Hans Kennel / Mytha - How It Started (Hat)
Alphorns! The mere thought of incorporating them into jazz, experimental composition or free music seems like a great idea, until you realize the alphorn is, well, somewhat of a limited instrument. There's a scale and all, but in general dealing with something that's frankly huge (13 feet in length), requires powerful lungs to play, weighs a lot, and sounds like a massive moose, you're not going to harness the finer dimenstions of microtones, harmonics and such. Or can you? For this recently reissued 1991 recording, Hans Kennel attempted to bring the alphorn (and it's smaller brother the buchel) into the jazz realm; while composers of the past like Brahms and Mozart had indeed written music for such an instrument, Kennel's Mytha unit grouped solely for its exploration. Even after trying to alter and experiment with added valves and such, Kennel decided to embrace the limitations (and was somewhat inspired by a late Ligeti composition which highlighted the natural sounds of individually-pitched horns). The result is a stunningly beauiful disc of massive glacial drones and slowly moving, overlapping scale explorations that sounds like Moondog orchestrating a pit of walruses in a giant chamber (and oddly enough there's a piece credited to Louis Hardin himself). Despite the odd syncopations and heavily drone-based nature of these recordings, there's also a strong tie to Kennel's well-studied Swiss folk heritage. While How It Started is definitely a release that falls into avant categorization, it's also well grounded in its natural root. Real Audio: "Waves and Whales".
Lauhkeat Lampaat - Taikka Takataskussa (Peippo)
On the rare occasions we Yanks get to witness live performances of assorted Finnish free-freakdom, one recurring element I have to say that impresses me the most is their ability to travel with a light suitcase. I've seen a good half dozen of these ensembles show up at WFMU's doorstep for a session with whatever they found for $5 on the way down Canal Street to the Holland Tunnel; and each time I have had the immense pleasure being transported into some bizarro hinterland forest of sounds created by two beardy dudes hunched over an echoplex and a messy pile of plastic, sticks, balloons and other debris. When Lauhkeat Lampaat came from the wreckage of the Rauhan Orkesteri, I assumed the two Tolvi brothers (Antti and Jaakko) had more free jazz shenanigans up their collective sleeve ala their former unit. The results with LL could be considered as such, but they seem to be taking their cues from Brotzmann/Bennink's Schwartzwaldfahrt explorations of the natural sounds woods and creeks than anything. Utilizing assorted objects, bells, field recordings, Taikaa Takataskussa is an acoustic exploration of natural weirdness punctuated with bits of controlled feedback and the mental image in one's head of two extremely wired squirrels attempting to make a somewhat melodic version of a Jeph Jerman album. Real Audio: "Track 1".
Various - Latinamericarpet : Exploring the Vinyl Warp of Latin America Psychedelia Vol. 1
Various - Proibidao C.V.: Forbidden Gang Funk From Rio de Janeiro (Sublime Frequencies)
So far, the documentarians at Sublime Frequencies have not touched on Latin America in their global travels, but now have unleashed two killer additions to their growing discography. Latinamericarpet dusts off some vintage 60s and 70s gems from assorted countries and genres with a common thread of pure weirdness and lo-tech recording. Field recordings of birds, natives of Easter Island, kids' records, rough English translations, all amidst some bondafide American/European-influenced rock stompers. If anything, the alien qualities of electric guitar were not lost on this continent, as well attested to via this Sergio del Rio y su Conjunto track (Real Audio) which may be the most Latin Tony Orlando and Dawn will ever get. Fast forward to a snapshot of today's well-publicized/notorious music of Brazil's favelas: Proibidao C.V. compiles assorted anonymous MCs and DJs partaking in live street bailes (parties usually bankrolled the the local controlling drug gang). These hot-of-the-board sounds from 2003 recorded by Carlos Costas are indeed hot, blaring MC vox and distortedly jacked right over assorted Miami bass tracks, it's like the Latin Funk equivalent of a Whitehouse board tape or something (though more threats are being levelled at rival gang factions than William Bennett to his noisemonger audience I would guess). Real Audio: Untitled #7.