[Music] Richmond Avant Improv Collective – Chance Operations

As I finally had a long stretch of time where I could actually enjoy hearing whole albums again, I decided that RAIC would be Album Number One today.  What a revelation this one has turned out to be!

According to the collective’s Bandcamp website for this release, “Chance Operations was inspired by John Cage’s “Silence.” RAIC often brings together musicians who normally would never play together. For Chance Operations, twenty musicians from a wide range of backgrounds- jazz, rock, noise and world music, some with backgrounds in improvisation and some without – came together at Etching Tin Studios in Richmond, Virginia. The musicians’ names were written on different ping pong balls and then placed in a sealed container. In a separate container were balls with the number for the ensemble ranging from a duet to a sextet.”  Chance operation, indeed.

The album itself makes for eerie listening.  There is one track which stood out for me, “Irrigating An Arid World,” where shrieks, wailing and very sparse instrumentation make one feel like they are on a heavy hallucinogenic trip.  The spirit of John Cage having a heavily spiked mushroom tea with Sun Ra and, maybe, Cathy Berberian or Diamanda Galás, permeates this album.  The group have a new album coming soon, and I’m already looking forward to hearing much more from them.

[Music] Mikhail Chekalin – Symphony​-​Phonogram

Mikhail Chekalin deserves at least as credit for being a leading light in electronic music and New Age music as artists like Klaus Schulze, Peter Frohmader or Vangelis.  That might be a provocative statement to some who enjoy this kind of music, but I think the comparison stands, as Mikhail has been releasing quality music consistently for so long that a new album is simply expected to be solid now.  He’s never let me down yet.

[Interview] Alessandra Celletti

73255366_518700922304409_2270642290479333376_n

A few days ago, I had the honor of interviewing Italian pianist Alessandra Celletti, one of the most creative composers active today.  I came to know her work thanks to an old business partner named Michael Sheppard, who became her champion until his passing a few years ago.

Without further ado, here is Alessandra:


 

Though I know you from our conversations, can you tell us about yourself? Who you are, your background?

I’m a musician, and naturally I love music. But, first of all, I love life. I love nature, the sea, the trees and the flowers, I love all people and animals as well. I like to come upon new things. The relevance of music is that it gives meaning and emotion to everything. I’ve been playing the piano since I was six. The piano is my life, but I also adore singing. Singing is happiness. I have a classical education, but I am too curious not to look for other musical experiences, so I’m always looking for something new.

What inspired you to be a composer and pianist?

I’ve always played the piano. I started my career as a pianist playing classical authors: Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Ravel… but at some point I felt the desire to transfer my personal emotions into music by composing myself. It felt like a natural passage.

Which composers or art movements have left a lasting influence in your compositions?
Erik Satie is my first love and I think of him as one of my milestones. I was swept away by the purity and freedom of his search. Then, I appreciate the intelligence and lightness of John Cage. But I am also into punk music, electronics, rock and, sometimes, even pop music. I love painting and the commixture of colors. For me, music is also color. Not for nothing my last album is a blue vinyl titled #cellettiblue, inspired by my favorite color. Blue, for me, is the color of freedom. Just look at the sky and you’ll understand.

How do you go about planning for and making a new album?

I had several producers for my previous albums: here in Italy, in England but also in America. I was lucky enough to have Michael Sheppard of Transparency as a producer. It was a very special human and artistic relationship and I miss him so much. Before he died, he told me that he would be in every note I played and sung… and, indeed, I can feel his presence. I want to make you party to a secret: I always think of Michael when I compose a new melody. Right now I don’t have a record label that produces me, so for my new project I resorted to Musicraiser’s crowdfunding. I really like this personal contact with my audience

What inspired this latest album?

To put it simply, my love for animals. I’m working on six songs dedicated to the animals that had a special role in my life, tangible or symbolic. Among these is Pedro, a cat to whom I am connected in a magical way. And a donkey that I fantasize becoming my husband… And, last but not least, my mother, who I consider the sweetest and most wonderful of all the animals that filled my life. It is, obviously, an affectionate dedication to the person who gave me life and who flew away just a few months ago.

73458719_2678058518881227_9109541513586540544_n

Are you collaborating with anyone else these days in terms of live performance or studio collaborations?

Yes: a while ago I’ve discovered Paola Luciani and I’ve literally been bewitched by her animations. Luckily for me, this internationally recognized artist hasn’t lost the purity of her artistic expression, so I proposed a collaboration, to which she graciously agreed.
Now she’s drawing and animating her paper clippings according to an age-old and very peculiar technique. Ath the moment she is working on the donkey song and she will soon finalize the animations for the little cat Pedro (or maybe for a little bird)…

How do you feel about the state of the music business?

It seems so difficult for artists to get exposure outside of working with a major label.

How do you manage to do so well?

I simply dedicate myself to what I do with commitment and love, thinking of people with affection and trust. And – this will probably surprise you – I’m even confident in the future of music. Modes and media change all the time: vinyl, cd, streaming… but, basically, nobody can live without music.

73172186_2442017065916172_8992000808589459456_n

What projects are you working on? What should be expected to see from you in 2020?

As I said, I am working with Paola Luciani on the “Love Animals” project and I very much hope to be able to make it with Musicraiser’s help. Then, I’d like to do a lorryload of concerts and play my piano and sing these sweet songs to everyone. Even if they are dedicated to animals, they are all love songs.

https://musicraiser.com/it/projects/15090-love-animals

[Music] Rainbow Chan – Long Vacation

Rainbow Chan released what has to be one of the most freakishly charming releases I’ve heard in a while.  Think of someone as innovative as Björk, but far more experimental.  From her Bandcamp website:

Rainbow’s latest EP Long Vacation singlehandedly places her among the most innovative composers and musicians on the scene right now. More Dirty Projectors than J-Pop, Chan isn’t afraid to mix textures and sounds that lie far outside mainstream familiarity—weirdly warped bells, floating, dissonant flutes and her own voice mixed and mashed into its own mosaic of shattered parts.

Pigeons and Planes

 

[Music] JOHN 3​:​16 – JOHN 3​:​16 / Visions Of The Hereafter

JOHN 3:16 are among the most powerful bands in dark ambient and drone music today.  Philippe Gerber continues to amaze with his catalog, but this release is particularly special, as I never had the chance to delve into their early catalog.

This release combines the first two albums by the band onto one cassette.  Both releases remind me not just of dark ambient music, but of the middle period post-Industrial and experimental music I grew up with.

Favorable is not a strong enough word to rank this release.  It’s quite powerful.