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It makes less sense to say that Maths Balance Volumes formed in 2002 than to say that, since that year, they have been collapsing into something, again and again. Just as the three members fell together with no plan or allegiance to any style or genre, each track falls together as the broken pieces of songs and sounds meet to make a temporary and frightening whole. Things make their way into a Maths Balance Volumes song when they don’t or won’t work anymore, when they have escaped their owner, or hidden away where nobody is supposed to find them. When things fall together—when the wooden creaks and radio hisses gather for a minute alongside bass lines and melancholy voice—there is a beauty that sounds like it was made by nobody and for nobody. The city of Mankato, Minnesota has been the steady gathering point for the band since its beginnings. Mankato had always provided an ominous backdrop: built on stolen Dakota land, the city was the site of the largest mass execution in US history, when 38 Dakota prisoners were hanged on in 1862 in a straightforward act of genocide. But in their music of the past twelve years, Maths Balance Volumes has made music in and of a hometown overshadowed and unsettled by its history, music for a world in which things have never been okay. Traditional American folk genres seep in at times, but never as the incarnation of a living popular culture—only as ghosts or unliving effigies. A Year Closer tells us already in its title what its theme is: approaching death, time ticking away and getting closer with each track of the record. We are told in the first song that our protective mask isn’t working, warned by the storm clouds and a ticking bedroom clock in “Dark Skies.” We hear fears of death approaching in the sad words exchanged by lovers who see they will run out of time, or already have, as in “We Had Time” or the romantic lament of “When I Drink.” In “Work Last Monday,” all of life passes with cold automatism in an “office apartment,” as a narrator broods over early onset dementia, remembers the details of rituals for respecting the dead, and thinks of how a hole is opening up in reality itself. The singer of “Over the Hill” isn’t apparently afraid of growing older and becoming a “man,” but only leaks a few disjointed details of his plans for disappearing, collapsing, turning into a tree, and finding a home. “Angel of Mercy” tries to resurrect the Christian promise of a life after death, anxiously asking if anyone is up there waiting for us after the oblivion of this world. But these are just the moments when A Year Closer speaks in words clear and audible enough to be understood. The giddy, agitated voice of “The Price” speaks only to itself in a private language, hidden away in a tin can somewhere. Musically, A Year Closer is a series of pieces that make symphonies out of separate processes of decay and disappearance: unidentified cracking and creaking objects, broken equipment, and lost melodies that seem to have escaped other songs and wandered into the room looking for a place to hide. These are the moments that the listener of Maths Balance Volumes always knows are coming, waits for, and settles in temporarily for a moment of repose. Maybe this is the meaning of A Year Closer: while waiting for the worst, things come together, a “we” with no name but with a rhythm, a tenuous but definite harmony to share as the clock ticks. Even if, when the lights are turned on, it turns out nobody was there. – Paul Buchholz

Maths Balance Volumes – A Year Closer

Fantôme Phonographique present a reissue of Speech After The Removal Of The Larynx, originally released by Smithsonian Folkways in 1964. The larynx or voice box is a small organ located towards the top of the neck in humans and some other animals. Constructed largely of cartilage, it houses the vocal folds that allow for the manipulation of pitch and volume, which are essential for the phonation of spoken speech. It is also involved in bringing air to the lungs when you breathe and it protects the windpipe when you swallow. However, those unfortunate to experience the potentially fatal malignant tumors of laryngeal cancer will have their larynx removed, resulting in a traumatic loss of speech; thankfully, as this rare record issued by Smithsonian Folkways in 1964 demonstrates, removal of the larynx does not necessarily spell the end of speech for such blighted individuals. Instead, through developments in artificial voice creation, patients could learn to employ modes of vocal communication again. The album was recorded by physician Harm A. Drost at the Phonetic Laboratory of the Ear, Nose, and Throat Dept. of the University Hospital, Leiden, in the Netherlands, working under the direction of Professor H. A. E. van Dishoeck. As the advances were fairly new and surprisingly varied, Drost felt a phonograph album demonstrating the techniques would be useful for those in the field. The album thus features a narrator explaining aspects of several different techniques, followed by examples of patients employing them. Buccal speech (limited to certain consonants), parabuccal speech (collecting air in a space between the upper jaw and the cheek), glosso-pharyngeal speech (a method deemed obsolete where air is forced between the tongue and the palate), esophageal voice (made by reconditioning one's esophagus via swallowing, suction, or injection), various injection techniques and devices such as the larynxophone, pipa di tichioni, and "western electric" are all explored here, along with other aspects of the larynx and its absence. Speech After The Removal Of The Larynx is definitely one of the strangest albums ever given a commercial release

V/A – Speech After The Removal Of The Larynx

Following his first record on Rekem (Fullness of Harmony... Rekem 08), Panos Charalambous returns with a double vinyl collection that compiles a wide amount of sound and material within its four sides of vinyl. On top of recordings of his performances -where existing records are brought alive using objects from nature as cartridges- this album collects field recordings, performance and installation documentations. In addition, Charalambous has included a number of contributions from other artists, which he uses to compliment and contrast his own material and actions. Bringing together –amongst others- Mike Cooper & Tasos Stamou’s London Taximi, midnight recordings of jackals captured on Greece’s Mount Athos, Aggelos Krallis’ raw take on Misirlou, a rhythmic dance on glass cups under the distant sounds of a country festival, as well as voice-o-graph records containing voices and immigrant stories from the 50s, Charalambous pieces together a rich and manifold sound mosaic, reinstating neglected or unknown voices from the Balkan peninsula. Focusing both on content and sonic atmosphere, he manages once more to bring together the disparate and distant elements of the land, and to draw out a parallel ethnography and rapprochement of the local aural tradition. Building upon this aspect, the physical edition includes, amongst others, a pamphlet featuring an essay by Thanasis Moutsopoulos on the secret post-war history of folk music in Greece.

Panos Charalambous – An Eagle Was Standing

Back in the early 2000s, after locating those first Moondog 78s, and adding them to the mix at Honest Jons, assembling the compilation that became The Viking of Sixth Avenue, was a kind of musical cloud nine - a voyage of discovery, attempting to chart the worlds that Moondog had created. Now it's Spring again - as winter encroaches - and Mississippi expose us to some never before heard material. It's killer grade, recorded by yet another genius, Tony Schwartz, the pioneering Folkways field recordist, the first man to record Louis Hardin, aka Moondog, who in the 1950s also recorded a day in the life of a dog [canine variety] and a New York cab driver, among many others.Behold! A survey of Moondog’s earliest recorded works - many of them unreleased until now - through a collaboration by Mississippi Records and Lucia Records. From 1954 - 1962 field recordist Tony Schwartz frequently checked in with Moondog, his favorite street musician. Tony Schwartz made recordings of Moondog’s earliest compositions as they were coming into focus. Sometimes these recordings were made right on the street as Moondog busked, sometimes they were made in Schwartz’s studio, and sometimes they were made on NYC rooftops. The resulting recordings, many of which had never been released, were deposited at the Library Of Congress as part of the Tony Schwartz Collection in 2006 when Schwartz passed away, and this record was culled straight from these original tapes.Side one kicks off with an unreleased version of Moondog’s classic composition “Why Spend The Dark Night With You?” followed by the first ever complete recording of his “Nocturne Suite,” a beautiful piece of classical music performed with members of the Royal Philharmonic. The side ends with the complete “On The Streets Of New York” 7” EP, which was released on Mars records in 1955 and subsequently re-released by Honest Jon’s Records in 2004 on their excellent Moondog anthology. Side B features sketches of Moondog compositions never released, many with the man himself howling and chanting over his homemade percussion set.Moondog’s music is as universal as it gets - part classical music, part Native American, part European folk, and part something completely unique. Moondog is one of the towering figures of 20th century music. This record comes with liner notes featuring never before released interviews with Moodog by Tony Schwartz and is housed in an old school “tip on” cover. All tracks fully licensed from the Library of Congress.

Moondog – On The Streets Of New York

Derek Baron is a composer, musician, and artist. Curtain is a diary. Both in musical and non-musical situations, they attribute a filmic quality to their journal-like aural self-documentation. Dreams turn real then dissolve. Single phrases and events arrive and leave, abruptly. Yet, the overall sense of place that Baron creates is understood.Opening Curtain is the eponymous piece. A 21-minute live chamber work for quintet recorded in 2018. A musical assemblage of glued-together fragments and scraps of sheet music from Baron’s past. Compositions wrote in the small margins and folds of paper; illustrated in the art booklet included with the LP. The flute, violin, guitar, keyboard, and bass clarinet phrases saunter at a pre-sleep pace, until a subdued, yet ecstatic Mass theme ushers in periodically. Delivering the warmth of life… it is a slow beauty. It brings me such happiness listening to this piece. Its continuity is cut with scissors and pasted about oddly… all soaked in a certain malaise; a resigned grace.The next piece and other side of the LP, “Chancel,” is rather different. An audio journal flipped through, dropped on the ground, picked up and opened to another page. A confusing montage of world-ized musical snatches: car radios, church choirs emanating to the streets, moldy organs, domestic piano recordings. Similarly, machine vibrations, bodega conversations, and other environmental observations segue the harmony and disharmony of this listening experience. I’ll finish with some of Derek’s notes from the booklet: “Co-opting new achievements / Thank you for this incredible demonstration / This theatre of procedures / This consoling play of recognitions / No theatre but “what’s that”, / Nowhere for the silver ball to roll to. / How are we so in love.”

Derek Baron – Curtain

The Oystercatcher is the first collaborative LP from Cucina Povera (Maria Rossi) and ELS (Edward Simpson)Recorded in London over two days, hours' worth of improvisations have been edited down to form these six tracks.A fragile interplay is at work between Maria's drifting vocals and the ominous churn of Edward's modular synth. Each sonic element takes a turn at leading the way.The opening track 'Mantle' is formed from sparse, monolithic electronics, woven gently with a thread of vocals. In the closing track 'Eon' Maria's voice shepherds spontaneous bursts of sounds, almost Rave-like if order were imposed, through 15 minutes of turmoil and resplendent until the end.Maria's vocals make their own trails amongst the noise, bringing to mind the the exploratory language from Ursula K. Le Guin's album 'Music and Poetry from the Kesh', recalling the same understated mystery.The overall effect of this collaboration is a completely unique creation albeit within a recognisable lineage of predecessors.The artwork reflects the vision of these two artists, collaged together. Both images are from a trip to Helsinki. Edward's photograph of Tulips caught after dark are reviled by a flash. Maria's seemingly abstract drawing is a graphite rubbing taken from a granite slab of a pavement somewhere in Kallio. Together the two images represent two different methods for capturing a city's haptic landscape.The album moves with a feeling of transience, which is no surprise given that the idea to collaborate was formed in Helsinki, realised in London and edited together in Rotterdam.The Oystercatcher tells a fragile tale, one that spins out into the unknown. A cold union of voice and machine, still tentative and probing, learning to co-exist. A kind of fundamental shift whereby shared moments have been turned to sound.The Oystercatcher is a bird that can freely travel between the earth, sea and sky. The motif is taken from a Tove Jansson short story. A dead bird washes ashore, two different versions of events are presented to how the bird came to die. The album feels like two different stories being presented on top of one another but ultimately coming to the same tragic conclusion.

Cucina Povera & ELS – The Oyster Catcher

Second Editions presents Both by claire rousay. Claire Rousay has been exploring the sensitivities of sound always in relation to "the self" and "the other", equally. Her work is always seen as a contribution, as engagement. Recording, collaging and composing become acts of considering, remembering, giving. Therefore music becomes a context, or more precisely, a habitat. But what does it say about this music when the artistic choice goes deeper, when it is not only an urge to express but to find oneself? When there is more to communicate, to connect to than a "musical work"? This new record features two attuned location-based Hörstücke that sit somewhere between conceptual composition and magical realism. Library is a site-specific piece recorded at, and played back to the halls of the Central Library in San Antonio, Texas. A meticulous recording of social against functional space. Mixing a live microphone feed through a pair of loudspeakers and accompanying it with two sine tones pitched specifically to the building’s dimensions and resonant frequencies, rousay is blending architectual space and human interaction into one curated arrangement. On the opposite side, Two Things acts as a transient dream sequence, an elusive mise en scene. It provides a sense of location so familiar yet very disorienting. A (re)introduction to a periphery state, a fictional truth, an outside world constructed entirely and deliberately from the inside of an apartment. Composed and produced by claire rousay at Central Library San Antonio in Texas, 2019, and in Ciudad de México, 2019. Mastered and cut by Anne Taegert at Duplates & Mastering in Berlin, 2020

Claire Rousay – Both

A masterclass in nuance, interpretation and the purifying power of the human voice, Standards Vol. V represents another captivating chapter in the career of a singular figure in contemporary music.For his fifth album as the mischievously named National Jazz Trio Of Scotland, the prolific jazz outsider Bill Wells posits yet another collaborator in the diffuse light cast by his tender chord shifts and understated arrangements. Where Standards Vol. IV spun around the vocal talents of Kate Sugden with contributions from Gerard Black and Aby Vulliamy, the voice on Standards Vol. V is that of Black, whose other musical activities include the band Babe, François And The Atlas Mountains, Rozi Plain and Charlotte Gainsbourg.For much of Standards Vol. V, Black’s unstained tenor is the paint with which Wells fills the canvas on songs including four originals – among them the beatific wordless chorale Gradual Inclination and the contrasting So Much Power, an energetic stomp propelled by keyboard brass and drum machine – and versions of songs from the musical Fiddler On The Roof and George and Ira Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing (Sunrise, Sunset and Of Thee I Sing respectively).As ever with Wells’ work, whether under the NJTOS monicker or his own name (which typically appears alongside those of collaborators including Yo La Tengo, Jim O’Rourke and Annette Peacock), the melodic and lyrical elements are embellished with jazz-accented piano, samples and keyboards, with minimal rhythmic accompaniment other than electronic percussion.Adding to the intrigue on Standards Vol. V are a new arrangement of the Scots/Irish ballad I Know Where I’m Going (from which Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger took the title of their 1945 film of the same name), an entirely new musical interpretation of Sigh No More Ladies from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and the album’s appropriately named finale, A Quiet Goodbye, with words by Aidan Moffat, Wells’ partner on Everything’s Getting Older (2011) – winner of the inaugural Scottish Album Of The Year award – and follow-up The Most Important Place In The World (2015).Recorded in bursts over an eight-year period in Loathsome Reels, aka the kitchen in Wells’ Glasgow flat, Standards Vol. V is the multi-instrumentalist and composer’s third long-player in 12 months, following Remixes For Seksound (Seksound, October 2018) under his own name and The Sensory Illusions (Karaoke Kalk, January 2019), the eponymous debut from his duo with tuba player Danielle Price

The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland – Standards Vol.V

The Scottish musician here supplies another document of his fascinating interpretations of wild and rare traditional songs he's sourced from various parts of Scotland. Limited to 300 copiesAlasdair Roberts on his new release on Infinite Greyscale:'The TunesI am indebted to my piping friend Donald Lindsay for The Blythsome Bridal, The Braes of Tulliemet and The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman, while Chief O’Neill’s Favourite and The Flowers of Edinburgh were learnt from my fiddling friend Neil McDermott. The Blythsome Bridal is used as the melody to a comic lyric called ‘Fy Let Us A’ To The Bridal’ first published in 1706. The Braes of Tulliemet lie near the Perthshire town of Pitlochry. The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman is also known as ‘Carrick’s Rant’. Chief O’Neill was Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), who was born in County Cork, emigrated to the USA as a young man and eventually became chief of the Chicago Police from 1901 to 1905. The Flowers of Edinburgh was first published in James Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion around 1760. The guitars are fretted in the following positions as the tunes appear on the record: II, II, V, VII and V.The SongsMy family stayed in a haunted house in the village of Balquhidder for a very short while in the early 1980s after moving from Germany to Scotland. However, I only took to singing The Braes of Balquhidder very recently after hearing a recording of it sung by the late Tim Lyons. The Seasons was learnt from the singing of the late Aberdeen singer Lizzie Higgins, daughter of Jeannie Robertson. Edinburgh-based Ulsterman Cathal McConnell knows many fine songs, most of which are collected in his book/CD set I Have Travelled This Country. I learnt this version of The Curragh of Kildare from that source. The late Sheila Stewart of Rattray, near Blairgowrie, is the source of my version of False, False. I would be unable to attribute my singing of Roberts Burns’ The Silver Tassie to a single source, owing to its general popularity in Scotland. I am forever indebted to all the fine singers and musicians mentioned above, and to many others unmentioned, for passing on songs and tunes to me over the years.'Alasdair RobertsLondon, June 2020 

Alasdair Roberts – Fretted And Indebted