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Bill Brovold's Stone Soup - Michael Goldberg Variations
CD (Hudson Valley, NY)

Bill Brovold with
-Mark Ormerod
-Scott Burland
-Rhys Chatham
-Fred Lonberg-Holm
-Leonardo ProtoPeople
-Keith Moline
-Frank Schultz
-Nick Didkovsky
-Frank Pahl
-Karen Haglof
-Beth Wilusz/Erik Gustafson
-Mark Ormerod

All sections composed, recorded and mixed by the various players.

(Disaster Amnesiac) Along with some really fine discs of new music, a recent package from Public Eyesore contained a promo sheet announcing the label's 20th anniversary. Great job Bryan! The music that you've been documenting for the last two decades is always so compelling and groovy. Kudos! Disaster Amnesiac is breaking with habit by starting off the reviews out of sequence, having delved immediately into Bill Brovold's Stone Soup's Michael Goldberg Variations, a disc of music that is generally quite introspective and quiet. Bill Brovold, per the liner note, utilized the input of artists Michael Goldberg in creating a piece of music that is Minimalist without being meandering or even repetitive. A four or five note motif is played on an acoustic guitar, around and along and beside which various guests are heard adding their own musical additions. Guitarist Mark Ormerod goes first, finger picking some lovely guitar lines, notable for their at times fret buzzed tension. What sounds like an amp being hit for subtle feedback and viola-like theremin sounds from Scott Burland come next. Disaster Amnesiac is fascinated by the very unique sounds Burland coaxes from his theremin; the instrument really is developing by leaps and bounds, and Scott pretty clearly is on the forefront of that. Bill's former band leader Rhys Chatham appears next with cool flute sounds wordless vocalizations that evoke very primal feelings as they wrap around Brovold's continuing guitar float. Really sweet e-bow riffs on electric guitar, too. Things seem to get back to the aesthetics of the first track as Fred Lonberg-Holm uses cello with implements in order to get shorter percussive attacks followed by long drone bow sounds. This track feels like it go on for a great deal longer, but, in keeping with the overall mission of Variations, it fades into Leonardo ProtoPeople's synth pops and crackles as they fuzz and distort, pointillist additions to the guitar that has transformed into a sumptuous current. Kieth Moline seems to have added both audio processing and guitar to his version of the piece: the repeated guitar riff rings more, colored by buzzing strings and hollow echoes. The track feels like a natural half way point as it up the energy with its other worldly dynamic flashes. Stone Soup settles back down into an easier boil with Frank Schultz's lap steel bends and turns. The instrument surely brings out a bit more of rural, Western U.S. feel as its Schultz's lines emerge over and atop the motif, cooling it off from its previous interactions and setting up the second half of this disc. Guitarist Nick Didkovsky treats his sounds with great psychedelic tape delay flashes that circle somewhat beneath the Goldberg Variations riff. These allow the buzzing of its strings to be highlighted. It's as if Nick wanted to frame it, rather than add, and even as his playing gathers intensity, it remains settled in a "support" role. Quite an astute aesthetic move. Tracks 9 and 10 segue right into each other, with the former featuring Toy Pop artist Frank Pahl, who adds chiming percussive hits from what sounds like a plastic toy piano. The latter has Karen Haglof spinning out sweet six string Psychedelic, and Disaster Amnesiac is moved to hear echoes of Golden Gate Park 1968. NEVER a bad feeling as far as I'm concerned! This track rolls like sublime fog careening down into the Western Addition. The paired guitar sounds of Beth Wilusz and Erik Gustafson flutter ghostly on Michael Goldberg Variations' penultimate track, ascending and descending subtly around the now transformed central riff, which takes center stage and holds it right on through to disc's end, a second feature for Mark Ormerod. This short piece has small, two note riff, somewhat higher notes giving a last counterpoint. A quick fade, and its work is done. Disaster Amnesiac's initial experience with Bill Brovold's Stone Soup had me listening to it on a San Pablo Bay cold Saturday, ducking in and out of its sonics as I watched marine layer mixing with ash from horrible fires a couple of hundred miles north of my residence. Michael Goldberg Variations provided the perfect soundtrack for this bittersweet experience, with its pensive modes. It features music that most certainly could be utilized either as good background or for more foreground intensive listening. Either way, Brovold and Co. have clearly done their job. Enclosed within a lovely hand printed and colored cover, this disc just exudes effort and integrity. No surprise, seeing as that it's out on Public Eyesore! - Mark Pino

(Avant Music News) Guitarist Bill Brovold’s Michael Goldberg Variations [PE 142] answers the challenge Brovold’s friend Goldberg posed to him in the early 2000s: could Brovold create a minimalist work that wouldn’t be repetitive and “meandering?” Brovold’s response is this set of eleven duets and one trio. The variations in question are variations based on the very minimal, basic material of two notes a fourth apart. They serve as theme, framework and foundation: sometimes as a simple melody or melodic fragment, sometimes as an ostinato or quasi-arpeggio, sometimes as a harmonic guide. Each of the twelve variations introduces changes of texture, instrumentation, arrangement, and so forth, giving each individual piece its own character while at the same time binding them all with a common, recognizable likeness. - Daniel Barbiero

(Chattanooga Pulse) Bach’s famous composition “The Goldberg Variations”—written for harpsichord but often performed on piano—features a melody with 30 variations that demonstrate the possibilities of the keyboard, challenge the performer’s required virtuosity and bears a cleverness and sophistication that has intrigued listeners for centuries. With a titular nod to Bach’s work, Bill Brovold presents The Michael Goldberg Variations, named after a friend whose “heartfelt comments and wisdom”—while sometimes stinging—were influential and treasured. The album was spurred by a suggestion from Goldberg to make a minimalist piece that wasn’t as “repetitive and meandering” as the minimalism that he was encountering, and Brovold supplied a bare acoustic guitar track—featuring a rattling three-note pattern that occasionally ends on a 4th note—to collaborators to embellish with their own methods for their own individual tracks. Taking the moniker “Bill Brovold’s Stone Soup” for the collective, the “stone soup” folk tale is brought to mind, where contributors add food scraps to a cauldron containing just water and a stone. Like the soup, what’s interesting isn’t the stone—in this case, Brovold’s absurdly simple note pattern—but how others are inspired and what they bring to the table. For the most part, the album has a softness and calmness, as if the players are walking on eggshells, perhaps either to not draw too much attention away from the main theme or to adhere to an unspoken yet loose and amorphous minimalist theme. Most collaborators leave Brovold’s guitar untreated; however, Keith Moline adds a processing effect to the sample, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm—who provides his own long tones—overlays Brovold’s guitar string buzz to cause gentle provocation. Both members of Atlanta’s Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel contribute, with Scott Burland adding his pure, drifting and echoing theremin tones and Frank Schultz providing diving lap steel notes. Rhys Chatham’s voice and flute additions suggest some kind of spiritual ritual, while the warm drones and ringing keyboard notes from Frank Pahl evoke tenderness. Karen Haglof’s placid electric guitar wandering has a hint of psych-rock, while the faint electronics of Beth Wilusz and Erik Gustafson seem to have a delicate translucence. As a whole, it’s perhaps like an aural glider, entering the windows of a building or flying through a forest, being lifted by diverse breezes. - Ernie Paik

(Vital Weekly) Recently I reviewed a cassette release by Brovold for Eh? Tapes: ‘Superstar; a collection of 11 songs performed by an 11-piece ensemble. Now Brovold surprises us with something completely different for the Eh? Tapes related Public Eyesore-label. He started his career in the 80s in New York City, where he worked with Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca and Jamie Saft. In the 90s he operated from Detroit with avant-rock group Larval. They released several albums for Knitting Factory, Avant and Cuneiform. His newest statement is related to the past. Michael Goldberg is an old friend, who influenced Brovold back in the 80s, when he was doing mainly visual work. Early 2000s they discussed minimalism, and Goldberg asked him if he “could make a minimalistic piece that wasn’t as repetitive and ‘meandering’ as what he was listening to” at that moment.” This remark planted a seed and eventually led Brovold composing a very basic and minimalistic pattern. This pattern, played by him on guitar, is the backbone in all 12 works on this cd. He invited 12 musicians to make their contributions, resulting in a diverse sequence of duets. We hear him with Mark Ormerod, Scott Burland, Rhys Chatham, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Leonardo Protopeople, Keith Moliné, Frank Schultz, Nick Didkovsky, Frank Pahl, Karen Haglof, Beth Wilusz/Erik Gustafson. In all its simplicity the motive played by Brovold defines in general the scope and shape of the contributions. Most of them move on in a quiet and meditative way and circle around four minutes, using a diversity of instruments and techniques: acoustic and electric guitar, voice, cello, etc. And all have Brovold’s theme in a prominent position. Surprisingly with the individual participation of so many different musicians, they duets make up a coherent whole of pieces of equal quality and it is a very satisfying and inspiring project. - Dolf Mulder

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