Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bruno Pronsato - Why Can't We Be Like Us

Upped for CG Pinesworthy and BryFly

Back in the techno vein, I have a fantastic microhouse release from '08. Although it seems to have been looked over by the masses, I suspect the aesthetic has something to do with this; microhouse as a genre can certainly be described by the word "reserved", a descriptor which doesn't bring strong emotional reactions. And it's true, Pronsato's music plods along sparingly, and cool sounds seem to be wasted by appearing only once before another one comes in to push them out. But perhaps the appeal is strangely part of this. Minimal techno is armchair music, and following the trail Pronsato leads us on is certainly enjoyable because of how winding it is, and how much attention is required to notice that it's a trail at all.
There is an inevitable connection to Ricardo Villalobos, someone whom I am not alone in considering the godsend of microhouse, and techno in general. The interesting thing, however, is that this album to me sounds like Villalobo's Thé au Harem d'Archimède, probably one of his weaker efforts. If Bruno Pronsato made an album like Fizheuer Zieheuer, it would most likely fail, because Villalobos is better at slow, monolithic works, while Pronsato can keep things fresh with quick changes.
I wish this whole Villalobos meandering wasn't necessary, but most of the negative criticism I've seen towards this album has been that it's derivative. I would strongly counter this, because in such a stripped down genre, Pronsato is doing a surprising number of innovative things, and certainly owes more to other producers than Villalobos.

PS Perfect driving music

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

This one is up by request, but I am glad someone asked me for it, because although I haven't posted too much of his work on here, I am a huge admirer of Charles Mingus. While enormously respectable as a composer, his work truly shines when one listens to his work specifically as jazz and realizes how far Mingus stretched the idiom. While jazz composition frequently is nothing more than a melody which establishes the framework in which the players improvise, Mingus found ways in which his own vision coexists with the musicians' creation. In his own words, "Each man's own particular style is taken into consideration, both in ensemble and in solos". This leads to an extraordinary connection between all players of the ensemble, one that is hard to find except in smaller, usually bebop and post-bop groups. It also opens up possibilities for "collective improvisation", a phrase Mingus used to describe his work. The important thing about this process is that it is very flexible, and hugely responsive. Mingus' big bands are only marginally connected to, say, Ellington's, because there is always a feeling of suspense from the framework being stretched by the current improvisers.
This is perfectly exemplified by The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, possibly Mingus' crowning achievement in large-scale composition. The motifs return and intermingle like characters, an effect Mingus deliberately worked in, judging by the titles of the movements, yet each phrase is expanded upon by jazz musicians in top form. Thus, the melody is used as a springboard (the fundamental principle of jazz), and Mingus' arrangements form the chordal structure, as well as an undeniably cool atmosphere. Though highly experimental, Mingus' work is just as listenable, and truly must be heard.