Bebawinigi – Bebawinigi

Bebawinigi - Bebawinigi

Writing reviews for Creative Commons music is my small way to pay back musicians for releasing music into the wired ether for free. I also do this as a way that I can go back in time, get that slight reminder of a work, listen to it again, and feel that joy again. The last reason, and one that hopefully makes the most impact, is that someone who sees this review may actually download the album. I cannot express the hope that this last reason results in hundreds of downloads for Bebawinigi’s self-titled debut album on the netlabel Strato Dischi.

Bebawinigi aka Virginia Quaranta has released a EP that is as beautiful as it is incredible in its breadth and grasp of popular music. Quaranta’s opens the album with “Did You Get …” with a sultry bass-line and soft but firm vocals repeating “Did you get disappointed? Or did you get excited?” until it implodes in a punkish crescendo. The next track, “Cugino ITT”, is a cabaret number in Italian that could possibly be an ode to the Addams Family’s Cousing Itt (I really don’t know). Regardless, my ignorance takes nothing away from enjoying the wonderful singing, the varied tempo and, at times, Quaranta’s intentionally croaky voice.

The dark strings of “Fabula” bring a melancholy to this track, but it’s Quaranta extraordinary voice and inflection that entrap me in the song’s sadness. With the fourth track, “Dogs & Sharks”, Quaranta returns us to the punk beginnings of Bebawinigi as she blurts out, “My best friend is a dog …”

Of late, I’ve been reading chapters of Kim Gordon’s autobiography, Girl in a Band. After she tells her story up to the forming of Sonic Youth, Gordon then breaks the chapters into songs where she writes about what was happening to the band, to her, and, maybe, even what the song was about. These chapters have been taking longer to read as I find myself listening to the tracks Gordon writes about instead of doing the reading. I bring this up because Quaranta’s voice is a reminder of Gordon’s, though the former’s voice is much better. “Maramori” is probably the finest example of the alignment between Gordon and Quaranta voices.

The last track is not the last track. Quaranta ends the folk song “Telemolo” about halfway through the sixth track and then there is large silence before, Quaranta begins the ever-popular hidden track.

Though this Bebawinigi will never see the light of day in the commercial music blogs like Pitchfork, Stereogum, etc., it should do strongly in the Creative Commons / Netlabel blogs as this is proof that free music can be equal if not better than music for money. One should expect to see Bebawinigi on several Best of 2015 lists later this year. It will be on mine.

Artist: Bebawinigi
Title: Bebawinigi
Netlabel: Strato Dischi
Release Date: July 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Jeff Gburek and Marjorie Van Halteren – Long Lines

Jeff Gburek and Marjorie Van Halteren - Long Lines

Jeff Gburek and Marjorie Van Halteren’s Long Lines begins quietly with whispering, unimposing vocals, and muted sounds. In this duo, both Gburek and Van Halteren bring vocals and field recordings to the performance, while Van Halteren also plays samples and Gburek provides electronics and a prepared guitar. Originally meeting on the Internet, Van Halteren met up with Gburek in Belgium to begin a small tour of experimental and improvisational music.

Improvisation, words as sounds, indirect noise, and understated electronics, Jeff Gburek and Marjorie Van Halteren’s Long Lines fights against being pigeon-holed as one particular style. After my first listen, I struggled against making the rather too easy and too simple comparison to other musicians. For me, Long Lines was a lesson in immersion, of listening without making judgments and connections.

Van Halteren is an Ameican sound artist living in France where, among other things, she teaches at a university and hosts a podcast called That Tuesday. The podcast features a guest sound artist and then Van Halteren and her guest explore sounds and places. This performance, Long Lines, is a direct result of Van Halteren’s podcast. Gburek, another sound artist, is also an American expat living in Poland. Gburek has had several netlabel release as well as an episode of Radius, the experimental radio show.

This half-hour performance by Jeff Gburek and Marjorie Van Halteren is ethereal and, at times, surprising in its choices. Long Lines could have been one thing, say poetry over music, but Gburek and Van Halteren improvise ambient drones and subtle noises to indirectly change the course of the performance and, in turn, make this piece of music enjoyable and memorable.

Artists: Jeff Gburek and Marjorie Van Halteren
Title: Long Lines
Netlabel: Plus Timbre
Release Date: June 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: Bandcamp

Stella Veloce – For a Flat

Stella Veloce - For a Flat

Stella Veloce’s For a Flat begins with some light percussion, voices and some intermittent noise from a saxophone. As the percussion becomes a bit more animated in “Friday”, the voices continue like a distant conversation you may overhear in a restaurant, the saxophone becomes more pronounced, and then the whispering of a guitar. Sounds sway in and out, some taking the spotlight and others not willing to share it like the blues guitar riffs or the unyielding saxophone. The guitar and saxophone finally give up, the percussion subtley remains and a light humming enters, an old slave spiritual perhaps?

All the instrumentation on For a Flat were done by cellist Stella Veloce, though calling her a cellist would be limiting. This biography on the Sardinian musician’s website states, “As a composer she works in the fields of instrumental acoustic music, performance art, sound art and stage music. Beside composition her activity as a musician ranges from pop music to free improvisation.”

I love that fact that Veloce called her album, For a Flat, as our homes, past or present are such an intricate part of who we are. A work that tries to grasp that feeling, that attempts to reanimate home, and one that does it so well, is a refreshing work of art.

“Saturday” is the second track which features birds and wonderfully grating cello. Noise from the most unlikely places. I am aware that For a Flat was edited after the fact, but I hope the section on “Saturday” with the flock of birds was Veloce playing along with them. As the track goes on, Stella Veloce adds other strange sounds to the mix. Is one sound bong water? Probably not.

Stella Veloce ends For a Flat as most weekends do with “Sunday”. The cover of the album shows Veloce sitting in a bathroom playing the cello. “Sunday” opens with the sound of running water, a shower, and the voice of Chiara Giuliante or Katie Lee Dunbar singing. (Dunbar had the vocals in “Friday” as well.) The third and final track is also the longest. As the running water ends, an odd noise appears and keeps on surrounding the listener. “Sunday” is a track of many parts, a section may end and you think the song is over, but it picks up with other sounds like a chime playing along with a cello and some string plucking. Vocals arrive again.

I could go on in trying to identify the various sounds that come forward, but I don’t want to make this album a parlor game. Stella Veloce’s For a Flat is a remarkable album that is full of feeling and audio nuances. I know you will enjoy it.

Artist: Stella Veloce
Title: For a Flat
Netlabel: zip

Dalot – Levelling

Dalot - Levelling

Dalot is one of the many expressions of sound for Maria Papadomanolaki. She has a comprehensive list of recording work whether as Dalot or as part of Kasetina or squetti. But Papadomanolaki is not limited only to recordings, she’s done work in radio, text, sound installations, etc. She’s recently released an episode on Radius. Dalot’s Levelling on the netlabel Panospria is her first foray into the Creative Commons netlabel scene. (Point of order: she has a track on one of the Sequence compilations.)

Levelling is an artistic exploration of a new instrument and is broken up into four improvised tracks, each having a different texture than the others. The first track opens with deep bass tones which slowly greet other accents. The liner notes say that the album is a “balancing between intuitive and attentive creative tendencies” and in the first track, even though there is a nomadic feel , the different sounds are supportive of each other.

The second track is the longest of all at 13:30. Though improvised drone recordings can sometimes be very difficult as musicians have a tendency to drag them out for much longer than they should, Dalot skillfully doesn’t fall into this trap. Each musical interlude of this extended track concisely delves into the electronic voices that Dalot is exploring. Given the breadth of “Levelling 2”, it should come as no surprise that that this track travels more thoroughly through the electronic musical spectrum, each phase though divergent are quite reciprocal working off of each other.

It is important to note that Levelling is much more than a drone album, especially if one only thinks of drone music as sustained or drawn out note clusters. That said, the third track is the most dronish of all. Instead of building up a wall of sound, “Levelling 3” takes on a more minimalistic and more successful approach to exploring drones.

The fourth and final track opens in the most electronica fashion. There has been glimpses of this musical genre throughout, yet “Levelling 4” is the most unapologetic of all the tracks in grasping it and extracting all the fades and reverb to a searing conclusion.

As I mentioned early, Levelling is Papadomanolaki’s first release in the Creative Commons music scene. Hopefully, this won’t be the last we see of Dalot’s music here.

Artist: Dalot
Title: Levelling
Netlabel: Panospria
Released Date: February 2015
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Download mp3: zip

Stinky Picnic – Hamster World

Stinky Picnic

You’ve read those articles that blast the headline, “I Do This And You Should To” or something just as fascist. This won’t be that. I could really give two dog poops whether you listen to this album as I am quite happy to swim in its craziness with the few people that have heard it. A few weeks ago, Lezet tweeted a recommendation of Stinky Picnic’s Hamster World with the words, “what a cute and sincere and wonderful and brilliant album!”. I had to listen.

Stinky Picnic is a father-daughter duo from Australia. Though family groups have always been in existence, I don’t think there has been band like Stinky Picnic before because this duo embraces childhood rather than having the child conform to the boredom of adulthood. One could easily dismiss Stinky Picnic as a novelty act, but after four years of putting out some quite interesting and entertaining music that is neither the Hanson Brothers or the Jonas Brothers, the only novelty of Stinky Picnic is that they put out some great music. The duo is made up of A D Machine and Porky Pie Pea. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that A D Machine is the father and Porky Pie Pea is the daughter. A D Machine might be heavily involved in the metal scene, but I have not really been able to connect all the dots.

Prior to listening to the latest album, Hamster World, I delved into Stinky Picnic’s discography. What I learned from listening to these records is something that I already knew, children are quick studies and much more capable of doing things than adults realize. I am guilty of prejudging Stinky Picnic with the thought that it was the father that did everything musically and the daughter just added some vocals here and there. But the craziness and naturalness of the music comes from a space adults have long left. I believe Porky Pie Pea is much more involved than anyone imagines.

Though Hamster World may be Stinky Picnic’s most experimental record, it is experimental in the sense of childhood playtime during school recess, craziness and bedlam are the rule, conformity was tossed out a long time ago. From the opening track, “You’ve Unlocked the Hamster World”, with its Spaghetti-western feel, to the absurdity of “Hamster Haircut 1”, the album is filled with wonder and fun rather than rules and melancholy. Don’t worry there are still singsongy songs and nonsense numbers like “Tiny Tiny Little Doggie” peppered throughout.

Stinky Picnic’s Hamster World is just one big smile a record. I go back to the tweet introuduced me to Stinky Picnic and called Hamster World “a cute and sincere and wonderful and brilliant album!”  Lezet was right of course and in a totally non-Facist way too.

Artist: Stinky Picnic
Title: Hamster World
Netlabel: Self-Released
Release Date: March 2015
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Download mp3: Bandcamp

There’s Somebody Sitting Up in the Window

There's Somebody Sitting Up in the Window

The recording of Nicole Lizée’s Hitchcock Etudes was posted on Free Music Archive by Interpretations as a preview for a January 2015 concert by the Quatuor Bozzini. This was to be one of the three pieces that the quartet would perform. The Lizee’s score Bernard Herrmann styling as a jumping off point, but with more than 50 years of contemporary music between Herrmann’s work and today, Lizée and the Quatuor Bozzini have built an interpretation combining voice with the strings in a thoroughly modern experience.

Artist: Quatuor Bozzini
Title: Nicole Lizée’s “Hitchcock Etudes”
Netlabel: Interpretations
License: CC BY-NC
Download mp3: zip
Photograph: Michael Slobodian

Beautiful Dissonance

Beautiful Dissonance

I could lamely describe Canned Fit’s Cucharas de Arena as contemporary music – at best it’s a lazy way out to write the review using a rather amorphous and undefined musical genre when the work is clearly neither, at worst it gives the reader no clue as to what type of music it is or how good it is.

Christine Schörkhuber aka Canned Fit is an experimental sound artist who works with noise, dyi instruments and vocals. She has created an almost popish album with strong experimental roots. Cushatras do Arena begins with a short-wave ambient music and then delves into these no-wave ballads which have a lovely juxtaposition between experimental noise and melodic lyrics. (Yes, I noticed the hypocrisy of using no-wave genre here.)

Schörkhuber has created a sound that is uncommonly beautiful, yet slightly obtrusive. Though Cucharas de Arena sounds carefully produced, I would not be surprised if I learned that these tracks were performed live. Overall Cucharas de Arena can seem somewhat fragile, dissonant and jarring, but it is always in control and captivating.

Artist: Canned Fit
Title: Cucharas de Arena
Netlabel: Pan Y Rosas Discos
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Release Date: January 2015
Download mp3: zip