A new collab between les ateliers claus and argos is shaping up. Stay tuned! In the meantime, please go see their DON & MOKI CHERRY: ORGANIC MUSIC SOCIETIES exposition (opening this Saturday)
Saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc, who died on August 29, 2021, a few weeks after his 76th birthday, haunted the edges of the jazz avant-garde for nearly 50 years. His achievement far outstripped his renown. But let’s not spend too much time lamenting the cruel and whimsical nature of fame and fortune; they are not very reliable judges of musical quality to begin with. Even if the world’s attention was often turned elsewhere, Jemeel was still compelled to make music and he did so with an intensity and determination that few other musicians possessed. He had a vision and he followed it always, without compromise, for his whole life. He was, more than anything, a singular person, totally honest all the time, mordantly intelligent, and without self-pity. It was all there in his music. Never mind that he was, as he titled one of his compositions with the sardonic wit that permeated his music, “Not Quite Ready for Prime Time.”
Moondoc grew up in Chicago, where he learned clarinet and later alto saxophone in the supportive environment of his family and the city’s Black community. Tellingly, the first albums he remembers buying were by Gene Ammons and Cecil Taylor. The blues and Taylor provided the foundations on which he built his singular style. He left Chicago for Boston to study music but soon left for the University of Wisconsin at Madison after learning that Taylor was teaching there. He later followed him to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Taylor’s teaching and music launched Moondoc deep into his own ideas and the development of his own voice in music. Auditing Taylor’s lectures at Antioch (he was never enrolled), he read Janheinz Jahn’s early study of African culture and spirituality, Muntu: African Culture and the Western World. It not only provided him with the name of his first, longest lasting, and most important band, but it also gave him a philosophical framework for his music making.
“Muntu is about the transition and survival of an old world culture connected to me by birth,” he said. “Muntu is about me traveling back centuries into an ancient world known to me only through my ancestors. This connection is spiritual, and embraces the living and the dead. When performing music, the execution of contacting the ancestors requires a religious belief. This process can be an out of body experience causing one to be possessed, but can also bring into the room the spirits of ancestors known and unknown. The intent of the performance is not to merely entertain, but to uplift, and awaken the listener’s spiritual powers.”
After moving in the summer of 1972 from Yellow Springs to New York with pianist Mark Hennen, who would be a founding member of Muntu, Moondoc was astonishingly determined in his pursuit of music, and certain of its importance. He reconnected with trumpeter Arthur Williams, whom he knew from Antioch, and brought in bassist William Parker and drummer Rashied Sinan (later replaced by Rashied Bakr) to form Muntu. The quintet remained more or less intact until late 1978, when Moondoc replaced Hennen and Williams with trumpeter Roy Campbell. By my estimate, Muntu played more than 100 gigs at lofts, churches, community arts centers, and on the radio in New York between 1973 and 1980, making them one of the busiest bands of the loft era. And that’s not counting tours of Europe in 1978 and 1980, and a tour of Canada in 1979. He also released two self-produced LPs, First Feeding (1977) with the Muntu quintet, and the triumphant Evening of the Blue Men (1979) by the quartet. That’s hustle.
I met Audra Wolowiec at an artist-assistant gig where we were gold-leafing glass rods. Audra’s precision and care with her words struck me as unusual, powerful. Decades into our friendship, I’ve witnessed her embodiment of intentional language coalesce into an attentive artistic practice. Her multi-disciplinary work attempts to materialize the intangible: scores for breath or cast wave interferences, for example. Her works implore their audience to keep still and pay attention to the quiet. Audra and I corresponded via Google doc during the last days of 2021, on the occasion of her exhibition Viscera/Epiphora at Compound in Yucca Valley, for which she presents a score for water in the desert composed of “oo”s and “oooo”s.
Meg WhitefordWe’re doing this interview over Google Docs, which is a sort of living document (documento vivo). I like seeing your avatar in the corner. It’s like we’re sharing a digital room. But it makes getting started on an interview weird. Can you describe the AFK room you’re typing from?
Audra WolowiecI love the shared space of a Google Doc. There’s something very generative about it, conversational but also spacious.
I’m writing from my studio, which is a bit of a mess at the moment. A show just ended, and I’m sorting through the work and the residue of process. I read this quote by Joan Didion, who just passed: “What I want to tell you today is not to move into that world where you’re alone with yourself and your mantra and your fitness program or whatever it is that you might use to try to control the world by closing it out. I want to tell you just to live in the mess. Throw yourself out into the convulsions of the world.” I’m sure she wasn’t talking about a messy studio, but it’s a welcome reminder.
It’s quiet today and cold—a low hum of the heater, a few birds outside.
MWI’m writing as the sun goes down thinking about how much I love short days and how quickly time passes. I can hear the sound of a circular saw somewhere outside and kids screaming in the park. It’s sixty degrees in December, too, which I both love for today and hate for our existential tomorrow. Speaking of climate change: you’re doing a project in the desert of California about water. I know you’re inspired by Clarice Lispector’s Água Viva, a title which means “living water,” or perhaps “life water.” Can you talk more about this?
AWI make sound scores or sound texts from existing writing, where I use a method of removal or extraction, like an editing tool, to deconstruct the text, to bring certain parts of speech and language to the surface. For this project, I removed all letters and punctuation from Água Viva, with the exception of the letter “O.” Each page has a different configuration of the letter “O,” suggesting new ways of reading and sounding. This particular sound score made sense in the landscape, how it refers to absence, water, and the body. It’s something I’ve been working on slowly for a few years.
The 3 February edition of The Wire's weekly show on Resonance FM featured tracks by Richard Pinhas, Claire Rousay + More Eaze, Acid Mothers Reynols, Molly Nilsson
find the playlist here
PROFESSING TO BE THE SOUND OF AN ICEBERG CRUISING THE JAMAICAN COASTLINE THE WHACKED OUT DIGI-DUB EXPERIMENTS OF FROID DUB HAVE STOOD OUT AS SOME OF THE BEST OF THE CURRENT CROP OF PRODUCTIONS THAT SIP FROM THE CUP OF DUB. HERE SPICE ROUTE PROFILES THE TWO VETERAN PRODUCERS BEHIND THE PROJECT AS WELL AS THEIR GLORIOUSLY IDIOSYNCRATIC LABEL DELODIO.
Dub is like a long echo delay, looping through time. Regenerating every few years, sometimes so quiet that only a disciple could hear, sometimes shatteringly loud, dub unpicks music in the commercial sphere. Spreading out a song or a groove over a vast landscape of peaks and deep trenches, extending hooks and beats to vanishing point, dub creates new maps: sound sculptures, sacred sites, balm and shock for mind, body and spirit. David Toop defines Dub in Mixmag (December 1992)
Much of this years Dub and Reggae chart compiled by the Wire’s resident Dub sage Steve Barker contains, to paraphrase him slightly, music operating at the periphery of the orthodox core of these genres; tracks by the likes of Al Wootton and Om Unit typify a year of widespread dalliance with dub; where a subverted dubwise methodology has been applied with wild abandon to non-reggae sound material and reflects, according to Barker, a prevalent production modus operandi- one that dwells in ‘abstract, tangential and referential zones’.
For the past thirty years, Alan Licht has been a performer, programmer, and chronicler of New York's art and music scenes. His dry wit, deep erudition, and unique perspective—informed by decades of experience as a touring and recording guitarist in the worlds of experimental music and underground rock—have distinguished him as the go-to writer for profiles of adventurous artists across genres. A precocious scholar and improvisor, by the time he graduated from Vassar College in 1990 Licht had already authored important articles on minimalist composers La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, and Charlemagne Palestine, and recorded with luminaries such as Rashied Ali and Thurston Moore. In 1999 he became a regular contributor to the British experimental music magazine The Wire while continuing to publish in a wide array of periodicals, ranging from the artworld glossies to underground fanzines.
Common Tones gathers a selection of never-beforepublished interviews, many conducted during the writing of Licht's groundbreaking profiles, alongside extended versions of his celebrated conversations with artists, previously untranscribed public exchanges, and new dialogues held on the occasion of this collection. Even Lou Reed, a notoriously difficult interviewee also included here, was suitably impressed.
Alan Licht (born 1968) is a writer, musician, and curator based in New York City. He is equally known for his guitar work in the underground rock bands Run On and Lovechild and in the experimental groups the Blue Humans and Text of Light. He has released numerous solo guitar albums and duo and trio records of improvised music, collaborating with avant-garde musicians such as Jim O'Rourke, Loren Mazzacan Connors, Rudolf Grey, Lee Ranaldo and Aki Onda.
Licht is a contributing music editor at BOMB magazine and his essays and reviews have appeared in Artforum, Parkett, The Wire, The Believer, Sight & Sound, and many other publications. He is the author of An Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn, an extended personal essay about coming of age as a rock fan and musician; Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories, the first full-length study of sound installations and sound sculpture to appear in English; and Sound Art Revisited, an updated version of the latter, published in 2020; and he is a coauthor of Will Oldham on Bonnie "Prince" Billy, a collection of interviews with Will Oldham, and, with Cory Arcangel and Howie Chen, the concert transcription compilation Title TK 2010–2014.
Every time Ka Baird puts new music into the world, I know I’ll be surprised. She is unmoved by boundaries and unconcerned by expectations, singularly following a path of her own. I first heard her as part of the inimitable Spires That in the Sunset Rise, but her solo practice has become a magnetic force. In 2021, RVNG Intl. released a collaboration she recorded with the late Pekka Airaksinen that added another layer to her exceptional body of work.
Baird is a multi-instrumentalist that won’t shy away from any sonic medium that can help express her ideas, but it’s her voice and the countless ways she impossibly twists and morphs sound with it that is at the front of my mind. The physicality of her music is infectious and never fails to make me want to move.
This interview was done in late December and early January. Her work can be found on her Bandcamp page.
In an epic Baker’s Dozen, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe lets Stewart Smith into the secrets of his Candyman soundtrack, and celebrates Black excellence from Don Cherry to Moor Mother, Olly W. Wilson to Pamela Z
When Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe performs as Lichens or under his own name, he is concerned with transforming a space. That carries over to his film work. On his soundtrack to Nia DaCosta’s reimagining of the Candyman mythos, Lowe creates an atmosphere of terrible beauty by manipulating his vocals into demonic choirs, shadow orchestras and claustrophobic drones, augmented by hypnotic keyboard motifs and bone-chilling percussion. Hugely effective in the context of the film, it also stands up as a superb piece of music in its own right. If there’s any justice, he’ll follow his friend Hildur Guðnadóttir, who plays cello on the soundtrack, to Oscars glory.
Lowe was approached by producers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld for the score. “I love the original  film and I’m also a big fan of Clive Barker's work in general. It was nice for me because I always like to be as involved as I possibly can be with a film project. Obviously, the film has a legacy. And that's something that that we wanted to breach in some way, but also keep it separate enough so that this Candyman lived in the universe, but was not necessarily tethered artistically to the original film.”
In addition to using his own voice, Lowe made field recordings in Cabrini Green, the Chicago project where the film is set. “I thought that it would be a really interesting idea to take recordings of the location while the film was shooting to somehow transfer some of that psychic energy into the score. To have it live as a textural element inside of the score. It was all about this idea I had of world building, creating this very specific landscape for the story and the imagery that you were ingesting.”
Gonora Sounds is a Zimbabwean band led by blind singer/songwriter Daniel Gonora. The guitar virtuoso is accompanied by his son Isaac Gonora on drums. In recent years, the band has extended to include Nelson “Mr Longman” Mutanda on guitar, Malizani Mbewe on bass, and backing vocalists Sehlaphi Mtombeni and Isabel Piyo.
"Hard Times Never Kill" features nine new recordings, as well as two bonus tracks that have been made available exclusively via the Dust-to-Digital website and the Dust-to-Digital Bandcamp page. This digital release includes a 22-page booklet in PDF format.
Piotr Kurek has always worked with palettes outside of the expected. World Speaks continues following this uncharted path, using a swirled mix of voices, organs, and reeds to capture something profoundly human. That World Speaks finds a home on Lieven Martens’ Edições CN, another artist that has created his own gravity and orbit, makes a lot of sense. Slices of unforgettable landscapes are pieced together, becoming a new kind of post-sentient environment we can mold from our own memories.
When World Speaks opens with a dissonant choir of disembodies voices on “Chordists,” a woozy feeling takes hold. It’s like traveling through a wormhole, disorienting but exciting as Kurek explores these unheard sonic valleys. “A Source of all Scenery” goes into even stranger locales where trees are pastel and rivers flow backward. Everything is familiar, but off. Kurek mentions that a set of Thomas Cole paintings he has as his computer wallpaper “soaked into this material,” but it’s clear that those landscapes have been filtered through an alien prism.
There are passages dotted throughout World Speaks that are pastoral and even whimsical. Anachrnostic carnivals come to life on the enchanting “Key & Stop,” a codified organ vagary that bops along with purpose. That spirit is bent into moonlit shapes but still imbued with a gossamer twinge on “Orgue” where Kurek twists the organ-soaked architecture into a droning heap of smoldering brass. It’s the festival after all the lights have been turned off and the real apparitions let down their hair. It puts a phantom exclamation on this wonderful, strange trip World Speaks takes us on.
For over a decade, Piotr Kurek has been searching for new places to plant seeds. Each of his albums are their own fantastical worlds built around organic sonic architecture and bizarre soundscapes, but always with an open heart that exudes warmth and fascination. World Speaks keeps this feeling alive but adds an unexpected, blunt human character. Kurek isn’t settled and each new missive sent back from his explorations is a real gift.