Reader staff writer,
is obsessed with …
Various artists, Long Story Short (Trost) This five-disc box set, curated by German reedist Peter Brötzmann, collects highlights from the 2011 installment of Music Unlimited, a daring jazz and improvised-music festival in Wels, Austria, which doubled that year as Brötzmann’s 70th birthday party. The event rejected the nostalgia that often plagues such celebrations, planting itself squarely in the present by bringing together 40 Brötzmann collaborators, most of whom he plays with in active groups. He sounds as vital and powerful as any of them, and it’s a pleasure to hear how his singular aesthetic has rippled outward around the globe.
Luc Ferrari, Und so Weiter / Music Promenade (Wergo) Last year indefatigable German contemporary-classical label Wergo turned 50, and it’s been reissuing classics from its early years. This masterpiece by French composer Luc Ferrari pairs a dazzling display of multichannel musique concrete called Music Promenade with Und so Weiter, which pits Gerard Fremy’s piano playing against taped piano sounds (both conventional and not). It sounds totally fresh almost five decades later.
Various artists, Scattered Melodies: Korean Kayagum Sanjo (Sublime Frequencies) The improvisation-heavy Korean instrumental music called sanjo, often played on the silk-stringed, zitherlike kayagum, spun off from the vocal tradition pansori around 1890. These 13 virtuosic tracks, collected from rare 78s, were recorded in Korea as early as 1925, before sanjo’s styles and modes were standardized; they’re jagged and raw, full of twangy, dramatically bent notes, but also elegant and otherworldly.
Margasak is curious what’s in the rotation of …
John Corbett, co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey
Kesarbai Kerkar on Mississippi Records I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately and bringing back vinyl goodies from far-flung places. In a Houston shop, I discovered Mississippi Records, a contemporary outfit based in Portland, Oregon, that’s been pressing all sorts of vintage and recent recordings from around the world, including a gorgeous set of 1940s tracks by Indian singer Kesarbai Kerkar. Packaged with an informative, delicately assembled booklet and pressed on heavy vinyl, the album overflows with utterly unearthly ululations.
Mint-condition golden-age African vinyl A dealer in a record stall at a Parisian flea market offered me a batch of 1960s and ’70s African seven-inch singles, all dead stock from a defunct store in Kenya. Finding mint copies of vinyl from Africa is nigh impossible—folks enjoy the crap out of these records, so they’re usually in rough shape. Fifteen of the 44 I bought were test pressings—white labels, handwritten matrix numbers, no names—which turn out to be from the Kundi label and its sister operation Sibuor. The spectacular kentanzavinyl.com lists some of my stash, but others are unknown, maybe never released.
Harry Partch, Plectra and Percussion Dances At the Record Collector in LA, a freakishly stocked store with the motto “Life without LPs would be a mistake,” I recently paid idiotic money for an album I’d been wanting for decades. Experimental composer Harry Partch’s debut LP, self-released in 1953, signed and numbered in an edition of 500. Mine is number 199. On lime-green vinyl.
Corbett is curious what’s in the rotation of …
Anthony Levin-Decanini, Pairings/Birth Plan This 2008/2011 solo release (LP on Broken Research) by electronic improviser and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Levin-Decanini, a longtime Chicagoan now in Pittsburgh, is back on my mind for reasons unrelated to its noisy transcendence. When I think about sound design—how sounds originate, resemble, attack, overlap, or traffic between machines and humans—I return to the vocabulary of this record. It’s constructed from sonic dust, but never “looping,” and despite its 20,000-leagues-under-the-sea iciness, it stays an inch away and sweats like a horn solo.
The best 1.5 years of Health & Beauty Brian Sulpizio has been playing live in Chicago as Health & Beauty for ten-plus years, and he’s at the top of his game with his current streak of disturbing, cherub-voiced records: the progged-out full-band recording Wintermagic (Perilous) and three divergent outings where he’s solo or minimally accompanied, The Retch, the Flow (self-released), Our Lady (Perilous), and Guns (Teen River). To accompany Our Lady Sulpizio has published a memoir of a year he spent in Defiance, Ohio, chronicling among other things his time as a state-assigned cemetery groundskeeper.
Tapes From John Corbett I still can’t understand why, but in exchange for a few hours’ moving help, John gave me his entire collection of cassettes—four crates of several hundred tapes from around the world, including performance and radio recordings and mixtapes with painted and collaged covers. My wife, Susannah, started a blog documenting the collection in ’08 (tapesfromjohncorbett.blogspot.com), and we’re now bringing it back to life.