On the latest release from Argentinian musician and sound artist Anla Courtis, the full-length album B-Rain Folklore, he tantalizes with fascinating recordings that play with contrasts: clarity versus obscurity, and familiar sounds mixed with unusual instruments and noises.
Courtis is a mind-bogglingly prolific artist, known as a member and co-founder of the group Reynols and a collaborator with dozens of off-center musicians. This solo album, originally recorded in Buenos Aires in 2008 yet finally mastered in 2013 and released earlier this year on the Japanese label Yogoh, teases with a sense of mystery, like a piece of lingerie that veils bare skin.
Certain sounds act like figures in the distance—not blurred or distorted, but just hard to discern, and it is not always clear what is generating the sounds. While a few sounds are familiar, such as acoustic guitars, many others are South American instruments, ranging from the erkencho (folk clarinet hornpipe), bombo legüero (drum) to the siku (panpipe).
The opening “Taqfwaj” begins with layered acoustic guitar patterns, but it takes a strange turn as the string squeaks—made by changing hand positions—become a major voice in the track, as skulking sounds linger in the background. “Cuero del Agua” uses a rattle and stomp and builds its agitated restlessness with alarming noises and wind instruments, and “Monte Erbio” employs a reverberating beat with panpipes and a beguiling mood.
“Ropno” is a playful number, featuring organic electronic tones that somewhat resemble the “boing” of a spring; the song ramps up with an increasing frequency of notes, like the sound of popcorn being popped.
The final track “Teryrupnuu” overlays guitar motifs and string drones and wisps on top of field recordings made in Japan, concocting a peculiar tension and foreboding mood, finishing an album of electro-acoustic explorations that is inviting and intriguing.
Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt
The explosive, imposing drummer Chris Corsano—who has played with diverse artists such as Björk, Evan Parker and Jandek and thrashes about with guitarists Richard Bishop and Ben Chasny in the trio Rangda—teams up with the uncompromising, tradition-smashing guitarist and former Harry Pussy member Bill Orcutt for a cassette of live performances, recorded in Brooklyn, Mexico City and Northampton.
Not for the faint of heart, these recordings are brazen and wildly distorted, being both in your face and in the red; those averse to fuzz and lo-fi noise will want to steer clear of this tape, which sounds like it could disintegrate at any moment due to the white-hot intensity. There’s a trade-off at play here: while the album intentionally is lacking a bit of clarity, it makes up for it with its severity and potency.
Orcutt returned to music in 2009 after a long hiatus, playing the acoustic guitar with his own radically free style that refuses to bow to tradition; on this tape, he is back on the electric guitar, redefining himself yet again, playing with a feral style that hearkens back to his Harry Pussy days in the ’90s.
Corsano’s style is primal and ferocious, tossing off rolls and violent blasts with his own unusual momentum that uses oblique angles instead of straightforward patterns; his energy is channeled in unpredictable ways, matching Orcutt’s wildcard moments to keep the listener on his toes.
The blistering opening number is brimming with a spark-spitting vigor, distorted beyond belief, and it ends with a yell, as if there was excess power that needed to be released. Orcutt flails and abuses his guitar, creating disturbing noises like a wild whinnying, and Corsano is similarly animalistic, showing a disciplined musicianship while laying down savage beats.
It’s a thrilling cassette and live document from a dynamic duo, with Corsano’s unrestrained power and a new, bold direction for Orcutt.