A couple months ago local improviser Brian Labycz, who plays electronics and koto, launched a new CD-R label called Peira with a pair of releases, both packaged in hand-printed sleeves adorned by lovely, minimalist artwork (one by former Reader designer Nadine Nakanishi).

It’s so cheap and easy to release music yourself these days that I sometimes dread the appearance of a new CD-R label, especially one that specializes in totally improvised material–there are so few barriers to enter the marketplace that people don’t have to care whether they’re selling something anybody wants to buy. So far, though, Peira is off to a terrific start–the quality of its releases implies that some kind of curatorial discretion is standing in for those market forces. The music isn’t for everyone, and Labycz knows it: each title comes in a numbered edition of 100. But if you’re interested in deep exploration of sound informed by split-second decision making, take heed–these discs are as good as anything I’ve heard on that front in the past couple years.

I suppose the “high profile” Peira release is the trio recording by trumpeter Nate Wooley and percussionist Tim Barnes, both from New York, and Chicago bassist Jason Roebke, but the album that really knocked me out was the duet by Roebke and Labycz. They create an austere, almost desolate soundscape, where a terse thwack or string scrape carries startling force, but the greatest pleasure is in their interactions in the pin-drop delicate passages between those gestures. It’s no longer enough for contemporary improvisers to make the listener wonder who’s doing what and with which instrument–although this pair certainly manages that. Roebke and Labycz’s heavily tactile utterances masterfully underline the physicality of their instruments, which must be struck, rubbed, or touched in some way to function, but their interplay is so sensitive and engrossing I found myself not caring a whit about what was making the sounds.

Today’s playlist:

Toni Iordache, Sounds From a Bygone Age Vol. 4 (Asphalt Tango)
Mika Vainio, Revitty [Torn] (Wavetrap)
Oh No, Dr. No’s Oxperiment (Stones Throw)
Charles Ives, Symphony No. 3 (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken) (Col Legno)
Teiji Ito, Tenho (Tzadik)