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Cuneiform Records (POB 8427, Silver Spring, MD  20907-8427; http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/) is an exciting label exploring the outer boundaries of experimental rock and avant-jazz. Their challenging, adventurous art-music continually rewards this eager listener. Having tried previously, I know it is impossible for me to maintain an archive of written reviews. Instead, most material I write generally is archived as part of the massive review-complex that is http://www.allmusic.com/. (Those reviews on this page that are on AMG have links to the AMG entry on the recording name.) This includes reviews of discs produced and distributed by Cuneiform, but as per the label's request I am also archiving them here. (Hopefully I remember to keep adding the new ones...) These reviews are in roughly descending chronological order stretching from the present to 1997.

ReR Megacorp is a label that Cuneiform distributes in the U.S., so it is appropriate to include ReR reviews here.



Miriodor
Parade + Live At NEARfest
Cuneiform Records

This Montreal quartet delivers intricate instrumental pieces of sophisticated post-classical chamber pop. Fans of Prime Time Sublime Orchestra and late-period Zappa will appreciate this music, at times concise and mathy and at other times zany. This double-CD package includes the latest studio album (Parade) together with a live recording from the 2002 NEARfest progressive new music festival. (4.5)

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Present
A Great Inhumane Adventure
Cuneiform Records

This mighty art-rock album consists of five complex and dramatic pieces of more than ten minutes each. This document is from the final performance of the Belgian band's 1998 American tour. The group flung itself into the vast North American continent without financial guarantees, only hoping to find welcoming ears. Let this superb opus be a lesson to all us that missed a chance to experience an awesome set in the tradition of fierce King Crimson and such RIO acts as Univers Zero. Well, Roger Trigaux (guitars/vocals/keyboards) did co-found Univers Zero. This is heavy, but not oppressive, music from the far reaches of the music-sphere where jazz and prog touch extremities. (4.5)

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Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser: Yo Miles!
Upriver
Cuneiform Records

This is the third chapter in the voyage Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser are making into the dark forest of Mile Davis' mid-'70s electric period. Jazz and classical figure Wadada Leo Smith ably handles trumpet duty to a rhythm section of bassist Michael Manring and drummer Steve Smith. Electric guitars come from Kaiser, Chris Muir and Mike Keneally. There are several others and such guests as tabla and percussion master Zakir Hussain in a highly diverse unit all sublimated into the successful incarnation of the spirit of the dark magus. The 2-CD set was recorded live, directly to a stereo DSD recorded, analogous to how Davis recorded live to analog tape. The discs are hybrid CD/SACDs, the current high fidelity standard in CD technology. (5)

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Far Corner
Far Corner
Cuneiform Records

Bass, piano, cello and percussion gives this agile ensemble rock quartet a full bottom end. However, this group is more King Crimson than it is Morphine. This basic instrumentation (it is varied and added to) grafts a mystery and depth to the progressive rock band's music. This is a particularly strong debut that bridges the post-classical and the prog worlds. In the jazz-like tradition of shared roles, each member and thus instrument leads some pieces. This adds variety and texture to the album's instrumental tracks. RIYL: King Crimson, Univers Zero, Mick Karn. (5)

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The Muffins
Double Negative
Cuneiform Records

The Muffins is akin to such progressive groups as Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Henry Cow or Soft Machine. Here the core art-jazz-rock quartet is augmented with nearly twice as many guest musicians. Two of those are saxophone alumni of the Sun Ra Arkestra (Marshall Allen, Knoel Scott). This is a second career offering by The Muffins, which disbanded in 1981 after nearly seven years of a successful progressive rock career. This is the second album since the group's reemergence and it is a monster album of jazz-rock and progressive art rock. Instead of being a time machine to clever Canterbury cacophony, this is a tautly and cleanly executed post-rock opus that has a greater presence in the camp of '60s forward-looking jazz groups like Art Ensemble of Chicago than it has in the RIO descendants of the National Health-Magma scene. (4.5)

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Ahvak
Ahvak
Cuneiform Records

The dark, mysterious progressive rock of Ahvak is one of the most sophisticated and fascinating rock sounds to reach Western ears from Israel. Apparently the progressive music scene in Israel is rich; so let's hear more of it! This instrumental debut album from a group with extensive recording credits and some conservatory training is a rich trove of intricate arrangements touching on territory of Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Univers Zero and late period King Crimson. As King Crimson became defined by its unique guitar voice in Robert Fripp, so Ahvak has a singular guitarist in self-taught Yehuda Kotton with his unexpected tunings and tonal surprises. It should also be noted that high-profile prog drummer Dave Kerman (5uu's, U-Totem, Present) is in the group having been lured to Israel by the impressive studio work being done there by forward-thinking rock groups. (4.5)

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Richard Pinhas
Tranzition
Cuneiform Records

French guitarist and electronic composer Richard Pinhas offers an organic, flowing sound where the rolling waves of processed guitar loops washes over the sedimentary sandstone foundation of Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. The instrumental music effortlessly fills your deepest headphones with aural adventures aplenty. The mesmerizing, mystic nature of this disembodied, floating music makes it right for massage, magic-working and meteor shower parties. (4)

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Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
The Iridium Controversy
Cuneiform Records

Beautiful cover art by famed Roger Dean (Yes, Asia) ornaments this CD. This is fitting to enclose the sophisticated art music inside. The quartet is a progressive, art-jazz ensemble, light and limber as it deftly moves the themes from Ken Field's saxophone to the keyboardists (Erik Lindgren, Rick Scott) as Michael Bierylo nets it all together with the guitar. This chamber rock is too hip to be merely intellectual but well smart enough to appeal to fans of jazz and neo-classical music. All this is done with a smile, making the music, done without bass guitar and only just so much percussion, light and cheery. (4.5)

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Robert Wyatt
Solar Flares Burn with You
Cuneiform Records

Robert Wyatt, formerly of Soft machine, has released some great albums on a variety of labels during his extensive career. Several tracks here come from two different BBC broadcasts of 1972 and 1974. Then there are home and studio recordings, as well as the title track being a soundtrack to the Arthur Johns short film Solar Flares Burn with You. The film is included in QuickTime format. The five tracks from the 1974 BBC broadcast are done with Curved Air keyboardist Francis Monkman. The music lacks cohesiveness. Some of the live material seems unrehearsed ("Sea Song"), giving this album an uneven quality highlighted by the ill-thought cover of "I'm a Believer". That being said, the flashes of brilliance here and the rareness of the material make it a must for fans of Wyatt and the Canterbury Scene. (3)

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Krakatoa
We are the Rowboats
Cuneiform Records

Cuneiform does a great service in bringing back into the light forgotten and important and often insanely rare albums. We are the Rowboats sounds as if it could be some krautrock-inspired prog rockers pushing their analog equipment to the limits in the '70s onto a forgotten and lost vinyl master. But indeed, this Brooklyn group is young and contemporary, although there influences are not so contemporary. Drawing off of King Crimson, Mothers of Invention and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Krakatoa produces wondrous and wildly divergent music full of drama. Bold violin (Glendon Jones) recalls the music of Curved Air. The dramatic element probably comes from the fact that musicians met as members of The Lost Art of Puppet Orchestra where they put on shadow puppet theater with live music. (4.5)

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Larval
Obedience
Cuneiform Records

Bill Brovold's Larval continues to be the voice for intelligent and challenging sounds with a hard rock basis out of Detroit. This CD sees Brovold relying less on a wall-of-sound guitar dirge to offer more complex arrangements featuring the strings and horns. This post-threnody Larval is menacing and ominous. Dark clouds gather here on this most moody and reflective of the Larval albums. (4.5)

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Various Artists
156 Strings
Cuneiform Records

Henry Kaiser is our "curator" in this 19-track museum of experimental guitar. The purpose of this CD is to exhibit the current state of acoustic guitar innovation. Participants range from the versatile Richard Thompson to avant-guitar stalwart Fred Frith. Frith is, of course, know more for his creations on the electric guitar, as are other participants like Mike Keneally. Inspired by the early Takoma samplers compiled by John Fahey as well as Frith's Guitar Solos series, Kaiser's stated aim is to highlight the "many players today who are operating at those elevated levels of acoustic eloquence." The artists recorded each of the all-instrumental tracks exclusively for the project. This is a natural extension of previous productions Kaiser brought to Cuneiform. Prior to this, there was Friends & Enemies, a 2-CD compendium of Kaiser-Frith improv. Before that Lemon Fish Tweezer compiled Kaiser's solo guitar improvisations from two decades. (5)

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Lutz Glandien
The 5th Elephant
Cuneiform/ReR MegaCorp

Lutz Glandien's music is ominous, truly fearsome electronic creations. A mesmerizing, plodding substrate of tempo-shifting beats conveys a discharging storm of psychopathic, fractured melodies and backwards voices. The genesis of this opus was studio improvisations with drummer Chris Cutler (Pere Ubu, Henry Cow) and tuba player Michael Vogt showing his avant-garde side away from the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Glandien took this material and spent three years analyzing, processing and re-creating it with computer technology. The result is as disturbing as it is lucid. The 5th Elephant is shades of Nine Inch Nails in the spirit of Stockhausen. (5)

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The Muffins
Bandwidth
Cuneiform/Rune

A criminally uncelebrated American progressive rock band, The Muffins return to the scene with this, their first studio release since 1980. The Muffins draw from the post-psychedelic Canterbury scene (Soft Machine, National Health, etc.), Sun Ra and Henry Cow. (Henry Cow member Fred Frith later called the group "the finest progressive band America produced.") They combine matured post-psychedelic textures with the focused jazz energy of early- and middle-period Sun Ra on this jazzy, well-hone creation that was in production for more than two years. (4)

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Soft Machine
Backwards
Cuneiform

Backwards is entirely recordings previously unreleased from the innovative and challenging avant-garde group. In roughly reverse chronological order; these half-dozen tracks (one over 20 minutes in length) cover the period 1968-1970. The most visible representatives of the post-psychedelic Canterbury scene, Soft Machine progressed from accessible pop to more innovate jazz fusions. The initial three selections are studio tracks recorded after the quartet version (Dean/Ratledge/Hopper/Wyatt) finished Third. Following are two live recordings from November 1969 of the large septet version adding Dobson/Charig/Evans. Concluding the disc is Robert Wyatt's demo version of "Moon in June" recorded by the band in two parts months apart and spliced together. (4)

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FRESH FRITH

Britain's ReR MegaCorp, distributed domestically on Cuneiform, reissues Fred Frith's Accidental: Music for Dance, Vol. 3 and Gravity titles. From the avant-guitarist, these are two varied discs. The title of each is a reverse barometer of the weather system contained therein. Gravity is possessed of levity and a even a cartoonish experimentalism. Accidental, however, is so purposeful as to border on the aggressive in its repetitive purposefulness. Gravity is Frith's lighthearted celebration of dance from all cultures. Perhaps it is the streak of dance-music appreciation that caused him to later collaborate on the musical score to Sally Potter's The Tango Lesson. Percussion here is light and largely marked with handclaps. The guitars sound twang-y and bring folk-instrumentation to mind. Indeed, much of Frith's source material for this album was scratched on napkins while listening to Greek musicians while on holiday. Violins and horns add a jubilant feel to the music. Many musicians help vary the sound of each tracks and some of these guests are from Samla Mammas, Manna, The Muffins and Henry Cow. Gravity is an entertaining and multi-cultural pocket folk festival. Certainly, Gravity, of all the Frith releases is the most accessible, the easiest to enjoy. The disc contains a rendition of "Dancing in the Street" and it is the only Frith album where this does not seem out of place.

Accidental is Frith on all voices and instruments. This instrumentation is mostly guitars, violin, junk percussion, and radio found sounds. British choreographer Paul Selwyn Norton commissioned this music for a dance piece made in Tel Aviv, Israel. It was recorded in 1995-1996 winter. This reaches back to harsh, angular art sounds that hearken back to Frith's Henry Cow days. This is the sound he was freeing himself from on the more unfettered Gravity. In a way, though, this is then a back-to-basics approach where Frith returns to his roots but employs modern production techniques. As Gravity benefits from the exuberance of Hellenic folk musicians Frith encountered, so Accidental reflects the tension of an Israel shuddering from the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It was shortly after this event that Frith was in Israel recording the music in all-night sessions.

These reissues are co-releases with Frith's own Fred Records. Along with the back catalog will appear new release. Frith on the Web: http://www.fredfrith.com.

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Roberto Iolini
Iolini
ReR Megacorp/Cuneiform

Roberto Iolini, operating out of Sydney, Australia, presents strange computer compositions on Iolini that occasionally break into crystalline Classical passages reminiscent of the chamber pieces he composes. Clear joy combined with the sophisticated rhythms of Twentieth Century Music can be heard in "Zimbabwe." Inspired by Zimbabwean rhythms, this piece bears an affinity on that level to "Dumisana Maraire" on Kronos Quartet's Pieces of Africa. From this ethnic celebration the spectrum here also includes an except from Vanunu, the opera co-written by Iolini in homage Mordachai Vanunu, the nuclear scientists that divulged Israeli nuclear secrets. The mix of electro-acoustic experimentation and neo-classical sophistication makes for not overly complex, but fascinating listening. This is a collection of compositions from Iolini, mostly composed for reasons other than this album. (4)



Steel Water Light
Steel Water Light
ReR Megacorp/Cuneiform

This unique collaboration of Roberto Musci, Chris Cutler, Jon Rose and Claudio Gabbiano focuses on silent movies about cities at the century's start. The confused, urban sound of such growing cities presents itself here. Also, we are exposed to the peculiar, enwalled psychology of the metropolitan denizens. The three classics at the root of this project are De Brug (Joris Iven, 1928), Regen (Joris Iven, 1929), and Manhatta (Paul Strand, 1921). Backward loops, disembodied voices and Jon Rose's violin improvisations effectively convey the otherworldliness those past landmarks would strike us with today. (4)



Curlew
Meet the Curlews
Cuneiform Records

Curlew is a long-lived electric experimental jazz band. Their thick, art-jazz compositions earn kudos from avant-jazz fans as well as art-rock fans. This, their eighth album, captures the bright scintillations of their musical chain lightening and the dusk-gray aura of their more mysterious melodies. These are clever compositions fusing classical jazz phrasing and woolly jazz-rock passages. (4)

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Arkham
Arkham
Cuneiform Records

Arkham, mysterious and dangerous like the H.P. Lovecraft city, recalls the earliest King Crimson records in a primitive, deconstructed fashion. This Hammond-fueled trio ruled the Belgium prog-rock scene during its short 1970-1972 existence. The keyboardist and composer for the group, Jean-Luc Manderlier went on to greater fame with Magma. Drummer Daniel Denis, also briefly in Magma founded Belgium's Necronomicon with Claude Deron. Deron plays electric flugelhorn on two of the tracks here. Paving the way for the Rock In Opposition movement helping create art-rock and prog, this group focused on touring during its existence, but released no live album. Compiled from tapes made at various Arkham performances and rehearsals, this release rights that wrong. (4)

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Raoul Björkenheim
Apocalypso
Cuneiform Rune
http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/

Raoul formed Krakatau in the late 80's after graduating from Berklee School of Music. Since, he has been an experimental rock mover and shaker, engaging in many projects. Raoul Björkenheim is an innovative sound sculptor creating instrumental masterpieces with foundations in rock and jazz. Over the years, Raoul has played with like-minded talents such as Henry Kaiser, Nicky Skopelitis and Mike Keneally.  These artists are also excellent reference points for appreciating the sophisticated and oblique approach taken to guitar performance here. This piece was realized 1994-5 as a commission for the Helsinki Juhlaviikot Festival and originally intended for 100 guitarists. Björkenheim’s final piece is for 42 musicians: 30 guitarists, 8 bassists and 4 percussionists. This 2000 recording includes parts added since and features Raoul performing all parts in the studio as a virtual ensemble. (5)

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Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co.
Like a Duck to Water
Cuneiform

The works of Robert Ashley fueled the set lists of early Mother Mallard performances in 1969. The group continued working with music composed for synthesizers, including their own compositions. This disc is entirely the work of members David Borden and Steve Drews. Founder Borden was involved with Moog synthesizers early on, and these still form a foundation to their hallmark sound. Their pieces tend to be gentle, swelling compositions that rise and fall like a great, aural tide. This reissue is of material originally recorded 1974-1976, marking the introduction of Judy Borsher on the electric piano (the only polyphonic keyboard in the arrangements) after the departure of Linda Fisher. This ambient experimentalism, including a piece based on ideas by John Cage, emerges from the early roots of American electronic head music. Their fascinating, organic minimalism is an important archive and effective music that combines the best of Terry Riley and early efforts from Phillip Glass and Tangerine Dream. (4.5)

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Kampec Dolores
Sitting on the Buffalo
Cuneiform

Unexpected jazz-rock techniques marry to traditional folk on this energetic album from Carpathian group Kampec Dolores. Somewhat like an East European Pere Ubu, this group began in 1984 and toured with that group. Vocalist Gabi Kenderesi does not let the accidents of language intrude upon her bright, clarion style. Her own personal blend of languages real and imagined results in her Oriental wordless syllables. It is a fanciful mixture of Yiddish and Latin that gives the group a name that could mean, "The End of Pain." Hungarian by birth but Asian in imagination, Sitting on the Buffalo is a wondrous dance of sitar-like zithers and electronics, soprano sax and violin. (4.5)

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Miriodor
Mekano
Cuneiform

Miriodor creates hyper-sophisticated, post-jazz, post-classical music that requires multi-genre skill on its players. This is on the level of Zappa/Mothers of Invention for Dadaist art-rock with humor and innovation. This Canadian Rock in Opposition act offers a subtle French flavor in their creative romps through prog rock and the Third Stream. Fans of Henry Cow, The Residents and the “chamber rock” movement will appreciate their zany genius. (4.5)

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Peter Blegvad
Hangman's Hill
Cuneiform/ReR MegaCorp

Peter Blegvad is a dark, somber version of Bob Dylan. Blegvad was part of Henry Cow and Faust in the early 70s. He went from these important, art-rock pioneer groups on to The Golden Palminoes and since worked with Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Carla Bley, Jack Bruce and avant-saxophonist John Zorn. On Hangman's Hill the original Henry Cow rhythm section of Chris Cutler and John Greaves. The trio of veteran UK experimentalists creates American folk-Gothic songs with stark, melancholy overtones. This Englishman's Bob Dylan-like inflection and picturesque poetry combine for an excellent and unique reaction to Americana. Loneliness, loss and death are the trinity of constant themes throughout this stylized album. Hangman's Hill is a well-balanced album. It's gloomy shades are contrasted with XTC-like vocal harmonies (especially when Kristoffer Blegvad accompanies on "Love Somebody") and tasteful, bright splashes of guitar and keyboards. (4.5)

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Boud Deun
The Stolen Bicycle
Rune/Cuneiform

Boud Deun is a quartet of violin, guitar, bass and drums that improvise exciting and dynamic instrumentals pregnant with the same high-energy charge that typifies early King Crimson. This tight, integrated unit deifies belief with degree to which much of their extemporaneous jaunts sound premeditated. Consider, for instance, the sudden change from punk assault to violin and guitar recital in "Burnsville." Also in "Burnsville" bassist Matt Eiland charges to the front for a spirited bass lead, one of the two few times that he does so. Three of the musicians will deftly swing behind guitarist Shawn Persinger or violinist Greg Hiser with barely a note's notice. The result is stunning and masterful. Influence of the Crimson ones is detectable throughout, as is the hyper-folk of Stravinsky ("Saints," especially the end) and traditional jazz in the guitar-led "Broken Spokes." Elsewhere, the lexicons of punk bombast, bluegrass lightning licks (together in "Ten Pence/Bridges") and more are referenced. Boud Deun's fiery charges into one territory and then another leaves no prisoners and asks no quarry in laying claim to fertile lands left fallow under the rule of orthodoxy. Boud Deun is Mahavishnu Orchestra on fire, The Dixie Dregs gone to town, a worthy new volume in the encyclopedia of progressive, limitless, surprising pantheon of instrumental groups. (4)

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Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co.
1970-1973
Cuneiform

There hardly is a dance club and definitely not a rave that does not boast a "chill-out" or "come-down" room for ambient and relaxing tone basking. Before many of these ravers and club-goers were even born, Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co. induced such mind-calming therapy in its listeners through the sole use of Moog synthesizers. While the Mother Mallard ensembles of the 80s featured mostly keyboards, "1970-1973" features only pure-Mood compositions by the original trio of Linda Fisher, Steve Drews and David Borden. Moog enthusiasts should take note that "Music" on this collection is performed on the first MiniMoog ever made. The mellow and rich tones of these trance-inducing wave-benders are a mental analgesic. Mother Mallard's compositions are mood music for therapeutic auto-hypnosis. The layered and repetitive interaction of two or three Moogs interacting on the twelve-minute-plus tracks here is a gateway to a comfortably cushioned analog sonic paradise. (4)

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The Danubians
The Danubians
Cuneiform

The Danubians created this document of jazz and experimental rock live in Italy and Hungary during a 1999 tour. The progressive multinational (largely European) ensemble blends Old World folk roots with cutting edge jazz expression. The keystone here is Amy Denio of Seattle, Washington. In the contemporary avant-garde movement, she is known for her skills instrumentally and vocally. Besides singing, she also performs here on accordion, sax, bass and guitar. (3.5)

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Forrest Fang
The Blind Messenger
Cuneiform

Chinese-American Fang employs violin, "electronics," a grab-bag of ethnic percussion and more on this solo release. Carl Weitgarten makes a brief appearance putting the E-bow to a Dobro and Kit Watkins plays piano on one track. Strongly rooted in jazz improvisation, Americana stringed instruments and non-Western classical music Fang is an addendum to the musical atlas. Some composers use fractal algorithms for arrangements and that's an excuse for us to appreciate the music only intellectually. With Forrest Fang the inviting compositions feel much too warm and organic for us to believe they were actually forged in mathematics. This can be credited to the dizzying array of real instruments and Fang's own acute understanding of the creation of music as cultural expression. Relaxing, thought provoking and ideal for late at night. (4)

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Various Artists
The RER Quartlerly Vol. 4 No. 2
Cuneiform/ReR MegaCorp

The ReR Quarterly began as an LP and magazine in 1984. The idea resurfaces in this CD and magazine package. Having not seen the publication, I can only comment on the recording. All tracks are exclusive to this issue which begins with Q.R. Ghazala 's short (2:22) radio collage "Sacrifice to Isis." Percussionist Paul Guerguerian and Mike Hovancsek cooperated by snail mail to construct the bright eclectic "Three Cold Floors" with percussion, keyboards and "modified electric guitar." East Coast environmental sounds create a soundscape backdrop for Tom DiMuzio 's "Inception." A minimum of appropriate studio effects is added. Marie Goyette updates one of the three B's in "Short-Cuts: Brahms." The result of the programmed samples is an intermittently moody and then powerful view of the composer, as if sent through a lattice. Ken Ando gives us a fun and uninterrupted guitar jaunt in "Danseuse." A modicum of effects is used on the four guitar parts that Ando performs. Robert Iolini continues the trend on this compilation towards obvious melody with "Congo." This klangfarben (tone-coloring) "deconstruction of a Congolese song" shows in its rearrangement a striking affinity with the bamboo saxophone of Sugar Belly. Also here is Iolini's "Zimbabwe." Much more chaotic than "Congo," Iolini here tries to equate the current pandemonium in the country by dicing up "a typical Zimbabwean rhythm." The harpsichord stands out Baroque and proud in front of the shadowy accompaniment of "electric guitar and digital machines" in Giovanni Venosta 's three-part from "Le Ombre di Otello" ( "Othello's Shadow" ). Wavelike shapes of ambient noise characterize the sea-motion composition "Feu Brilliant" by Keith Rowe and Alaid De Phillips. Dudley Saunders adds vibrato vocals to "Shenandoah/Innsbruck" as arranged by Brian Woodbury for his Variety Orchestra . Plenty of horns are teamed with pedal steel, accordion, banjo, percussion and more for a fairly traditional and smartly organized piece. Saunders gives us the lyrics and solos follow by sax, trumpet and pedal steel before Saunders returns. I do not know what the painting "by Chilean-born surrealist Roberto Matta" that inspired "Unthinkable" looks like, but I can say that the nearly six-and-a-half minutes of white noise, digital crescendo and decrescendos makes me think of a loose phone connection during a rainstorm. From a similar backdrop, Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer 's "Heterophony" grows to include what sounds like an orchestra warming up. Volapuk gives us the cello, bass clarinet, drums and tape composition "Des Objets de la Plus Grand Importance." The result is a tightly conceived piece of music that consists of short phrases, sudden shifts, sparse arrangement but remarkable cohesion. Playful and engaging. On Boris Kovacs ' "Interludium: Two Drums" the sonorous Gran Cassa drum creates enunciates a cavernous monologue punctuated by a snare drum. Philip Perkins takes us on a sound collage tour of Indonesia on "Virgo Ramayana." The disc concludes with Shelley Hirsch, John Rose and Chris Cutler on "After Hours/The Colour of Blood" taken from a live radio performance. The collage of conversation and instrumentation (keyboard, violin, low grade electronics and percussion) makes a very interesting listen along the lines of a bizarre radio play. (4)


Curlew
Fabulous Drop
Cuneiform

Fabulous Drop is the seventh album from this challenging and rewarding sax-led, two-guitar rock combo. They bubble prominently from the seething pot that is the Knitting Factory avant-jazz scene. Their jazz fusion is about a widened vocabulary and a more capable art, not flashy theatrics. Founder and sax-monster George Cartwright provides the appropriate sweet melody or screaming wail to answer the guitars and bass boiling behind him. Every cut is coherent and intelligently portrayed as a very rhythmic combination or a rock stratum holding up a free jazz sky. Coming from an inception in 1979, Cartwright provides us with another map in his vision feral sax, guitar or drum solo in a verdant setting of hip jazz-rock. The other curlew musicians do or have spent time in God Is My Co-Pilot, No Safety, John Zorn's Masada and more. This is among the best albums in the category of "avant-jazz" or "electric jazz" that I have heard in the last couple years. (4.5)

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Tim Hodgkinson
Pragma
Cuneiform/ReR MegaCorp

Tim Hodgkinson draws on experience garnered in pioneering avant-garde rock groups (Henry Cow, The Work, God, The Goose) in composing challenging and fascinating works similar to contemporary classical works like Zappa's "Dupree's Paradise" or something from Riyuchi, etc. Everything on this recording is constructed from samples, even though scores exist for some of the pieces. The edgy angularity of Repulsion (clarinet, electric guitar, brass, percussion) is balanced by the disquieting flow of SHHH, an audio collage of disembodied voices, chants, etc. that eddies to silence before branching off into moaning tributaries captured onto tape at London Zoo, Novosibrok airport, the recordings of Ana Maria Avram and more. A trio of prepared violas was the beginnings of For Looking Inside, a jarring study in strings antagonized and released. Hodgkinson seems keen to employ a technique of tectonic confrontation that, instead of turning cataclysmic, diffuses into islands of silence. The most recent of these 1997 and 1998 compositions, Black Death and Errors in Construction, is both the most successful and most encompassing of the pieces. Percussion, prepared piano and tape provide the cubist background to sudden appearances by cellos, violas and a flatulent bass clarinet. (3.5)


Haco
Haco
Cuneiform/ReR MegaCorp

Singular extemporaneous Japanese noise-pop. Haco is backed by the prepared tapes of musicians on cello and percussion. The studio band offers bass, Indian flute and guitar. Her vocals are in the Kate Bush vein with a spice of Bjork. The Japanese arrangements and language add an exotic air to the enticing arrangements. Haco is at her best when the compositions approach a minimal accompaniment to her voice. This record is organic and creative, personal and warm. (4)

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C.W. Vrtacek
Silent Heaven
Rune/Cuneiform Records (Rune 79)

21 snippets and longer compositions by Chuck Vrtacek, the brains behind the Cuneiform Records group Forever Einstein. His solo work is beautiful and melodic.

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