VARIOUS ARTISTS - Brazilian Beats 6
[Mr. Bongo Recordings,]


CHRIS CUTLER - Twice Around The Earth

These four releases present varying flavours of physical locations in different parts of the world. One deals with New York City, next one concentrates on Brazil, while the third one examines remote settlements in the Australian plains. The final CD examines the world as a whole and takes sounds from every imaginable place on our planet.

Bo van de Graaf is best known as the saxophonist of Dutch ensemble I Compani [whose recorded tributes to Fellini and Nino Rota come highly recommended]. This time around he decided to take I Company across the great big pond, to explore the sound possibilities of New York City's subway system. The beauty about this "field" recording [or underground recording, if you will] is that Bo van de Graaf utilized local NYC subway musicians. We get a few sprinkles of trumpet, some percussion and in turn, a brand new I Compani is created. A large chunk of the record is devoted to sax solos from Bo van de Graaf. Whether they're especially good, I'm not so sure. Rather, they're overtly smooth, they go down easy and every one is laced with overt expression. My favourite piece is the closing "Mr. Rollins, could I get your autograph?", where the sax legend provides some humourous announcements. Maybe not the most complete field recording of NYC's subway system's musicians, the record at least makes an attempt at showing some of what's happening musically under the ground of the Big Apple. Albeit short [barely 25 minutes in length], "Ticket" succeeds in conveying a true feeling of a time and place.

"Brazilian Beats 6" showcases 19 of the most happening, out-there r'n'b, disco, soul tracks to come out of Brazil in the longest time. From the salsa-influenced "Riva" [Gringo Jo Casa de samba mix] by Arakatuba, to the groove-heavy Heavy Joker's "Take me back to Cala Bassa" [didn't Santana use this same riff sometime in the late 60's?], to the gorgeous vocal styling of Bebeto's "Flamengao", this is one album that delivers the goods. My favourites are the tracks that actually feature vocals. Don't ask me what it is about Portuguese, but when it's sung the way it is on this record, it takes me to seventh heaven [check out Clara Nunes' "Moreno de Angola" for proof]. Airy, light, but certainly bass heavy, "Brazilian Beats 6" is sure to keep you pumped up with adrenaline, while you shake your ass and book your tickets for the warm beaches of Rio.

Lawrence English is a sound artist who drove into the middle of the Australian plains and recorded the sound of settlements long doomed and left forever behind. "Ghost Towns" is a brief field recording that acts as a portrait of the deserted settlements along the Australian plains. The only devices Lawrence used on this record [besides the microphone] was some processing with the EQ and some pitch shifting. Very lonely and ominous sounds result when you enter a ghost town. Rattlesnakes are intermittently heard, along with creaking of old doors, high-pitched crackling of insects [bees? cockroaches? flies? grasshoppers?], some bird calls and pauses of utter silence. At the end of it all, I wondered, just how much of this recording was a "true" field recording, and how much was orchestrated? [I'm sure editing had a big part to play in the end process.] The only drawback to the record is its mere 18 minute length. In conclusion, I was left feeling hungry. If I could afford a ticket to Australia, without hesitation, I would go and be an actual witness to the terrain where the music that makes up "Ghost Towns" was created.

Finally, we come to composer-author-media artist Chris Cutler's work "Twice Around The Earth". When I say this is the most encompassing recording of the batch, I mean to say, this is one-stop shopping for sounds from every nook and cranny on this planet. The experiment was simple at first. Chris Cutler enlisted the help of dozens of his friends from all across the globe to program his Out of the Blue Radio programme [which was broadcast on Resonance FM in London]. Each of the contributors was asked to send in a half an hour continuous recording in any location they saw fit. The only limitation was their recording had to be made between 11:30 PM and midnight London time [thus allowing for real-time interaction, I suppose]. Half-way through Chris' programme, he was asked [commissioned] by Austrian state radio ORF to document his own programme [or make a "programme about the programme" which may sound a little bit post-modern, post-everything for that matter]. At this point, Chris selected 43 of his recordings [for the first piece called "Twice Around The Earth"] and 34 programmes for "Blue Winter" piece. He only allowed geography to determine order of appearance. While "Twice Around The Earth" was selected by "ear" [Chris actually listened to pieces to determine where edits would take place], "Blue Winter" was edited using his computer only [by looking at the waveforms on his computer screen]. You'll easily recognize many of the names on the list of contributors musicians Wadi Gysi, Jim Pugliese, Ireneusz Socha, Gino Robair, Otomo Yoshihide, Amy Denio, John Rose. Each contributor was in the middle of a specific task while they recorded themselves. Otomo Yoshihide was leaning out of his apartment window in Tokyo in the early morning hours, while Michael Maksymenko was having dinner in a Cajun restaurant in Stockholm at half past midnight. There is no doubt that both long-form pieces are very chaotic and it's best to follow them along with linear notes in hand, while wearing headphones. As an added bonus, we have "Lux", which Chris Cutler recorded while sitting at a cafeteria table at the Luxembourg airport. This entire piece was broadcast live on his radio show. Take it or leave it, "Twice Around The Earth" is a field recording that leaves no stone unturned. This may set the standard as the new world music for this century.

Tom Sekowski

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