Entries tagged with “2010”.


In March 2010 I went to Boston for a series of Christian Wolff residency concerts at NEC and to see a number of concerts involving Keith Rowe. This was the third month of the Eleven Clouds project and the distribution method for that months release (Vertical Landscapes I-V/aeolian electrics) was via in-person trade. Jon Abbey of Erstwhile Records made the best trade: a cd-r of the the forthcoming collaboration betwixt Annette Krebs and Taku Unami. Only having my iPhone for music listening that cd-r was going to sit unplayed for over a week and that immediately began to grate. So I bought a super cheap portable cd player and gave it a listen. My initial impression was threefold:  pretty good, not really groundbreaking and damn these headphones that came with my portable cd player sucked and thus rendered both of the previous assessments pretty much invalid.  I did listen to it maybe three more times in the next few days though and then on my last day in Boston during a free afternoon I stumbled upon Newbury Comics, which included a pretty decent record store where I was able to pick up a reasonable set of Sennheisers.  Well these better headphones really opening up the music for me as did subsequent plays on my home stereo, upon which a month hasn’t passed this year where it didn’t get multiple spins. Since that time I’ve been trying to write about it nearly every month as well but it has always confounded my attempts.  I felt this was okay, that an album like this resisted easy analysis, or a superficial explanation and that more listens would reveal an approach.  But this never happened; I kept listening and becoming if anything increasingly intrigued and beguiled but never really knew what to say. Thus it never appeared in one of my monthly music posts which, while they only covered an aspect of my listening this year, did end up in the end containing a number of my favorites for the year. And it should have because it is by far the best bit of improvisation I’ve heard this year and along with Lost Daylight my favorite album of the year.

Annette Krebs/Taku Unami Motubachii (Erstwhile Records)

Probably not since Keith Rowe’s The Room has there been an album that I think so defies a quick analysis. Like The Room, I enjoyed this immediately, but my snap judgement, as I related above, would have been superficial. Now with Keith I know how much thought is involved with each release, especially a solo album where it isn’t a documentation of a collaboration but is solely his own concerns. The Room perhaps especially so as he spent at least a coupe of years honing his ideas, his structure and performing the piece in his various solo concerts (one of which I saw in 2005). I never really did delve into that album that year; it resisted the easy analysis and I only ended up writing a paragraph about it in my 2007 wrap up. One I revisit frequently and which maybe someday I can find the words to delve into.  Motubachii is in my mind a similar case, but even more difficult.  With The Room one can at least find interviews with Keith, articles on his process, a long history of recording and of course I’ve had the great pleasure of quite a few conversation with him.  This allows one to place it in context, to examine what he and others have said on it and so on.  There are few interviews (in English anyway) with Unami or Krebs and they rarely seem to speak on their own music.  But that of course doesn’t mean that all we have to go on is the sounds on this disc.

Annette Krebs

Annette Krebs at the Goethe-Institut Boston (photo by Danny Gromfin)

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Annette Krebs in Vancouver in 2007 and Taku Unami in Tokyo in 2008 and while I wasn’t afforded the opportunity for long chats I did get to see them perform.  The performances and of course the recordings from these two do allow us to place this album in an historical context.  Krebs in 2007 had come back from a seeming hiatus to begin a series of great releases both solo and in collaboration (Berlin Electronics, sgraffito, SIYU and so on) however by the time of this collaboration with Unami I’d began to feel that she had tapped out her newfound ideas.  She plays tabletop (or laptop at least the times I’ve seen her) guitar with a variety of common objects and preparations: brillo pad, files etc as well as radio and laptop.  She uses the laptop to play samples or simple synth like sounds and seems able to manipulate speed and length of the playback of these samples.  Her approach has always seemed partly random, that is to say while her command of her materials is high she seems as surprised as anyone by what a particular gesture will invoke.  The use of the software sampler was what made it seem like she had reworked her bag of tricks but hadn’t really tapped into an endless flow of ideas; the same sample, manipulated in similar ways began to appear on a number of releases. By the end of 2008 the freshness had seem to have evaporated and at least my interest began to wane. However if there was one collaboration that would mix things up, it would be with Taku Unami.

Taku Unami

Taku Unami in the Book Cafe

Reportedly after I saw the Keith Rowe/Taku Unami duo in Tokyo in the fall of 2008 Unami claimed that was the end of his performance on the computer driven motors and manipulators and as far as I can tell that has been the case.  In the years after that he began using handclaps, cardboard boxes, movement, and guitar. Unami has always defied expectations and has as far as I know never really explained himself.  He seemed in a way to follow on from the ultra-minimal work of Taku Sugimoto but with a wicked sense of humor about it all.  Perhaps more then anything else he is constantly challenging what performance is, what a recording is, fundamentally what music is.  While he will play with people like Mattin and his disciples and follow them where they lead, he never really seems quite the agent provocateur that they are.  Mattin et al always come across as ideologues, pushing their notions first and foremost as dogmatically as any Maoist.  Unami reminds me the most of Bansky really – he’ll cleverly challenge just about anything but he pretty much leaves it up to the listener to figure it all out. And he’s really good at what he does, even when it ultimately isn’t compelling.  Unami by early 2010 had really pushed well beyond what he’d been doing up to that point and a collaboration with Annette Krebs, who was beginning to repeat herself quite a bit was fraught with uncertainty – fruitful ground for Unami.

Etant donnes

Marcel Duchamp Étant donnés at the Philiaphia Museum of Art

Motubachii front cover

The cover artwork for Motubachii is among my very favorites from the Erstwhile catalog and it always makes me think of Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés, the piece he worked on in secret for decades after he “quit art” for chess. A scenic tableau with a meticulously modeled female nude holding a gas lamp, the viewer looks through peepholes at this scene and the splayed out figure therein.  Replacing Duchamp’s carefully rendered idyllic scene with the very real German (I assume) countryside and removing any trace of a figure it may just seem to be a nod, or perhaps even just the long reverberations of the piece in the zeitgeist. But to me it displays the humor that was the hallmark of Duchamp and that I think one can also find in Unami. Self referential in a similar fashion as Ã‰tant donnés is (the mannequin is a cast of a longtime lover, the waterfall and gaslamp reference a note on The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even and so on; see this comprehensive book for more on this piece) one can read a lot into that empty countryside and it is I think almost uniquely fitting for the music contained within.

I tend to avoid others reviews when I intend to write on something myself but since I spent the bulk of 2010 attempting to write on this album I did stumble across various impressions and takes on the album. The overriding impressions seemed to be one of confusion (though a joyful confusion for the most part) as though the music was a riddle that the listeners had to work out.  The question in collaborations of who has made what sound, or what the source of a given sound is, or if a sound is a sample a natural occurrence or somehow created in situ is an oft raised one. Is this the result of our minds that are constantly seeing patterns, constantly trying to categorize things to reductively break things down to their constituent parts? It is not an unfamiliar exercise to myself , in fact I’d say its a definite trope amongst those who write about music myself included.  You see someone like Krebs rub the strings on her guitar with a brillo pad and then later you can say on listening to an unrelated album “and a skritchy sound of a brillo pad rubbed on strings”. If one is attempting to describe the music – always a challenge! – then in many ways this is the easiest path, as it relies on the experiences of the listener to fill in the gaps. With this album we only have the prior performances of Krebs and Unami, and not even of them playing together, to utilize and thus it seems natural to try to puzzle out what is making the sounds, who is doing what and how the album was put together.

annette krebs / taku unami
Talu Unami/Annette Krebs at Kid Ailack Hall. Photo by Yuko Zama

It is the sounds that tend to bring people into the current vein of experimental musics.  Turn the focus away from melody, harmony, rhythm and sound becomes the natural element to focus on.  The early experimentalists (Cage, Feldman et al) constantly talked of letting the sounds be themselves, of focusing on sound and so on. But the sounds have been left to themselves for quite some time now, even if most people aren’t paying attention.  The experiements with contact mics in particular in 50s, 60s and beyond (Cartridge Music most famously but 60s AMM and many others as well) were all about bringing sounds to the forefront and using virtually every means to produce them. Sounds have remained the focus of recent endeavors, but what I’d really say has been the innovation has been the structure. This I think is particularly the case with Unami who I think began (at least on record) radically de-emphasizing sound with Malignitat where he allowed the samples to be played at specific times to be pulled randomly from a banal sound effects cd.  The structure is what was important there and I think that it is the structure that has seen the most innovation in the last decade. Unami continued to downplay sound, with his handclaps, table pounding and cardboard boxes.

Robert Rauschenberg Nabisco Shredded Wheat Cardboard

I can’t help but think of Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard box art when I hear of Unami’s usage of them as a sound source.  It seems to me almost the exact same reason in that they are ubiquitous, cheap, disposable and as far from art as you can get. Rauschenberg transformed the detritus of our consumer culture into art and Unami utilized the same detritus to devalue the notion sound from his pieces. He also reportedly did performances where he used light to cast shadows with the boxes which he then moved around, removing sound completely from its pedestal. Interestingly enough after reading about the shows where he did this I found a Fluxus text score that is in essence “use a cardboard box to cast shadows on the wall. Move it around.” (I alas don’t have a copy of this score and will have to look around to get the full score and citation).  I can’t help but think that there isn’t quite a bit of Fluxus in what Unami does: the subversion of accepted notions of performance and music making, the humor, the stripping down to essentials, the working with very simple scores and the theatricality of his works.

Taku Unami instal09

Taku Unami at instal 2009

I’ve listened to motubachii four times through as I’ve  written this and even with all the other times I’ve listened to it this year it still intrigues. It is the combination of all that I’ve been going on about here: Krebs’ startled jabs on her instruments and Unami’s subversion of, well, everything.  Unami on this recording sounds like he just wandered around the room doing various things as Krebs’ engages in a quite spare performance. There are handclaps, table slaps, dropped boxes, the sound of moving around the room, the rare note on a guitar, brillo pads and files on guitar strings, Krebs’ use of vocal samples distorted, slowed down and sped up, a few plucks of a resonant instrument like a banjo or steel guitar and so on.  It could have been them playing a piece in a room, or it could be individual recordings put together or it could be parts from various recordings randomly selected ala Malignitat to either a defined or random structure. One thing that is known is that it is five recorded in five different locations and track one and five are the same. More playfulness from Unami and Krebs. It also lends some creedence to the notion that it is an assembled piece, in whole or in part, but really as I said earlier that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that it all works; it has a flow, a beguiling structure to itself that could be the result of any number of processes.  The sounds, a mix of Krebs who I’d say is still focused on sound and Unami’s seemingly devil-may-care though clearly thought out everyday sounds, create this structure, nurture it and give the listener plenty to hang on to.

the title stems from two original words from Stanislaw Lem’s The Star Diaries, and the process is amusingly analogous to how the record was put together (which I’m not explaining, before anyone asks).

originally this was Unami’s idea, he suggested the word ‘pinckenbahii’, which he defined as a “gravity vortex which causes strange time phenomena, several times within a time at the same time” and he thought that was a good fit for the record. Annette was also a fan of Lem and The Star Diaries in particular, but didn’t like the way this word sounded in German, so she found a second word (‘uabamotu’) from the book and combined the two into ‘motubahii’. I then researched these and found that Unami had made a mistake with the initial word, which should have been ‘pinckenbachii’, hence ‘motubachii’. – Jon Abbey in the Motubachii post on ihm

I also love Stanislaw Lem and while I never would have worked out the reference (having read the The Star Diaries quite some time ago to begin with) that explanation from how this combined word came together does seem to encapsulate the record well. Perhaps Jon is hinting that the album is an assemblage; it certainly does have that feel.  But Unami’s original word defined as “gravity vortex which causes strange time phenomena, several times within a time at the same time” now that captures the essence of the record.  I doubt that the strange phenomena in this one will ever become overly familiar, or tiresome or that I’ll ever make it out of the vortex.

2010 has been quite the year in that greatest of man’s accomplishments: beer.  Microbrew in the USA has gone through a number of trends and currently its focus seems to be on the limited release.  In a way this is the model of wine, with yearly vintages, one-offs and seasonal offerings all priced accordingly.  These are normally sold in 22oz bottles, though there are those that come in larger, or smaller, vessels. The most impressive of the limited releases this year (at least that I tried – in no way is this post even remotely meant to be comprehensive) was from Sierra Nevada who celebrate their 30th Anniversary this year.

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary stout

Sierra Nevada's Fritz and Ken's Stout

Sierra Nevada Organic Estate Ale

Fritz and Ken’s Stout, the first of the four 30th Anniversary beers from Sierra Nevada, was hands down my favorite new beer I’ve had this year. A collaboration between Fritz Maytag (of Anchor Fame) and Sierra’s Brewmaster this is one of the best stouts I’ve had in ages.  Kind of like a kicked up Anchor Porter, with this almost sweet stout beginning (like say Deschutes Obsidian) but then this chalky, bitter finish. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that.  The second of the four releases was Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Bock the first two being instrumental homebrewers, part of the early days of craft brewing in America. While I’m not a big fan of bock I’ve tried a fair number and wasn’t really into this one at all finding it pretty boring and not worth the premium of a limited edition beer. Jack and Ken’s Black Barleywine was the next release andwas pretty good, though I’ve had far more interesting barleywines for sure. The ‘black’ bit though is interesting, basically it had more malt than a normal b’wine so had more body and an almost smokey aspect. Worth trying IMO.  The last of the anniversary beers, Our Brewers Reserve, Grand Cru, was the second best of the four and another truly great beer, a blend of their Bigfoot Barleywine and Celebration Ale aged in Oak with a bit of their fantastic Pale Ale added for measure.  A toast to thirty years of Sierra Nevada and here’s to thirty more!

The Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary was celebrated at Brouwers (my favorite beer drinking establishment in the Seattle area) on a Monday in November with all four of these beers on tap. Of course they ended up having numerous other beers so I ended up only having the Stout and the Grand Cru. These were both if anything even better on tap – it really brought out the chalky porterness of the stout and the layers of complexity found in the Grand Cru.  Of the speciality beers they had I ended up trying their Organic Estate Ale which was served cask conditioned.  This was another limited edition they had put out this year and I’d liked this a lot in bottles; I think that Sierra Nevada is doing great stuff with their hoppier beers – they’re not gonzo hopped but are nicely bitter and well balanced. This beer on tap retained the features of the bottle but was almost creamy, really unlike anything I’ve had from a cask.

New Belgian Eric's Ale

New Belgian's Eric's Ale

My second favorite new beer from this year is Eric’s Ale from New Belgium. Sour beers are a relatively recent obsession and thanks to New Belgian’s copious amount of limited releases both in bottle and draft only plus Brouwers annual Sour Beer festival I’ve been able to try quite a few. I think this is the best tart sour beer I’ve had in a bottle and is well worth trying if you are curious about the style. I’ve had it on tap two or three different places this year as well, so its clearly around in that format which is of course the way to go. Brouwers has a great relationship with New Belgian and I’ve been able to try many of their sour experiments that were one offs or ones that may someday make it to bottle. They are also well acquitanted with the trend in the limited, or special releases and I have tried many of them, especially from the Lips of Faith series. Many of these special release, whether on draft or in bottle from this year were excellent. The Transatlantique Kriek, a hybrid sour cherry lambic initially brewed in Belgium and  then finished in Colorado is particularly worth trying as is their La Folie Sour Brown which is less tart than Eric’s Ale but sour and rich.  A series always worth checking out.

Deschutes Hop in the Dark

Deschutes Breweries Hop in the Dark

Deschutes Jubel 2010

Deschutes is among my very favorite breweries and have really led the way in the limited edition beers. Their Abyss and Dissident from last year were my favorite beers that year which I’m happy to say have also returned for this year. While not quite as exciting as those beers were this year they put out several quite interesting releases. Hop in the Dark,  I actually had tried on tap the Deschutes Brewery in Portland which made it to bottle this year. Its kind of a cross between a porter and an IPA, but not quite as malty as your average porter and not gonzo hopped. I guess officially its an overhopped “dark ale”, which of course they are claiming is a new style; a “Cascade dark ale”.  This “Cascade” style seems to mean a non IPA style with nearer to IPA level of hops.

More interesting was their Jubel 2010, which as a beer that’s released once a decade is a true rarity. The story goes that they a keg of their always fantastic Jubelale was stolen and then abandoned out in the snow overnight. Upon recovery they tried the beer out and discovered that it had basically undergone the “ice beer” process concentrating the beer and kicking up both the alcohol content and the complexity. So they try to replicate the process every decade as a celebration of the brewery. It has a sort of barelywine aspect but not quite the pedigree of a well made b’wine and frankly I’d say I prefer the standard Jubelale which is strong, and interesting yet quite quaffable.  Still very worth trying and definitely an interesting tipple.

The Reserve Series (AbyssDissident, Mirror Mirror and Black Butte XXn) as I stated earlier are among my favorite (sadly the double aged Mirror Mirror and the Bourbon barrel aged Black Buttle XXn doesn’t do much for me, which is more the pity as the source beers (Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter) are among the best in their class) and Deschutes ships the bottles with a Best After date and seal the caps in wax to preserve them for aging. I’ve got a bottle in my fridge of Abyss from 2009 which is now past its best after date and I’m highly looking forward to trying out. Just waiting for 2011 to begin to crack that wax. The Dissident, after a couple of year haitus has just made it to shelves again and I highly recommend seeking it out.

Anchor Our Very Special Ale 2010

Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale

Winter beers are a tradition of most micro-breweries and are among my favorite beers of the year.  These are usually stronger beers, a “winter warmer” as it were and the brewers really pull out the stops. Many breweries whose normal beers don’t do much for me make my favorite winter beers. But Anchor Brewing, who are to my mind the best micro-brewery in America have made for decades now the most interesting winter beer: Our Very Special Ale.  Its uses a different tree as an ingredient each year and yes some years are better then others but it’s always something to look forward to. This year’s was creamy, a bit sweet but very drinkable and a fine addition to this amazing tradition.  Times probably about up for finding this one, but grab it if you can.

Brouwers Cafe during the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary celebration

There was of course tons more beers that I tried this year, especially draft only that I’m not including in this post.  I had lots of great things at Brouwers especially this year, trying beers from their Hardliver Barleywine, Big Wood, Sour Beer and Sierra Nevada festivals among many other trips there. No other thing makes me wish I lived in Fremont more, though I’d be a lot poorer and a lot drunker.  Visit them if you ever are in the area, I know I’ll be there as often as I can.Equally worth the mention is Bottleworks, the beer store that owns and operates Brouwers.  There is no better source for hard to find, limited edition and imported beers. Many of the tipples I tried this year were source from that great store.

While incomplete that’s at least some of the highlights from my year in beer. A good year overall with many interesting and new experiences. The limited edition beer trend is hard on the wallet but is quite rewarding.  Now time to pop a top as we start drinking into 2011.

Collins Pub

Saturday, October 9th, 2010 8:00 PM
Collins Pub

526 Second Ave

Eye Music, the group that I play graphic and textual scores with, has a gig at Collins Pub this Saturday.  This is our second show in the last month and features completely new material for this show. Scores include  Toshi Ichiyanagi’s Sapporo, David Toop’s Lizard Music plus pieces by group members Mike Shannon and Amy Denio.  This also is our first show outside of the wonderful new music cloister that is the Chapel Performance Space.  I’ve never been to Collins Pub, but looking at their menu it looks like they have a pretty decent beer selection and the food sounds pretty classy. So come on down and listen to some experimental music as you hoist a pint.

Complete concert details can be found on the Eye Music page.

Eye Music Ensemble
Eye Music Ensemble holding Sapporo

Eleven Clouds


A Closed Letter

A Closed Letter, the July entry in the Eleven Clouds project, is a 3″ cd-r presented a vinyl pocket highlighting the above image. The recording contained herein utilizes an expansion of the network used in the previous installments. This network, pictured below, expands the amount of nodes, effectors and connections. It is in fact not too far from the example network in this article. though featuring several different nodes and a couple less interfaces. As far as Network Instrument theory goes, this network is fairly highly connected and features multiple sub-networks (a concept which will be covered in further articles). This expanded network leads to a fairly complex sound, with layers of interacting elements, that shift around the stereo field, sounds coming in and out, affected, mutated and interpenetrating other sounds. This of course is the crux of the network theory; interacting instruments which through interpenetration transcend their constituant elements. This piece thus serves as a concise example of a network instrument.


Listen to an excerpt

How to acquire a copy


For more information please feel free to contact us at
mgmt AT hollowearthrecordings DOT com.