Azure Carter : Voice and Songs
Luke Damrosch : Guzheng, Madal, Revrev Supercollider software, mastering and production
Alan Sondheim : Alto Clarinet, Bb clarinet, Alto recorder, Irish Banjo, Alpine zither, Viola, Cura saz, Electric guitar, di Giorgio classical guitar, Qin, Chromatic harmonica, Electric saz, Long-necked saz, Oud, Pipa, Shakuhachi, Madal, Erhu, Dan moi, production
Reviews: Who could have made such music? What was he thinking? Or rather, what were his fingers telling him with their ecstatic stuttering, their motormouth metalanguage?
And do you call this music? It does not sound like noise. In its skittering, scampering, blurting of pure expression, it is alive, unmistakably alive. Like a creature we don't quite recognize, that moves by its own lights, that does not need our permission to exist, that finds or makes its own spaces and habitats.
Music is always abstract, so it would seem a redundancy to think of this as abstract music. Of course, we do not consider songs abstract, nor familiar melodies or classical forms---even when we are aware that what seems familiar is really a matter of cultural habits and slowly developed norms (which are themselves constantly changing, naturally). This music, this splash of tonalities and textures, this breathing of illuminations in their flurries of flight, might well be an abstraction of the seemingly-non-abstract. Quickest glimpse of a melody from afar, so far that it must be foreign, though no less human for that; and so quick, so speeded up perhaps, that we do not know what we are hearing. The spine of a massive animal poking up through a surface we did not even realize was there.
Alan Sondheim is a polymath, a restless connecter, explorer of virtual realms, tinkerer in the currency of questions, ever curious about impossible articulations of the body, of bodies, of dust and stars. Or what had seemed impossible. Luke Damrosch, meanwhile, tracks the flickering web of Alan's spells, catches their reflections, follows them through to their secret heartbeat. And Azure Carter? Azure assures him, ensures the voice within the music, soft anchor to a wild ear, filters the wind of vast expanses into a sigh, a melodic speaking, we are here, we were here, we may be somewhere else tomorrow. - Jason Weiss
(Disaster Amnesiac) If you've read this blog at all within the last year or so, you'll be well-appraised at how generous Public Eyesore/eh? Records have been to me (thanks, Bryan!) They sent over the newest offering from Alan Sondheim and Azure Carter a few weeks back, and Disaster Amnesiac has been digging this one greatly. Threnody features the extensive talents of Sondheim on 19 instruments, and he shows tremendous skills on all of them. His skittering, fast string playing throws out all manner of micro-tonal delights within its speedy delivery, and his playing on wind instruments has emotional depth, warmth, and balance. Sondheim's aesthetic evinces the awesome power of Folk-based sounds within the greater musical spectrum. Dear America: please pay attention to this homegrown talent! It's a shame that Sondheim's six decades of singular musical development are not as widely acknowledged. He's a Master. Also quite enjoyable are the understated vocals from Carter. Listening to Azure sing evokes the same kind of pleasure for me that comes from reading well written Minimalism. Great clarity and enjoyment comes from the apparent simplicity of her delivery, which is completely free of extraneous embellishment. Would that so many other current singers learn from her! The addition of Luke Damrosch on guzheng and madal adds percussive string and drum depth, respectively, and his layered summation of Threnody's totality of songs on Alltracks achieved by use of Supercollider software, is deliciously bizarre and thick! - Mark Pino
(Culturecatch)This is the most assured singing I've heard from Carter, who also writes the lyrics; the ritualistic, chant-like nature of the melodic delivery of the equally ritualistic and chant-like structure of the lyrics is more keenly focused. Sondheim as usual delivers frenetic spirals of instrumental improvisation on a staggeringly wide range of instruments (19 are listed in the credits), including many from non-Western cultures, providing a broader array of timbres than you'll hear on almost any album -- and about three-fourths of the tracks are instrumentals, with co-producer Damrosch also contributing to the impressive instrumentarium, along with software-aided modifications of some sounds. There's really nobody else making music quite like this, and Sondheim's been at it since the '60s; if you haven't caught up with his work yet, this is as good a place to start as any, perhaps even the best, as there's a little more space in his creations than on many of his other recordings, perhaps making it easier for newbies to find their way into his unique soundworld. - Steve Holtje
(Kathodik) Ventiquattro porzioni di musiche da un altro mondo. Una valanga strumentale (al solito) che Alan Sondheim gestisce, spalleggiato (in parte) da Luke Damrosch mentre Azure Carter, c'inzuffa voce e testi ingentilendo (a tratti) il tutto. Incrocio di culture, di sovrapposizione di stralci solisti (i clarinetti di Altoclar), di deserti immaginari né Oriente né Occidente (Qin), di delizie folk strapazzate/invitanti (il canto di Carter nell'iniziale Comeforme), di vuoti polverosi e azioni istantanee per strumenti in solitaria (Guitar 1, Banjo), dove quel che accade non s'affloscia nel consueto. Damrosch ci sminuzza via software qualche ulteriore detrito (Harmonrevrev, Threnrevrev), ma non si pensi a del noise per carità. Più che altro, il riverbero di svariate illuminazioni, notevolmente espanso. Musica di difficile (impossibile) collocazione (temporale e geografica) d'appartenenza. A tratti abbagliante nei suoi toni, a tratti eco distante (e basta) di ricomposizioni ragionevolmente improbabili. Nulla è quel che sembra, la conclusiva stratificazione di Alltracks lo ricorda. L'avvicinamento è consigliato. - Marco Carcasi
(Vital Weekly) Reading the name of Alan Sondheim I had to think of old ESP-releases from the 60s. Are we dealing with the same person here? Yes we are! Sondheim is a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist, musician, writer-philosopher, and performer. Virtuality is his main theme in many of his works I read. For his work as a recordings musician we have to make a big jump from his 60s releases for ESP into 21st century, to find new releases. Music is not his main thing, I suppose. However in the last few years he made several recordings with his partner Azure Carter. This resulted in ‘Cauldron’(2011) together with Helen Espvall. And in 2014 ‘Avatar Woman’ saw the light. This makes ‘Threnody’ in collaboration with Luke Damrosch, the third statement. Sondheim plays a wide range of instruments: alto clarinet, Bb clarinet, alto recorder,
Irish banjo, alpine zither, viola, cura saz, electric guitar, di Giorgio classical guitar, qin, chromatic harmonica, electric saz, long-necked saz, oud, pipa, shakuhachi, madal, erhu and dan moi. Damrosch plays guzheng, madal, revrev supercollider software. Carter sings. Together they deliver an overwhelming and mind blowing work, consisting of 24 songs and improvisations. If only by the different sounds and timbres of all these instruments. But there is a lot more here. The music often sounds like blues or folk music, but from a totally other planet. It’s improvised microtonal music. Very much alive and emotional on the one hand, but also of very a abstract and imaginary nature. A perfect combination if you ask me. Very weird are the tracks where Carter sings a melody over the improvisations of Sondheim and Damrosch like in the opening track ‘Comeforme’ of ‘Bone’. Sondheim creates a very idiosyncratic, one of a kind, musical universe. A deep bow! - Dolf Mulder
(Le Son Du Grisli) Du bagout et de l’autorité. Des bibelots, une panoplie : une panoplie de bibelots. Un au-delà des habitudes, un au-delà des folklores. Des musiciens adeptes du crissant et des multi-usages. Un guzheng rouillé. Une voix par delà les monts et les vaisseaux. Une guitare presque classique, désaccordée jusqu’à l’excès. Des souffles volcaniques. Un blues martien. Du Chadbourne détroussé. Du flamenco contrarié…et contrariant. Une flûte embrouillée. Une cacophonie grinçante. A vrai dire, je ne sais pas ce qui passe par la tête d’Alan Sondheim (celui-ci souvent en solitaire ici), Azure Carter et Luke Damrosch et leurs étonnants instruments (guzheng, madal, revrev, alpine zither, cura saz, qin, madal, ergu…) mais je sais que leur musique broute hors des territoires et des clichés. Sans doute pas une révolution mais un désir certain de secouer le cocotier. Attention aux chutes! - Luc Bouquet