• Standard Deviation

    Sasha Frere-Jones on Patty Waters

    HOW WOULD YOU SING, if you wanted to sing? Would you want to sound alluring, get the kids to swooning? Patty Waters, at the age of seventy-three, has her own answers to these questions, and few of them are immediately apparent. Dubbed “Priestess of the Avant-Garde” by JazzTimes, Waters grew up in Iowa, then moved, while in her teens, to San Francisco and eventually to New York, all to pursue her singing career. She now lives in California, as she has for decades.

    Waters is best known for two albums released on ESP-Disk in 1966—Sings, a studio album, and College Tour, a compilation of live

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  • Another Blue World

    Sadie Rebecca Starnes on serenitatem (2019)

    THE LATEST INSTALLMENT IN FRKWYS, RVNG Intl’s series of musical collaborations between different generations, serenitatem pairs Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile of Portland’s Visible Cloaks with two key figures of Japan’s late-century ambient movement, Satsuki Shibano and Yoshio Ojima. Following Doran’s curation of Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980–1990, out last February from Light in the Attic, serenitatem is not only a seamless collaboration between these two closely related duos but also a continued exploration of the varied influences that informed kankyō

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  • Open Secrets

    Thea Ballard on Félicia Atkinson's The Flower and the Vessel (2019)

    I FIND IT USEFUL to think of Félicia Atkinson’s music—soaked through as it is with traces of places she has been and imagined—as a series of landscapes. This is an approach that’s more or less in line with how one might listen to most ambient music, which is what Atkinson’s music sort of is. While it’s not difficult to be absorbed, transported by the elegant melodic terrain the French artist-composer-poet constructs from a mix of analog and computer-generated sounds (piano, Wurlitzer, a digital gamelan), the trail through these spaces can be elusive. Should we let Atkinson’s voice, an interjection

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  • Dub Daze

    Canada Choate on Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida at Fridman Gallery

    “A FACT OF ANY SUCCESSFUL POP RECORD,” Brian Eno argued in Artforum’s summer issue in 1986, “is that its sound is more of a characteristic than its melody or chord structure or anything else.” The advent of recording technology and synthesizers had by that time already exponentially broadened composers’ sonic palettes, and musical interest was no longer merely in melody, serialization, or polyphony, but in “constantly dealing with new textures.” Over the last three decades, composer, visual artist, and turntablist extraordinaire Marina Rosenfeld has built up a library of dubplates—those rare,

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  • Miracle Maker

    Fuck Theory on FKA twigs at Red Bull Music Festival

    THE LAST TIME I saw FKA twigs was almost exactly five years ago, also as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. That was Congregata, the elaborate, sinuous show she put together to support her debut, LP1. Congregata was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, of any kind. The artist spent the next few years mostly away from the public eye before returning with Magdalene. When the performance finally began (almost an hour late), a prerecorded intro played as twigs appeared alone in front of the curtain and started wordlessly tap-dancing. It was unexpected and hypnotic. Then the curtains parted

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  • Stream Logic

    Jace Clayton on Carl Stone and close listening in the Spotify era

    ONCE OR TWICE A YEAR, if we are lucky, the corporations that stockpile and sell data generated by our digital habits share a glimpse of it with us. For Spotify, this happens in December. “You listened to 3,436 different songs on Spotify this year,” ran the Swedish streaming company’s automatically personalized email to me (and roughly two-hundred million other users)—“but which will be your #1?” I clicked through, certain that Carl Stone’s 1986 “Shing Kee” was top of my list.

    Carl Stone has been cutting music into very small pieces for a very long time. His oeuvre constitutes a powerful investigation

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  • Story of O)))

    Sasha Frere-Jones on Sunn O)))

    EARLIER THIS YEAR, the French composer and artist Éliane Radigue published an essay called “Time Is of No Importance” in a collection called Spectres. In it, she writes: “Like plants, immobile but always growing, my music is never stable. It is ever changing. But the changes are so slight that they are almost imperceptible, and only become apparent after the fact.” The music of SUNN O))) lives in a similar balance, alive and immobile, exceptionally loud but not cruel.

    For their show at Brooklyn Steel on April 25, the core duo of guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson were joined by Tim

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  • Master Blaster

    Sasha Frere-Jones on Aphex Twin’s show at Avant Gardner

    WHEN APHEX TWIN played Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner earlier this month, it was his first New York appearance in at least twenty-two years. From day one, Richard D. James has used live appearances as DJing opportunities, focusing heavily on the ragey, detailed tracks he and his cohort favor. But these tracks are, and have always been, a fairly narrow tranche cut from his larger body of work. Don’t flip out if you miss his recent shows and are a lifelong fan of Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)—that show can happen any time, in your house.

    The sound was clear and not too loud. The big ass, windy

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  • Room and Cord

    Christian Fennesz talks about his new album Agora (2019)

    There are few sumptuous descriptors that have not already been deployed to describe the sui generis music of Austrian composer Christian Fennesz: Equinoctial. Thalassic. Amniotic. His previous albums Endless Summer (2001), Venice (2004), and Bécs (2014) were duly iconoclastic experiments, marrying honeyed, guitar-based melodies and snippets of field recordings with tesseral permutations of post-techno algorithms. Along the way, Fennesz has become a lodestar of left-field pop, counting among his collaborators Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Peter Rehberg, and Keith Rowe. The sprawling four tracks

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  • Written In the Stars

    Phillip Greenlief on Lisa Mezzacappa's Cosmicomics

    SINCE THE EARLY 2000s, Lisa Mezzacappa has worked in the San Francisco Bay Area as a composer and in-demand jazz bassist who plays with a roster of free improvisers and maverick composers including Fred Frith, Myra Melford, and Rhys Chatham. She has a knack for conceptualizing and articulating fresh ideas in collaborations across multiple disciplines: Touch Bass is a recent project with choreographer Risa Jaroslow for three basses and three dancers. As well, she founded the live cinema series Mission Eye and Ear at Artists Television Access (ATA), and is co-organizer of the Do-Over Music Series

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    Canada Choate on Panda Bear at Pioneer Works

    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE between being boring and being uninteresting? Panda Bear’s show at Pioneer Works earlier this month, during which he played almost exclusively material drawn from his 2018 EP A Day With the Homies and his 2019 LP Buoys, left me wondering which of those adjectives best describes his musical sin. Noah Lennox (aforementioned Panda Bear, and member of Animal Collective), with the help of Person Pitch (2007) producer Rusty Santos, built the nine tracks on Buoys out of repetitive acoustic guitar strumming, a few samples, a deep, almost inaudible bass, and his wheedling voice.

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  • Idol Hands

    Phillip Greenlief on the music of Motoko Honda

    THE MUSIC OF PIANIST AND COMPOSER MOTOKO HONDA is to mainstream jazz what Brahms’s music was to the neatly packaged forms of the Classical period. Following Beethoven’s belief that forms must expand to represent the breadth of human experience, the 19th century composer presented elongated themes with lengthy development, in which melodies were passed throughout the orchestra; he avoided the leitmotifs of Wagner, for whom specific instruments were associated with specific themes.

    Honda has assimilated many forms on her path to the present: early classical piano training in Japan, a move to the

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