RATTLE RECORDS' SEVENTH HOUSE MUSIC IMPRINT (2021): Art for its own sake

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RATTLE RECORDS' SEVENTH HOUSE MUSIC IMPRINT (2021): Art for its own sake

As noted recently, Elsewhere has opened a new page in our contents, Further Outwhere, which profiles sonic artists and music beyond song.

We shifted a number of previous reviews and articles into that space, quite a few of them coming from artists on Auckland's Rattle label.

By chance – we did not know this at the time – Steve Garden who has helmed the arthouse label for more than 30 years was about to launch a new Rattle imprint beyond its Echo (reissue) series and those which simply appear on Rattle.

This was Seventh House Music and has arrived with four albums by various artists, some familiar and some not so.

The ethos of Seventh House is clear: “[It] champions artists who unapologetically follow their muse free of commercial or generic confines. It serves as a platform for works that are collaborative and improvisatory, music discovered in the process of being formed”.

That sounds very much Further Outwhere.

We look briefly at the first four volumes of Seventh House Music releases here.

You can hear and buy these albums at the Seventh House Music bandcamp page

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Steve Garden, Ivan Zagni: Exiles (Seventh House Music Vol 1)

When Ivan Zagni arrived in New Zealand from Britain in the early Eighties he brought with him considerable and diverse credentials: choral work, a composer and also a session guitarist.

seventh1He was at the core of the Artworks projects which sprung the Unsung label (Big Sideways, Avant Garage, 3 Voices) and also recorded A Selection of Trouble Spots with Garden (revisited on the Echo imprint recently).

After that however Zagni moved onto other projects (notably as composer-in-residence for the APO) and Garden went into studio work and the Low Profile project (among other things).

However they had recorded material for an intended follow-up to A Selection of Trouble Spots and recently, while revisiting those recordings, isolated some which could be developed, once more with Zagni.

Exiles is the result of their work together again with the addition of samples from the diverse range of artists on Rattle's extensive catalogue (John Psathas, Michael Houstoun, Al Fraser, Tania Giannouli and others).

As Garden observes in the informative liner notes, “a subtle impression of the world askew” emerged as the work progressed.

Exiles might loosely be called a cycle or concept which moves from a sense of harmony (First Wave with Fraser and Hirini Melbourne's taonga puoro, sax from Hayden Chisholm) and Twenty-Three Fifty-Nine (samples from an old upright piano alongside slowed-down piano by Houstoun on a piece by Jenny McLeod) through chaos (Collapse with disconcerting voices and percussion, and Remnants) to rebirth (evocations of bird song and the natural world in Zagni's electronically-generated soundscape Migrating Creatures) and perhaps even a kind of hope (Last Wave which brings things full circle).

With spoken word samples, treated tapes, unusual sonic textures, and yet a sense of cohesion, Exiles is an impressive Vol 1 to launch Rattle's Seventh House Music.

Remnants (Echoes)

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Falt, Rothenberg & Thorne: Faultlines (Seventh House Music Vol 2)

Two of these names may not be that familiar, even to Elsewhere readers.

American player/composer David Rothenberg (bass clarinet) however appeared on the terrific One Dark Night I Left My Silent House with pianist Marilyn Crispell and has worked with Peter Gabriel, Elliott Sharp and Suzanne Vega.

seventh2Vocalist Anna Falt from Finland/Sweden is an improvisational artist who explores traditional folk and multi-disciplinary projects.

The familiar name could be taonga puoro player Rob Thorne who has appeared at Elsewhere many times.

These three met a festival in Finland in 2019, recorded together in a hotel room and later sent the tapes to Garden who – also in a motel room, in Christchurch – mixed them, and then he mastered them in his Auckland studio, adding further manipulations of sound.

Through Falt's often wordless vocals and the untethered improvisations, these 13 pieces touch on ancient rituals and calls, spells and traditional music (Scandinavian, Maori).

Not the easiest starting point for an exploration of the Seventh House Music series but one which certainly meets the brief of “artists who unapologetically follow their muse free of commercial or generic confines”.

To Be Free of My Mind

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Alargo: Obscura (Seventh House Music Vol 3)

Alargo are keyboard player Alan Brown and Kingsley Spargo/Melhuish (trumpet, tuba, pumoana, vocals).

seventh3And here they explore a quite hypnotic area between avant-cum-ambient jazz (Rangitoto), subtle sound design pieces for imagined movies (the sub-aquatic M31) and extensions of Brown's previous and sometimes weightless work we've covered at Elsewhere.

Sometimes – as on slo-mo Stasis – this creates an aural space which can seem vast and dark, but it is always inviting.

Spargo comments in the liner notes, “We take listeners on a journey that's new for them because it's new for us”.

Perhaps the most approachable of this first batch of Seventh House Music releases.

Maungakiekie

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Peter Hobbs, Horomona Horo: Oro (Seventh House Music Vol 4)

Music recorded for art installations or contemporary dance performances can often struggle to exist independent of the context for which they were created.

seventh4But these five pieces by synth player Peter Hobbs and taonga puoro performer Horomona Horo – which were improvised and recorded live – may have had their origins in discussions about dance, Maori knowledge of the collaborative arts and composition, but it stands independent.

The album title in Maori means to resound, echo and/or resonate, and from the compelling depths of Tiirama Mai Ra/Luminous Frequencies to the evocative Ta Mata Kaiora/The Majestic Front which – like true improvised music refers to nothing outside itself – this is a sonic trip worth signing up for.

Te Tuu Hiihiri/Dynamic Presence

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You can hear and buy these albums at the Seventh House Music bandcamp page





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