Thursday, August 27, 2009

I am published (again?)

This time it's an article I wrote about a Jimmy Giuffre record. It went up today at the IndiePit blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Album: Low End String Quartet "Blunt Objects"

A few years ago, I had an idea: what if a string quartet could be re-invented for playing in modern chamber-music venues (i.e. bars and clubs)? Presto: A string quartet that is skewed toward the lower register, by adding a bass and an electric guitar and taking away the 2nd violin and viola. Damn, that oughta rock. So I wrote some music for this lineup - and found performers who were willing to give it a try.

We did a proof-of-concept performance at the now defunct Warehouse Next Door a few years ago. Cameron made cookies-and-cream cupcakes for the occasion. That's what I'm talking about. It seemed worth pursuing further.

I wrote some more music for the group, as did Jodi Beder. We played another show. People seemed to get excited about it. We booked studio time at Inner Ear. The air conditioning broke down so our recording session was a sweaty affair. TJ Lipple, the golden-eared engineer who was running the session, had just come back from Morocco and had a case of what would later be diagnosed as Typhoid Fever. But we got the work done anyway.

The record is out now and we're celebrating with a show this coming Saturday at the ArtDC Gallery [event info] [preview article in Wash. Post Express].

Tracks 1 - 5 are pieces that I wrote for the group. And I mean "wrote," like notes on paper like a real composer and stuff. Well, not entirely. "Metal" is an open-form piece - there are written riffs that the group assembles as we're playing; and "Shut up and listen" is a structured improv piece with some notated music and lots of room for improvising. But the others are honest-to-god composed. Except for the cello solo in the middle of Grinder, that's improvised too.

Track 6, "Mystery Snail" was written by the cellist, Jodi Beder. It's based on a Sarabande from one of the Bach cello suites (she plays the Sarabande straight at the very end... after the wah pedal section).

I love the sound TJ got for us. It sounds kinda like "punk classical." It has a sort-of classical, roomy quality but there's something DIY sounding about it, too. He's really good at that sort of thing. He got the perfect rock / jazz hybrid sound for the DCIC record too.

You can hear the whole thing (and buy a download for only $5) here. Or you can order a physical CD here. Or your favorite record store can order it for you via Dischord Direct.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New to You: DCIC "Meme and Variations" (2007)

This album captures a variety of live recordings from DCIC's 2nd quartet lineup:
Ben Azzara: drums
Daniel Barbiero: bass
Jonathan Matis: guitar
Mike Sebastian: reeds

Dan culled through a year's worth of performances and rehearsal tapes, pulling together a nice assortment that makes a solid representation of what we were up to. There are some swinging passages, some noisy energetic passages, some modal chant-like stuff, and a touch of electronic weirdness.

Originally, this was released via Sachimay Records' "Interventions" series as a CDr. We got a few nice reviews. Only a handful of people in the world actually have a copy of the disc, though. I'm happy to announce that we've got it posted now and you can download a copy. 128k mp3 for free, and only $3 for a nicer sounding format. (Name-your-price, $0 ok)

Track one came from a show at Warehouse Next Door, June 2, 2005.
Tracks two and three were rehearsals at Mike's house, March 19,2005 and May 28,2005
The final track is from a live radio show we did at WMUC (University of Maryland) on March 4, 2005.

All told, it's about an hour of several flavors of free jazz.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A batch of upcoming shows

I have three shows coming up next week... want y'all to know about 'em. Perhaps you would enjoy one?

Sat. 8/22:
A Light Sleeper
Low End String Quartet
at Artdc gallery in Hyattsville
[facebook] [upcoming]

Wed. 8/19:
Eliot Levin
DC Improvisers Collective
at Bossa Bistro
[facebook] [upcoming]

Sun. 8/16:
DC Improvisers Collecive
at Galaxy Hut
[facebook] [upcoming]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New to You: Braxton/Matis "Death Slug 2000" (2000)

Ty Braxton has a new solo album coming out next month on Warp Records. Let us celebrate via shameless self-promotion.

I went to graduate school at the Hartt School of Music. While I was there, Ty was a fellow composition student. We had some seriously overlapping interests so we talked often about playing together sometime. Towards the end of my last semester we made sometime into an actual time.

We got together one afternoon and did some improvising. Nothing planned in advance - just feeling things out on the fly. We recorded it. Here it is.

At the time, Ty was doing lots of rhythmic loop-based stuff. He called it "guitar techno." This recording has none of it. Plenty of looping, but all texture - no groove. It's two long tracks (about 30 min. each) of guitar noise. If that kind of thing floats your boat, it's a sweet ride.

We originally released it as a CDr on the Metatron Press label. We did a short tour at the time, along with another friend from Hartt, Eric Bernasek. One of the best shows was in Eric's backyard. I remember the Pittsburgh date pretty well, too. That was the first time I heard El Guapo and they were awesome. The next year I played one other show with Ty at an art gallery in Hartford.

You can still order a CDr copy from Metatron Press. If you do, I'll make one for you. It's much more economical to download it, though...

You can stream the whole thing, or buy it for only $3. (Link)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I have the proof

Communication is impossible.
No one will really understand what someone else is trying to say.
Why bother?
If it were possible, would it mean anything?
So I sit quietly.

Yet miracles do happen.
I have the proof.
His name is Peter Orlovsky.
Where it comes from and how and the mechanics of it
Are all beyond me.
Maybe beyond human mind? Maybe just me.
Either way, here it is.

Pure being molded into words and left on a page.
Just sitting there like that.
Like it's no big thing.
And the guy can't even spell.

(inspired by this)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New to You: Jonathan Matis "Four Sculptures" (2000)

I made this album a really long time ago. When I started work on it, Bill Clinton was still the president, and no one had heard of any Monica Lewinsky. When I finished it, Sisqo's "Thong Song" was top 10. Those were the days.

It's a collection of ambient guitar pieces. At the time, I was obsessed with playing the guitar in such a way that you never heard the sound of a plucked string. Seems silly in retrospect, but this was really important to me at the time. I spent years, literally years not plucking the damn strings. Youth is wasted on the young.

Track one was made in the summer of 1998. I got all John Cage-y and recorded one long take of guitar/electronics, then a few days later did another one of the same length. Then I put them together. No edits. Turns out they work really nicely that way.

Track two is from almost a year later. This one is also made up of two live passes with the guitar and gadgets, but this time I allowed myself to hear the first track as I recorded the second. One nifty thing in the mix that you might not notice: at first the two tracks are both panned dead center; at the end, they are hard panned right/left. Over the course of the piece they are moving away from each other very, very slowly. Just like the musical material is unfolding very, very slowly. What can I say? I was into music that moved very, very slowly.

Track four is the latest of the album, and marked a personal breakthrough for me. I plucked the strings! And it was ok! In fact, I really liked plucking the strings. This piece was the end of an era. It's also the only "solo" on the album, done live with no overdubs. Also the first one that I recorded into a computer. The other three were mixed on a computer, but recorded on my cassette four-track.

That was also one of the first pieces I recorded in my basement after moving to Takoma Park, Maryland. Now, almost ten years later, that's the same room where Reversal, my rock band, rehearses. It's my friend Trav's basement now. Life is funny like that sometimes.

This record was originally self-released via Gather round kids, grandpa will tell you a story: Back then CD burners were still really expensive. The cheapest way for me to make a small quantity of cd's to have on-hand to sell at gigs was to upload to their site, then buy physical copies back from them at $5 each. That was a wacky time. Some kind of internet-bubble venture capital nightmare made it possible for me to get short-run cd's on the cheap (and I got a free tote bag). Not surprisingly, that company is long gone and my album went away when they did. Now it's a free download on my bandcamp page.

IF (you're into ambient loopy guitar music) THEN (you might like it) ELSE (so what? It's free).