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Alan Sondheim / Azure Carter / Luke Damrosch - LIMIT
CD (Providence, RI)



-aacbb
-aborrowers
-afghaninvdynb
-composb
-danmoib
-exp3
-harbinger
-hegelmadalmod
-holelessb
-hala
-longsazb
-movement4b
-movement5b
-preludeb
-rab1b
-thecriesb
-topquark2b
-violexb
-zymphonyb




Luke Damrosch: programming, engineering, madal
Azure Carter: songs, vocals
Alan Sondheim: mastering, concept, viola, guqin, flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, long-necked saz, dan moi, ghichak, ukulele, guzheng, holeless shakuhaci, hegelung, sanshin, rebab

Reviews:
(Disaster Amnesiac) Public Eyesore and Sondheim/Carter have a good thing going for sure. Limit is, what, their third CD on the label? They never fail to deliver the goods aesthetically. Their visionary mesh of Azure's plainly spoke/sung soprano lyrics with Alan's prodigious talents on scads of stringed and woodwind instruments never fails to have Disaster Amnesiac blown away by their creative and unique sound. As stated on the liner note (and if you get the disc, be sure and read its revelations), Limit is an attempt to engineer a musical performance to go both ways in time. While Sondheim acknowledges that this is a real impossibility, the live processing of Luke Damrosch renders it almost within reach. While it's sometimes rather disconcerting to mentally process the forward-backward motion of the singing and playing as they're subtly pushed back and back back and then forward, when Alan wails on tunes such as afghaninvdynb and movement5b, the simultaneously simple and complex nature of his vision shines through. The same goes for Azure's lovely, endearing singing on aborrowers and harbinger. Her voice may be the most purely American, in the Ives-ian sense, that Disaster Amnesiac knows of. There's a murky, swampy feel to songs such as thecriesb and holelessb that seems to be the direct result of the the instrumental/processing blend. This dynamic reaches its apotheosis at disc's end on zymphonyb, wherein the layers get maddeningly complicated. Limit is Alan Sondheim's stated desire as being "For a new music-". As with any works of this type, it ain't exactly easy or comforting. That said, it feels to me like the start of a new phase for he and Azure Carter. Disaster Amnesiac looks forward to hearing what's beyond this brink. - Mark Pino

(Decoder) The latest Alan Sondheim CD, his 2017 Limit with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch on Public Eyesore, pushes the notion of hyperreal environmental manipulation almost beyond music into time travel. Building on their previous Threnody disc, this Sondheim trio is essentially an acoustic improvisation unit whose music continues to expand the unique sonic possibilities first heard in his Ritual-All-7-70 recordings released via Bernard Stollman’s ESP Disk label in the late 1960s. However, carefully-conceived real-time signal processing provides a compositional framework for this new music that results in a truly unique listening experience. Sondheim deploys hot-rodded live compression to reverse normal musical dynamics, causing the notes he is playing on various instruments to be restrained while normally “extramusical” sounds such as breaths and moving around on the instruments are exaggerated. Luke Damrosch’s SuperCollider programming takes on pronounced significance in this set, reinserting very short musical fragments backwards into the mix in a manner that approaches “real-time reversal,” affecting both reverbation and the familiar timbral formants of acoustic instruments. The aural result is utterly fascinating, as an improvising ensemble seems to be working in a heretofore impossible pocket just before “in the moment” even begins. If you’re a sheet music reader, you may have come upon a few examples in literature where the practicalities of notation create philosophical quandaries on paper. The eighth rest at the very beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is an example, with so much potential energy bottled up in an insistent piece of music that it somehow feels strange to be led with a rest. Imagine an ensemble drawing from that energy and expanding the duration of that rest into whatever length they desire, rendering potential energy kinetic before the ear can even process what has happened, and you’re getting near Sondheim’s Limit. - Scott Scholz


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