing but that didn't really matter--while I couldn't hear the range of tones I somehow experienced them as part of the work. At times I felt like I drifted asleep but all the while remained connected to it. There's a deep, penetrating bass presence throughout most of it--soothing and flowing. Another great listen.

Added note: I'm re-visiting maruto via speakers instead of headphones. The low frequency tones are wonderful. This work benefits and expands greatly from the open acoustics of a room.

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