NEW CIRCLE FIVE - Dreaming Wide Awake
[Deep Listening,]

Deep Listening Foundation that Pauline Oliveros has set up has been going strong now for nearly the past two decades. Their aim is, as was once stated: "Our work aims to explore new listening strategies, unusual acoustic environments, expanded instrument technologies and new relationships with audiences." Its founder, accordionist and composer, Pauline Oliveros has been known to play in unique places in order to explore the acoustic possibilities a given site would produce. [One of my favourite recordings from Deep Listening Band's back-catalogue is "Troglodyte's Delight", which was recorded deep underground in a cave.] With that said, these two new releases showcase the multitude of possibilities likely to result when creative minds sit down to play in one room.

New Circle Five is a new ensemble [only in existence for the last five years or so]. The quintet, [who refer to themselves as "an acoustic improvising contemporary music ensemble"] is made up of Monique Buzzarte on trombone, violinist Rosi Hertlein, percussionist Susie Ibarra, vocalist Kristin Norderval and [of course] Pauline Oliveros on accordion. The recording is very spacious, and each member of the quintet sounds as if they were located in far off corners of the room. It's this spatial quality that makes for a fascinating listen. The violin work of Rosi Hertlein goes very well with Pauline's rich accordion work. Likewise, Susie Ibarra's calming percussion [mostly cymbal work] is a nice contrast to Monique Buzzarte's delicate trombone tones. The only distraction [for me at least] is Kristin Norderval's vocal work. Too many times, her high pitched voice distracts from the overall calm that the quintet maintains so well. By and large, "Dreaming Wide Awake" is a superior debut record. We can only hope we'll hear more recordings from New Circle Five in the near future.

"Unquenchable Fire" is a piece based on a book of the same name, written by Rachel Pollack. The CD is credited to two ensembles: Deep Listening Band and Joe McPhee Quartet. The piece itself is broken into four separate movements, each of which is intermingled with sparse text read by the author of the book that had inspired the piece. The music is rather contemplative. There are only a couple of rousing passages in the "1st movement" - where reed player Joe Giardullo has an incredible duel match with Joe McPhee on soprano - and another one in the "3rd movement", where Joe McPhee takes a brief but blistering solo. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing, as they say. The ensemble as a whole is incredibly restrained. Pauline Oliveros' accordion is as recognizably austere and calm as always. Stuart Dempster's use of his trombone [and especially his use of the didgeridoo] is especially restrained and hushed. Most of all, Monica Wilson's cello put together with Joe Giardullo's bass clarinet produce such heavenly sounds, words just fail me. "Unquenchable Fire" is a real adventure into a world of stillness, which is equally dark as it is stunning.

Tom Sekowski

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