Graham Reid | | 4 min read
As Rattle approaches its 30thanniversary with something around 160 releases of albums in handsome covers, it is enjoyably impossible to categorise easily what the label does.
The shorthand would say Rattle – with more than 40 music award nominations, almost half of which were winners -- captures interesting music from Aotearoa New Zealand, be it contemporary art music, jazz, taonga puoro, classical or sonic experiments.
There, that wasn't so difficult to define, was it?
Elsewhere regularly reviews Rattle albums as they arrive, but sometimes the floodgates are open and we struggle to swim through the eddies and depths.
So from time to time we offer some of the label's recent provocations in a catch-all column like this.
We start further out then circle towards a centre.
Read on . . .
Jack Woodbury: inst.19-2
The eight works collected here by electroacoustic soundscape artist Woodward from Wellington come from two audiovisual installations; A Tree Falls from 2019, and CORROSE of earlier this year.
These flowing and disruptive pieces present audio challenges in places (don't start with the distortions of III or V) and flit between electronically generated static and glitch sounds, ambient atmospherics recorded in the Ohariu Valley and acoustic instruments such as as piano and tubular bells which have been treated and processed.
This debut for Rattle captures just one dimension of the works which, when in situ, are further disrupted by the audience and speaker systems.
Rattle has released a number of such sonic experiments and we'd be inclined to say it is the only label in the country which would be courageous enough to do so.
IV, by Jack Woodbury
This is the third fine album by the jazz group Unwind and, as with the previous release Orange, comes with beautifully shot DVD of five pieces recorded live.
Unwind has been saxophonist Hayden Chisholm (here again on shruti box which is like a drone harmonium, and throat singing), pianist Norman Meehan and bassist Paul Dyne . . . but now drummer Julien Dyne is added and he gives their often meditative, considered music a little more urgency in places.
Most of the compositions come from Meehan and Chisholm (a couple from the whole group) but there is also the walking bass/bop swing of Nearer My God to Thee attributed to Sarah Adams (it gets to the lovely old hymn a couple of minutes in), and the yearning and more assertive Kada Budem Umro based on an old Serbian song.
As before, these are beautifully measured pieces by players with impeccable careers, and from the opener Morning And Evening Calm to Koan For Pete at the end (both by Meehan) this frequently a spare, romantic delight.
November 3rd, by Unwind
Phil Broadhurst: Soliloquy
Although the death of pianist/composer and teacher Phil Broadhurst in April – after many decades of writing (notably for the group Sustenance in the Eighties) – was not unexpected, he managed to record this final album, his fifth for Rattle.
For Broadhurst is was the fulfillment of a long-held ambition, a solo piano album where his compositions (always interesting) and improvisations (ditto) could be heard in their most personal and naked way.
But alongside his originals – all more recent, nothing from back in Sustenance days – he also delivers a stately treatment of Carla Bley's Sing Me Softly of the Blues and bright romp through the standard You Stepped Out of a Dream.
Broadhurst's passing is a great loss to New Zealand jazz. He was witty and mischievious, a gentleman intellectual and his compositions deserve to be heard. Rattle is offering a limited edition deal on all five albums (here) but it would be good to see the albums by Sustenance (which included bassist Paul Dyne, see above) readily available again also.
Sambal, by Phil Broadhurst
Jonathan Besser/Jade String Quartet: Besser String Quartets
The last albums to appear at Elsewhere by composer Jonathan Besser was the Rattle reissue of the innovative Free Radicals (Besser with electronic composer/performer Ross Harris) from the Eighties, and the previously unreleased and quite remarkable Cathedral live recording with Besser on pipe organ and Greg Fox on guitar and treatments. It too came from the Eighties.
Both were on the Rattle Echo imprint.
Besser has travelled far and wide in his music (starting with violinist Chris Prosser) and his considerable catalogue has included music influenced by gamelan and klezmer, and of course classical quartet compositions.
The latter is what's here with longtime fellow traveller Miranda Adams on violin in a series of multi-part compositions with titles which signal their impetus: the four part Zesty; the brief, Jewish folk sound of Eve of Yom Kippur; Memorial to Marti (an aching threnody to the late photographer Marti Friedlander); the evocative Sun Rise; the quirky and playful Wynyard Quarter and the five-part Bosnia.
Aside from the tribute to Friedlander (more than seven minutes), these pieces and parts are economically focused (only a couple of the 17 separate sections more than three minutes) so there is an intensity of focus in both the writing and playing.
Bosnia II, by the Jade String Quartet
All Rattle albums can be found at the label's website here which has a direct link to bandcamp for further listening and purchase.