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Friday, October 30, 2015

Stephan Micus & the Art of Music Layers

Time warps going on in my head… every evening - since ten days ago - I’m taking a shot of Stephan Micus’ music, as I own every disc and disk he recorder on Virgin, Japo o ECM labels.

Not a couple tracks, then swapping to other discs… a full length disk, religiously placed in the Studer or Meridian disk-player and then listened to day after day after day in its completeness adds an incredible strength to the musical experience, like a puzzle takes shape.


I must say that music – every kind of music – has its moment: if you try to listen to a Micus’ disk and you’re not in the moods, you could get nervous in a few moments…

… but if your mood is right, well… you could be transported in different worlds and ages.

I’m listening to Stephan’s music since early ‘70s…

Even Bob Dylan, Tom Waits or Neil Young, also if I love them, are not on my top listenings list since a long time…  I admit I listen to this stellar artists very, very randomly… a Master of War, a Blue Valentine or a Cinnamon Girl may sound - someway - outdated also if -  I repeat  - I love them a lot.

... not with Stephan Micus: every Stephan's disc I enjoyed since early ‘70s is an unique timeless aural experience, layers and layers of exotic and weird instruments from the most fat away areas of the planet which Stephan brought back home from his years and years on the road in Asia and Africa.

His vocals are most of the times sounding wordless… his chanting is timeless, hinting to eternity, as watching in awe to the stars from the top of a mountain.

Yesterday evening, while listening to the SMDotD (Stephan Micus Disk of the Day) –  i.e. ”Life” on ECM (of course…), I really listened to this music relaxed and my mind was clear and empty like a winter blue sky.

The impression when the last track arrived and the Studer’s stopped was like I re-opened the eyes… not my conventional, physical eyes, but my inner eyes.

The tracks were so different one from the other…

A soundtrack for dreaming… a time machine, a tele-transportation tool to a Laddakh monastery.

Rock, jazz, folk, classical, ethnic… every term is both appropriate and unappropriate… world music, maybe is a good adjective, but not the pastiche seldom heard under this label.

It’s lounging and healing music… not, never ever boring… only mystic and religious as it can be.

When I briefly met him after a SUPERB concert in Bergamo, some years ago… I found a simple man, travelling light: a sho, a shakuachi, a ney and a duduk, plus his voice and some on-the-fly loops were enough for him… everything was contained in an old suitcase.

No limo, bodyguards, groupies… a very personal journey shared with the world: music & soul, soul & music, like a pagan prayer to an ancient god… maybe a spirit from eons ago.

The aural spaceship was easily ready to go…

In my tiny studio, listening to Stephan Micus’ music on a regular basis as I’m doing these days is like I’m adding – listen after listen – truth and knowledge to my real understanding.

Only caveat?

This seems to be the real, truest world vs. the everyday life… a world of beauty supersedes the conventional way of life, heart beating is slower and quieter, like breathing.

Only music, are you asking?

No, much more… a new way of life.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Klaus Speth meets Gotorama

My pal Klaus, the Best Goto System on Earth's owner from Germany,  paid a long awaited visit to yours truly, last Saturday.

Shinichi Tanaka, Klaus Speth and Jean Hiraga

Klaus began playing with Goto, back then Royal Sound, in 1978... while I was still looking at Led-blinking gears and bookshelf speakers, he was already fiddling and dealing with Japanese commercial closeness and related hassles to get, first in whole Europe, those handmade driver.

These Goto's are still with him...

He built in recent years a 100 sqm auditorium to accomodate his impressive 5 ways Goto system!

When Klaus seated on my Eames Lounge chair, his first exclamation was: "Kleine!" - i.e. definitely yes! My studio is so tiny vs. Klaus' hangar-like room...

Yet, the precision and microdetailing of Gotorama, its being multiamped and the use of Thomas Mayer's preamps and crossover and analog playback, master-tapes and vinyl discs, made the German Goto Master to swing and enjoy my system and our listening session...

Me, Moni and Klaus

We agreed that every Goto's system we're aware of is different, according the owner/landlord tastes, yet keeping that sense of zesteness, unique lushiousness and overall trueness... a very Goto feature.

Thanks to Walter, Christine, Moni and Klaus for visiting.

Has been a true pleasure spending some time together... I was missing you since last time we gathered at your place, Klaus.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ears and hearing - 432 hz, ears and soul best friend

“Music based on C=128hz (C note in concert A=432hz) will support humanity on its way towards spiritual freedom. The inner ear of the human being is built on C=128 hz.”

To return to the main thrust now. Maria Renold, in her book Intervals Scales Tones and the Concert Pitch C=128hz, claims conclusive evidence that A=440Hz tuning (above scientific “C” Prime=128/256/512 Hz, where A=432 Hz) “disassociates the connection of consciousness to the body and creates anti-social conditions in humanity.” Modern “Equal Temperament (ET)” tuning was supposedly the excuse for musicians to play consonance, but, according to researcher Brian T. Collins (who strongly endorses Renold’s book), it actually diminishes perception of tone and resonant harmony.[viii]
Interesting article about this VERY fascinating topic...

BTW... ALL my instruments, guitars and oud are tuned to A=432hz since 2006.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Rob Mazurek - Calma Gente (2010)

Such an elusive disk, but i Got it!


2010 - Rob Mazurek

Submarine Records/Catune SUB-017
  1. Mula Sem Cabeca
  2. Obliqua
  3. The Passion of Yang Kwei-Fe
  4. Three Reasons Not to Blow Up the World
  5. Purple Sunrise
  6. Car Chase
  7. Flow My Tears and Last Forever
  8. Barriga Da Baleia
  9. Flamingos Dancing on the Rings of Saturn
Japanese and Brazilian release.
Thanking my pal Edo.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

John Renbourn - The Attic Tapes (2015)

A vintage collection of previously unreleased recordings of amazing quality!

Lovingly remastered from a series of long lost tapes dating back to the early 1960s, The Attic Tapes, is a vintage collection of previously unreleased recordings and early works by John Renbourn, one of guitar music’s truly great innovators. Due for release by Riverboat Records on 16th October 2015, The Attic Tapes  represents in John’s own words, “what was happening to me at the time and a reflection of the general scene”  These recordings were made in the two or three years before his first ever official release for Transatlantic Records, released in February 1966.

The 20 tracks include many true classics, all brilliantly performed and with particular care taken over the sound quality despite the rudimentary sources. There are a number of songs written by Renbourn (‘Judy’, ‘Plainsong’) alongside his unique interpretations of classic tracks which remained in his set throughout his life (‘Candyman’, ‘Can’t Keep From Crying’, ‘Come Back Baby’) plus others written by his contemporaries including Jackson C Frank’s ‘Blues Run the Game’ and Davy Graham’s ‘Anji’. This latter is a particular find: “What’s curious is that the date on the tape box is 1962,” says Renbourn in his notes, “which would make it a very early recording of Davy Graham’s classic….”  Renbourn had first heard ‘Anji’ via his friend and guitarist Mac MacLeod; it was MacLeod who discovered the tape box in his attic, which began the chain of events and further discoveries that led to this invaluable new collection.

John Renbourn is accompanied on two tracks by MacLeod and by others on the scene at the time including Davy Graham and Beverley Martyn whose two tracks were recorded at a gig they shared with visiting American Spider John Koerner (one third of Koerner, Ray & Glover). Beverly Kutner, as she was at the time, was a powerful blues singer, then playing folk clubs usually as part of The Levee Breakers and several years before meeting John Martyn. Another unique track on The Attic Tapes captures John Renbourn performing with one his most inspirational heroes, Davy Graham, on a version of ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’, sung by Davy and recorded at an arts centre in Stamford. “It was a treasured moment for me,” writes Renbourn in the notes.

His wonderful reminiscences provide another highlight of this album, written only very shortly before his death in March 2015. They capture the times brilliantly, written in John’s warm, self-deprecating way. “Mostly it’s me plunking – occasionally in the company of friends from way back.” He had put a lot of time into this project and over the last couple of years had carefully selected tracks, cleaned them and was looking forward to the release with great enthusiasm.

John Renbourn: The Attic Tapes

‘Unfortunately we were due to send over the finished artwork to him the day after he passed away, so it’s really sad that he never got to see the finished product... He was also going to do some further digging to see if he could find out the dates, so unfortunately we will never know exactly when most of these recording were made’. – Neil Record and Brad Haynes from Riverboat Records

Available from tomorrow, Oct. 16th, 2015.

I got it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bertoncello meets Bertoncelli

Unfortunately, also if Riccardo Bertoncelli has been my musical mentor – himself and his books and records reviews since early ‘70s introduced me to John Fahey, Ogun and British jazz, Robert Wyatt and many, many more artists and records – as he continues to be up today, we never met.

In pre-Web days, magazines were the source for infos and trivia… Ciao 2001 was the very first: I was a teenager and reading about concertas ion London… The Grateful Dead playing for six… SIX hours in London or Shawn Philips, a full article and pixies after I listened to his "Steel Eyes" at the radio, one afternoon, thanking the late, deeply missed Claudio Rocchi… or dreaming about the vintage Martins’ of David Crosby and Neil Young, again after listening to the newly – at the time – issued Crosby & Nash.

Those were the days, back in the ‘70s… discs were expensive stuffs and radio and radio taping was the only method a student, poor as a church mouse, was able to expand his musical background and knowledge.

When I began working during the summer(s) between school-years, I had some pocket money and every disc was a goal by itself… my first very own 12” was a Christmas' gift I got from my Dad… Le Orme – Collage, second only a couple months after, was Claudio Rocchi’s Volo Magico n. 1, third one was Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s – Picture at  an Exhibition… me and my younger brothers were mostly enjoying the first and the latter, while Rocchi’s was my own private obsession as my mom was worried about those weird atmospheres and I had to listen to it at a lower volume setting… she was asking to me on a daily basis if I was using some dope!

The above mentioned discs were the only I had for the first months of 1971… 

After reading for some years Ciao 2001 mag, I began to read Muzak and Gong magazines…  with Supersonic radio program, Per Voi Giovani, with Claudio Rocchi and Popoff, I began reading Riccardo's discs reviews: he was using a writing style which reminded to me some Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti or Jack Kerouak’s proses…

I was deeply into the common ground readings of my generation - i.e. Hesse’s Siddharta and the Beat Generation and Fernanda Pivano’s translations.

Riccardo Bertoncelli’s reviews intrigued a younger me a lot: his style wasn’t conventional as the music he reviewed… thanking the elusiveness of some – most I’d say – records, I had to contact Carù Dischi in Gallarate, Nannucci in Bologna and Buscemi in Milan to get my hands on these records… orders were made at the phone and delivery was by snail-mail, some 15 o more days were the delivery time, so you can imagine my joy when getting a discs parcel!

Riccardo was a close friend of Paolo Carù and a really good customer for the classic import-shop in Gallarate, Northern Italy… so, most of the time, when ordering a disc, no one knew Bertoncello, but everyone knew Bertoncelli…    

Amusing that for years, I was greeted with a… ciao Riccardo!, followed by a… aehm, I’m Stefano and Bertoncello it’s with final “o”, not “I” on my part… ahhhh, OK, ciao Stefano…  only then this cute ceremony my orders followed…

Later, during my high school days, I had to work for five great summers at “Il 23 Dischi” in Padua to get, first hand, all the import discs I was looking for…

Riccardo Bertoncello… aehm, Bertoncelli was and still is today, an inspiration and a lighthouse to me… I’m reading every evening his last book and from Jefferson Airplane to Tim Buckley to Bob Dylan to The Grateful Dead and many, many, many others, his short essays are always enriching and informative and intriguing.

A chapter on the above mentioned book is dedicated to “L’Avvelenata”, a song by Francesco Guccini, a famous Italian author and singer who got a really bad review of a newly issued disc by Riccardo, decades ago…

Shortly after, Guccini dedicated to Bertoncelli a song where something like that was saying “ … e ci sarà sempre un Bertoncelli o un prete, a sparare cazzate!” (transl. “and we’ll always find a Bertoncelli or a priest to say/write some bullshit”).

This amused me, at first… then, you would say?

My family name, very similar to Riccardo’s, well… for some months, while Guccini’s song got some radio airplay, my friends were fooling at me with the very same above mentioned phrase or so…  “… un Bertoncello un prete a sparare cazzate!”.

It wasn’t amusing.

Fortunately, this only lasted an eye-blinking, life-wise… but, BUT… a few years ago, I met Francesco Guccini at a “Festival della Letteratura” in Mantua… I stopped Guccini – yes! - and introduced me, wishing to thanks him for the long years of great songs which also introduced me to guitar playing … when I told him “Nice to meet you, I’m Stefano”, then, with a “coup de theatre”,  I added : “Please ask me about my family name, Francesco!”

When I told him… well: he stood silent for a long instant and then exclaimed “Ohh, shit!”…

We ended up laughing and laughing at the old “L’Avvelenata” song and Bertoncelli/Bertoncello… and… and…

This memory-lane trip began remembering about the latter, almost forgotten evenience…  due to the book I’m reading these days.

To a much more serious extent, I’d really wish Riccardo Bertoncelli’s book "Paesaggi Immaginari - trent'anni di rock e oltre" - ed. Giunti Bizarre 1998 which is and will remain ‘til the last page on my bedside table, would be translated into English and made available to more and more music lovers, worldwide.

My deepest thanks to Riccardo Bertoncelli for being Riccardo Bertoncelli…

… and… no, I’m not angry for the Guccini-affaire;-)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Norman Blake - Wood, Wire & Words (2015)

Norman Blake is an original and a very fave of mine.

I own many of his classic records and, shame on me, I bought something his own many years ago...  BUT, I today got his last disk - a superb, great, humble, little masterpiece, both musically and sound-wise - and didn't resist on sharing the cover, where Norman is shown with his superb vintage Martin 00-45... also if - to my regret - he used in the recording a recent Martin's.

Here is Jordan Tice's nice essay about him... for the few among us who don't know him.

"Norman Blake is a legend, plain and simple. He's been a fixture in the bluegrass and folk worlds for almost five decades, penned some of its most cherished songs, and is widely considered a founding father and deity-type figure of the flatpicking guitar style. But, to his legion of admirers, he is more than simply the sum of his career accomplishments. His merits defy quantification."
I agree...

Buy this disk, folks... you won't regret!

Saturday's Disc - Elliot Moss - Highspeeds (2014)

I feel - like many others around - Saturday to be the most musical day of the week - audio and music gatherings are usually taken on Saturday afternoons, buying records at the local shop is usually a Saturday morning activity... sure for me it is so...

This morning I visited the only record shop left in town... yes... was lazily looking for something... browsed and found... nothing... yet, some music going as background was OK... hey, what's going on, now?

Elliot Moss' debut disc reminds me some Chemical Bros. or some Piers Faccini with a beat... bought the 180 grams transparent vinyl with complimentary (or so...) disk and I listened to the CD in loop-mode while cooking and having lunch... nice lounging, energizing music... well spaced slow and up-tempo tracks...

A nice find... got the vinyl disc later in the afternoon and... hey, it's even better.




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Histapkhuth Hanefesh - a Satori

Audio Samsara and Satori, folks!

I was recently reading about Borobudur temple in Indonesia, a FANTASTIC site and holy building dating about 2.000 years ago, which only resurrected from volcano ashes and jungle around mid-'800 something…

Siddharta and Gautama Buddha-related tales are covered in thousands of stone bassorilievi … I visited it in awe with my wife in early 2000, with Bali, Lombok, Kalimantan and Gili Islands… Ubud, Borobudur, Bromo volcano, diving at Gilis’ and Kalimantan’s orangoutangs being the highlights of our journey.

So what?

The Wikipedia chapter concerning Borobudur gives a lot of very, very interesting hintings and tips to feed my curiousity: at the time, when visiting the amazing Indonesian temple, I wasn’t aware of its building holiness and how to read its architecture.

Ten terraces corresponding to ten phases of spiritual path, in three groups, representing the three Samsara realms:

  • First level being life in the realm of wishes (Kamadhatu)
  • Five levels representing the progressive emancipation from senses (realm of Pure Form or Rupadhatu)
  • Last three circular terraces/levels represent the progressive path to reach the Definitive Nirvana (realm of formless or Arupyadhatu)

When reaching the very top of the Borubudur, the structure evolves in some empty, open spaces and several stupas… the very center is only slightly larger and higher than the others around, almost unassuming considering such an huge temple.

This means that the top is not the goal of the journey, but the journey itself is itself the goal.

I sure had a Satori, one of the several micro-satori I had in my life!

I read in the above my very life and my musical and audio path, folks.

When younger, I dreamed of this and that, wishing to buy gears after gears, swapping, always nervous, almost feverish…  how to better call this if not Kamadhatu?

Then, learning to better buying and listening, honing my musical tastes… isn’t it the path of Rupadhatu?

The random pleasures from my several blissful experiences while listening to music, both at concerts or in my studio, feeling blessed and with tears of joy pouring, sometimes… aren’t these a Nirvana, the pure joy of Arupyadhatu?

… and now, getting older, hopefully wiser and - really and proudly, yet humbly - being emantipated from wishes of new audio gears or more and more discs, quietly enjoying my Gotorama and ancillaries… isn’t this the emptiness of a high mountain lake whose waters stand still?

… where a small, slightly higher one-of-a-kind peak is only more perfect than other peaks around… a very personal Kailash of mine, maybe?

I feel blessed… did I reach my goal, as I walked the path?

Feel so...

The void of wishes (not to be confused with being tired of something), the pure enjoyment and pleasure when listening to music is the humble, personal gift I got after walking the path, the Holy Path of Music.

… only Naked Music, its beauty and Truest Holiness, remain.

My Satori - not kidding, pals - continues to impress me, as the Ancients knew it all from eons and eons ago: the Zohar talks about “Histapkuth Hanefesh” – i.e. the language of ineffable… and about music and musicians being “the instrument of God”.

So what?

‘nuff said!

Thanking נחמן מברסלב