|brekekekexkoaxkoax - Sudden Empire of Tears|
Sudden Empire of Tears is a 6 track release with song titles that will make you switch your state of mind as much as their sound. This beautiful piece of musique concrète is a listening exercise for the ones with a strong fascination for following the thin line between music and pure sound experimentation.
|brekekekexkoaxkoax - Sudden Empire of Tears|
We’ve long been quite keen on Josh Ronsen and his improvising music group brekekekexkoaxkoax, which has occasionally beguiled us with instances of its slow-moving and semi-acoustic approach to a very exploratory and experimental form of improvisation. On Sudden Empire of Tears (hushroom7), it’s less of a group record and more of a solo album; he’s taking a slightly different tack and by way of provender he offers us six tracks of his electro-acoustic compositions, which have at least partially been created from transformations of previous recordings made by the band. Because of this transformative approach, it’s become something of a cliché that electro-acoustic music, and musique concrète in particular, is usually labelled “alchemy” by writers and reviewers (it’s a gaffe to which I must own up myself, in TSP’s second issue), and Ronsen himself is indulging in the perfidious game too if his track titles are anything to go by; I suspect they’ve been lifted directly from some volume of Renaissance science or magic, and even the CD artwork bears a magic circle device of some ilk. And what symbolism might the the blue dolphin on the box cover purport? Since classical antiquity, it has carried the connotation Festina Lente; a most apt device, considering the slow, considered pace with which Ronsen comports himself and his music.
Inside the box however, are a large number of inserted tiny artworks that evoke surrealism, Fluxus, small-run art and poetry magazines, and symbolism; and in the manner of a latterday Edgar Allen Poe, Ronsen has included a short dream diary booklet illustrated with cryptic colour photocopy images. There’s a playful as well as a serious side to all this; there’s a note to anyone who reviews the record, insisting on the use of certain obscure words; and the edition is small, only 50 copies, indicating he might regard it as a very personal project. Musically, it’s a gem; I regard the long tracks here as triumphant examples of musical refashionings which transcend their origins exceptionally well, never calling attention to their means of productions nor the multiple layerings from which presumably they have been built. I am particularly mesmerised by ‘The Hiding of The Face’, and the first part of ‘One Should Stop at this Measure of Knowledge’, both of which fully achieve the trance-state / dream-state aspirations implied by all the packaging and titles. When the spoken-word samples start to invade the latter piece, it’s a most effective intrusion of nightmarish elements. Some copies in the edition, mine included, have a bonus album packed into the box called Anti-Jazz; it’s an unreleased item from 2004, which he’s kept under wraps just because he was disappointed by technical limitations in the mastering. In all, a lovely mystical box to induce dreaming in even the most hardened insomniac. This perfidious wodge of music shines with the luminescence of ten lamberts, providing a most excellent coruscation
|BREKEKEKEXKOAXKOAX - SUDDEN EMPIRE OF TEARS (CDR by Hushroom Records)|
In a previous life I nearly released a CDR by Josh Ronson's oddly named group Brekekekexkoaxkoax, but I gave up working 'over there'. I think I still may have the proposed music somewhere. Whenever I hear his music (solo or with this group), I am more than keen to hear it, although I must say there is never a lot of his music. The CDR - well, two, but we come to that later - is housed in one of those CD sized carton boxes and comes with a bunch of small, mail-art like inserts, including a nice small booklet, 'Documentation Of Nocturnal Music', which might be apocryphal stories about music; Ronsen also published his own magazine Monk Mink Punk Pink for a while. The six pieces on the CDR are 'electro-acoustic works' by Josh Ronsen, who operates solo here, it seems. Ronsen takes his inspiration as easily from Ligeti as from jazz or drone music and that is something that shows in these six pieces. Heavily constructed pieces of abstract drone sounds, taking prepared guitar, prepared piano, bass clarinet and much electronics along with a guitar here and there, or in 'The Premises of The Philosophers' a combination of the bass clarinet and electronics. In 'One Should Stop At This Measure Of Knowledge' there is also some spoken word. The music are dense clouds of sound, again, drone like, but I am sure Ronsen would like to hear Ligeti as a prime influence, especially for the three longer pieces here. The three shorter pieces are all a bit more collage like, with sounds popping in and out while others go on for the entirety of the piece. Some great, exciting music here, right the kind of music I happen to like very much. Classical, yet drone.
The second CD is a bonus disc - trend this week? - and is called 'Anti-Jazz'. Originally planned for release in 2004, but Ronsen was unhappy with the mastering, but recently changed his mind. Not officially released but some of the fifty copies (maybe all?) of 'Sudden Empire Of Tears' get a copy of this. This is a totally different side of Brekekekexkoaxkoax: total free jazz music, either played with musicians - Ronsen on guitar - in which we only seem to recognize Rick reed on synthesizer in one piece. It's fine music, especially 'Duo' (with Jason Pierce on drums), but perhaps not entirely to my liking. Maybe I am just not that much of a free jazz lover, anti-jazz or otherwise. It sheds however an entirely light on Brekekekexkoaxkoax, and Ronsen, so perhaps that's why it certainly deserves one's attention. (FdW)
—Vital Weekly 888
|BREKEKEKEXKOAXKOAX - I manage to get out by a secret door (Eh?)
I was absolutely besotted with the first Brekekekexkoaxkoax album I heard (We Used To Be Such Good Friends) and indeed if the truth be told I still am. It is probably the best album I heard in 2008. I mention this to give you some measure of how much this one, it's predecessor, has to live up to. So, does it? Well, yes actually. It seems that on 'We Used...' those involved were continuing on from where they left off on this earlier set of explorations. The ensembles assembled around guitarist Josh Ronsen are more fluid in their composition this time out (two solo pieces, a duo, a trio and a quartet) and the instrumentation seems less elusive with Ronsen's guitar being the most readily apparent. The real glory of the Brek-etc ensembles lies in their willingness to embrace musicality. Far too often we hear improvisational groups diving headlong into jarring atonalities without ever taking the time to consider what it would be like to improvise around a melody and do so in a thorough and engrossing way utterly devoid of musical clichés. It's a joy to hear musicians who seem to consider both directions as being equally valid of investigation. Once again, I am stunned. A beautiful album, heartily recommended.
— Wonderful Wooden Reasons
|BREKEKEKEXKOAXKOAX - I manage to get out by a secret door (Eh?) |
Texan player Josh Ronsen and his companions with further documents of their subduded and quirky improvisations, recorded 2002-2006. Two long pieces here feature Ronsen's work on the prepared guitar, where he resembles an uncertain version of Hans Reichel as he strings together his disconnected and non-musical phrases to the accompaniment of Jason pierce's politely restrained cymbal brushing. 'Banality may banish and truth may appear' is the noble sentiment used as a title for one of these pieces, but after some 19 minutes I still await the appearance of said truth. The more promising 'Shoham' showcases Ronsen's solo live electronics work, a field where he shines, on evidence of previous release I have heard; it's a moody one too, an extended bout of frowning and glowering translated into monolithic electric moans. he combines his electronics set-up with a turntable and guitar on 'Art brings a tiny gleam...', and again succeeds in building an inscruable wall which asks more questions than it answers. We've got documents of slightly larger group situations with the fourth and sixth tracks, featuring the flute work of Genevieve Walsh, the percussion of Glen Nuckolls, and Jacob Green with his oboe and electronics. As with previous CD, I find the success of these improvisations lies in the way Ronsen somehow manages to slow all the other players down to match his personal metabolic rate, and soon they are all breathing as one unit. there is also much more aural variety on offer in the slightly unusual combinations of instruments, particularly on 'We ought to have but one single thought'; with its two guitars, one amplified, this track could almost be a missing excerpt from a 1970s Krautrock obscurity if it displayed a little more aggression. Politeness and restraint are the watchwords of the Breksters, but these same qualities may also dampen the results.
— Sound Projector #17, pg. 103
|BREKEKEKEXKOAXKOAX - I manage to get out by a secret door (Eh?)
Josh Ronsen - unaided, or in company of Jason Pierce, Glen Nuckolls, Genevieve Walsh and Jacob Green - keeps sending encouraging signals via his Brekekekexkoaxkoax project, which regularly strolls around two poles - semi-structured improvisation and drones - often integrating their reciprocal qualities. This collection, assembling pieces recorded from 2002 to 2006, is not an exception: the first selections find Ronsen and Pierce manipulating prepared guitar and drums in quiet, if unsettling duos where - as pleasurable as the listening may be - we don't move too far from the habitual sonorities of the genre: twinkle, rustle, screech and bump if you see what I mean. Nice stuff, yet the best comes in the second half of the CD: a pair of superlative rumbling laments by Ronsen alone on electronics (in one of them, also guitar and turntable) - "Shoham" being so dominant that my furniture rattled during the playback - and two shorter joint improvisations where the mix of acoustic and electric instruments places the music several hundred yards from a characterization: not really free, as there seems to be an underlying organization (at least in the minds of the performers) but certainly nothing to do with alternative or "post" rock, either. Let's just say that this is a fine album: 65 minutes that get swallowed without problems, three of the tracks reaching a superior level.
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax -- I MANAGE TO GET OUT BY A SECRET DOOR [eh?]
Josh Ronsen's enigmatically-named (and impossible to spell) vehicle for strange experiments in sonic reduction and the occasional foray into performance art has rarely sounded this minimal, which is saying something, given his penchant for removing the rock, the beat, and the rhythm from his music until it resembles nothing so much as near-random trickles of found sound. Ronsen is the only artist I've ever heard who can deliberately record music that sounds like field recordings, and there's much of that perverse aesthetic at work here. He's also joined by other like-minded improvisational artists on most of the tracks -- only "shoham" and "art brings a tiny gleam, swamped by garrulousness" are solo performances -- including Jason Pierce on drums, Glen Nuckolls (acoustic guitar), Genevieve Walsh (drums, flute), and Jacob Green (percussion, electronics, oboe). The tracks are all different variations on subdued, minimalist improvisation in which the space between tonal events and the modest dynamics are every bit as important, maybe even more so, than the actual notes played and noises made. The exceptions to this largely-favored stylistic temperament are in the droning, dark-ambient solo pieces, although they are no less minimal and cryptic than the rest of the album's offerings. Those already familiar with Ronsen's output will find much to dig into here; those not yet hip to his studied but eccentric approach to all things minimal will find this an excellent starting point.
— One True Dead Angel
|A mix of sparse clangy improv with dark droney improv. Some avante and yawny but others narcotic and blissful.|
1) starts very quiet, mostly all percussion, cymbal, bells, drums, sparse and collage-like
2) again, very percussive but takes on an abstract near-gamelan quality
3) a great chill drone, electro in source, lovely
4) offtune dissonant guitar and percussion dominate this improv
5) a great somewhat noisey drone, ebbs and flows, metallic
6) mix of cymbals, flute and droney tones
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax is an ongoing experimental vehicle for multi-instrumentalist Josh Ronsen's minimalist, improvised music. I manage to get out by a secret door is compiled from six separate sessions recorded between 2002-2006 that find him performing his prepared guitar and various electronics in a solo, duo, trio and quartet configuration.|
The first two compositions are strictly improvised, abstract pieces of music that combine Ronsen's plethora of prepared guitar which basically consists of his percussive plunking and scraping along with the odd belch of feedback, with drummer Jason Pierce's almost distant sounding percussion work. These two tracks which clock in at almost twenty and sixteen minutes respectively are long, drawn out collages that don't rely that much on actual musical notes, just sound. The same can certainly be said for the third track "Shoham" which features Ronsen on what amounts to six and a half minutes of electronic drone. Thankfully things start to finally open up a bit sonically by the fourth composition "We ought to have but one single thought" as the unit expands to a trio. With the added instrumentation the tones begin to also feel distinctly warmer as Ronsen and second guitarist Glen Nuckolls provide a thick cocoon of pulsating sound overtop drummer Genevieve Walsh's furious brush strokes. "Art brings a tiny gleam, swamped by garruiousness" is once again a solo foray for more of Ronsen's drawn out electronic textures, which unfortunately kills off some of the momentum built up from the previous track. The disc concludes with "These are mere words, powerless, useless", the only composition recorded in a quartet, and a track that once again works due to the infusion of added instrumentation, which comes by way of the slightly distorted sounding wind instruments such as oboe, flute and clarinet.
I manage to get out by a secret door will certainly prove to be a challenging listening experience especially for people who lean towards more conventional sounding, instrumental music. Inevitably it won't appeal to everyone. As a whole I think the results on I manage to get out by a secret door could have been better, due to the fact that the two solo electronic pieces not only sound out of place here but they don't really have much to offer. The true promise of musical fireworks is only hinted at when Ronsen expands the unit, thus expanding the sonic capabilities of the music as well, unfortunately though this doesn't occur nearly as often as one might hope.
— Sea Of Tranquility
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax (Josh Ronsen) have put together
a definite compilation in I manage to get out by a secret door (eh?35)
comprising 2 improvs with Jason Pierce, 2 solo pieces and another 2 improvs (with
Glen Nuckolls and Genevieve Walsh) recorded between 2002 and 2006.
Taking them out of order: Shoham (which is track 3) is a wonderful
layering of electronics providing ambient vibrating feedback with
ringing tones in it. The mood returns in the fifth track - Art brings a
tiny gleam, swamped in garrulousness (yes, titles as long as the
pseudonym!) where turntables and guitars are added - again vibrant,
ringing, chimes drones a crackling and a lovely long fade. Between
these two We ought to have but one single thought is the first piece
with Nuckolls and Walsh (guitars, drums, flute). The two guitars work
here to provide an almost rocking/bluegrass feel as they develop the
piece, gathering pace, the electric guitar a tonal wahwahing base. In
the last few minutes it becomes more edgy and the addition of flute
provides new tones. Jacob Green (percussion, electronics, oboe: and the
others are now on percussion, guitar, flute and oboe) for the closing
These are mere words, powerless, useless whose first half is full
percussion with guitar through, while the woodwinds offer a tonal
ambient second half. These two pieces are less than 10 minutes each and
work well. Where I had some difficulty with the album was the first two
tracks - 35 minutes - which is just Ronsen on prepared guitar and Jason
Pierce on drums. Banality may vanish and truth may appear is almost 20
minutes of plinky prepared guitar whose percussive effects are
paralleled by the percussion. The full range of picking, some feedback,
scraping, playing etc are worked through but for me this was an opener
that didn't really go anywhere for the first 15 minutes but did find a
focus near the end. I kept skipping the second track - I never saw the
end of the fire - fearing 16 similar minutes. However, when I did get
round to it I really enjoyed it - more active from both guitar and
drums, gets almost beaty at times, but also struck through with ambient
tones. This is a good album - the variety on it provides a welcome
diversion. However I would program the album with this track first,
then the others alternating as currently and ending with the current
first track as a long farewell. And make it an even better album.
|Il moniker Brekekekexkoaxkoax (semplice
da pronunciare; non trovate?) con cui si immedesima il genialoide chitarrista
e multi-strumentista Josh Ronsen, da quel di Austin, rientra solo tra
quelle centinaia e centinaia di sigle che frequentano l’emisfero della free-form trans-oceanica. “I Manage To Get Out By a Secret Door” è una raccolta di materiale non giovanissimo: dentro si trovano performance solitarie create per un paio di compilations mai pubblicate, oppure materiale ‘totally-free’ ideato con altri musicisti, spesso a contatto con attività concertistiche&non del giovane improviser. Cronologicamente, si compie un balzo all’indietro nel tempo (il biennio‘02/’03) quando troviamo ad aprire due lunghissime sessions con il batterista Jason Pierce. Tra Banality May Vanish And Truth May Appear e I Never Saw The End Of The Fire vince la prima con il suo incedere a piccoli passi, sovrapponendo disordinate espansioni della batteria agli analitici fraseggi jazz(y) delle corde. Tensione sul filo-del-rasoio di moda anche negli spazi più elettro-elettronici del cd: Shoham (only electronics) e Art Brings A Tiny Gleam… (turntables, guitar and electronics), entrambe, allungate e condotte come dei mantra cibernetici da tramandare ai posteri del XXII° sec.
In un flash: isolazionismo microtonale, drone-music e soundscapes ambientali di discreto valore in un simposio futuristico distaccato da qualsiasi orientamento radical-free acustico.
La strada scelta, come si nota, è poli-estetica, includendo nelle occasioni dal vivo anche pratiche visuali, teatrali e letterarie. Questo spirito freak di Ronsen può in parte essere ricollegato alla tradizione psichedelica del Texas, anteponendo al rock tutte le possibili diramazioni dell’arte
moderna. Interessante, ma suggerito particolarmente ad un pubblico neofita di
|Also improvisation can be found on the release by those whose name we can't
pronounce: Brekekekexkoaxkoax, being the group around Josh Ronsen. He too
has long pieces. The first two are recordings by him on prepared guitar and
Jason Pierce on drums. This is fairly traditional improvisation and one of
these would have been enough. I'd prefer 'I Never Saw The End Of The Fire'.
'Shoham' is Ronsen solo on electronics, with a nice subdued drone like
piece. The piece after that 'We Ought To Have But One Single Thought' lives
up to its title and is a free piece, not like the opening pieces but more
open ended, just as the piece that closes the release, but that one is again
for a totally different line up. In between that there is another solo
piece. Perhaps some of it is a bit long, but throughout I thought this was
the best of the four, if only for the sheer variation.
— Vital Weekly #614
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax (Jacob Green, Glen Nuckolls, Josh Ronsen, Genevieve Walsh) play a lone 27-minute improvisation that explore the nuances of a droning inconstancy, its content not distant from Third Ear Band (in very small doses), ruptured by a non-virtuoso approach to the instrumental depiction. Overall, a rather sincere blend bordering on the drowsy, adding a few precious particulars to a generally calm scenery.
— Touching Extremes
|Fred Lonberg-Holm / Brekekekexkoaxkoax - Split
Brekekekexkoaxkoax, apart from having a name that would probably result in someone breaking their jaw should anyone attempt to pronounce it, opt for a much more improvisational acoustic approach, relying on such stalwart instrumentation as oboe, organs, guitars, banjo, clarinet, flute, violin, drums and voice. Although the general feel is atonal and fractal in nature and expression, there’s a cyclic aspect being explored and employed here with a slow repeating pattern across the full 27:41 duration, as the track breaks apart and then builds back up once more, losing density and then combining again, in a reflection of many of the processes of the real world. The process is continuous and in a constant state of evolution, even in those quiet moments when nothing much seems to be happening. Like nature itself, there’s no stasis; just constant flux and reflux, moments of intense activity and periods of relative dormancy a process that never seems to end and will continue until time itself runs out.
— Heathen Harvest
| Brekekekexkoaxkoax takes a more acoustic path using various instruments in a playful free form expression.
|This split CD-r by Fred Lonberg-Holm and Brekekekexkoaxkoax, the
eighth in a series of split releases, released on Cohort Records (run
by Kirchenkampf's John Gore) is such an album. It has four tracks, and
it might be best to start with the fourth. 'Sorry!' by the ensemble
Brekekekexkoaxkoax is a 27 minute piece with a normal set of
instruments. Improvisational acoustic music of quite a high level for
well trained ears (which scores a 7 on a scale from 1 to 10).|
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax - We Used To Be Such Good Friends|
Brandishing a bizarre band name that sounds like Popeye’s laugh followed by the throaty call of a tropical bird, Brekekekexkoaxkoax first appeared within the space-time continuum that we call home back in 1996 around Austin, Texas, where they secreted a great bog blob of improvised music, performance art and image projection into their immediate biosphere. Led by artist / musician Josh Ronsen, the outfit, featuring a large, rotating cast of characters, finally got up the gumption to release their first album a full decade into their existence. Emblazoned with the title We Used to be Such Good Friends, the homespun artifact presents four selections of spontaneous aural treats that span the years 2000 to 2005. Kicking off the proceedings with guitar, banjo, violin, flute, clarinet, oboe, organ, snare drum and electronics, “Haifa Hi-Fi” spreads out a nearly half-hour dollop of plinky-plonk prickly peanut clatter. After starting out extremely quiet and sparse, it starts to pick up a little steam after 20 minutes. Fans of AMM would have no problem with this piece.
One of two Josh Ronsen solo works on the disc, the much shorter “Figure or Failure II” coasts out a super subtle gurgling drone via turntable, voice, electronics and computer that barely registers in your mind as you fall into a gentle slumber. You really have to crank up the volume to even kind of hear this track. Bernhard Gunter would be proud. Closing up this recordable CD is a pair of 20-minute pieces. The first, “Tuesday on Sunday,” swaps the two least popular days of the week as it begins with a simple guitar figure fingerpicked over a shrill drone, the overall effect of which is gentle, plaintive and downright moving. In fact, this section is the highlight of the whole album. Later on, as the piece picks up pace, the oboe really comes into play as it flits about all over the place. “For I.D. II” finds Josh Ronsen back in solo mode–this time on bowed bass guitar–for another round of shrill, shimmery and occasionally throbbing drones, wrapping up this fine album like a birthday present for an Egyptian mummy encased in an ancient tomb.
— Arcane Candy
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax - We Used To Be Such Good Friends
If Wonderful Wooden Reasons has been especially difficult to write this month (and it has) then this album is the reason. For the 3 weeks since it arrived on my doormat it's dominated my stereo. It's playing as I type. Nothing unusual in that, the album I'm reviewing usually is. But, and here's my point, this is the third time it's been on today and it's only noon. Yesterday it was playing in the car, on my mp3 player and I played it a couple of times in the house too. It's superb. Brekekekexkoaxkoax (what is that name about?) is the alter-ego of one Josh Ronsen, from Austin. Texas, and a rotating array of collaborators (here it's Bill Thompson, Jacob Green, Vanessa Arn, Glen Nuckolls and Genevieve Walsh). The role each musician takes is unspecified and to be perfectly honest I care nothing for such things. What is important is the beautiful noise they make as a collective (in whatever combination that may be). Primarily guitar led melodic improvisations (I think) that roll gently around the room. Acoustic instrumentation flows around electronic as the music shifts and drifts like the tide. The music never rests but most importantly never rushes. Every idea that rolls along is allowed to develop fully before it relinquishes it's hold on the ambience and something new takes it's place. It's an amazing album.
— Wonderful Wooden Reasons
|Interesting new works from Austin composer / player / conceptual kinda guy Josh Ronsen -- three fairly recent (2004-2005) pieces, and a reprise of 2000's "for i.d. ii," which appeared in its original form on the self-released cd-r he put out back then. "Haifa Hi-Fi" (from October, 2005) is a lengthy collaborative piece with Ronsen (electric guitar, clarinet), Jacob Green (oboe, organ, electronics), Glen Nuckolis (acoustic guitar, banjo, violin), and Genevieve Walsh (flute, snare drum), a largely sedate and free-flowing session that keeps circling back to a certain level of minimalism as they explore different instrument configurations and tonal variations. "Figure or Failure ii" (from December, 2005) is quieter and closer to incidental sound, as Ronsen employs turntable action, electronics, computer trickery, and vocals to create the drifting, droning ambience of the cosmic hum and eerie wailing that finally resolves into shimmering, bell-like tones. The collaborative piece "tuesday on sunday" (January, 2004), with Ronsen on electric guitar and guests Vanessa Arn (electronics), Jacob Green (oboe, organ), and Bill Thompson (computer), is built around a guitar sound that resembles a piano, with the rest of the ensemble contributing incidental and background sounds or subtle accompaniment. The final track, "for i.d. ii," was recorded by Chris McBeth in 2000 and is a solo for bowed bass guitar, with no overdubs or processing. It sounds like wire music, resonating with a bone-rattling bass hum and leavened with spooky harmonics and feedback, and sounds every bit as good now as it did back then. More whole-grain experimental goodness from the band with the name that cannot be easily spelled.
— One True Dead Angel
|Improvisation in music is language,
ask any Jazz musician – who are without peer in terms of the structured
spontaneity of sound – and all language is internalized before
being externalized; think before you speak (subconsciously or not),
sing within before you sing without. However, Brekekekexkoaxkoax, despite
the voluminous scenes and quotes on improvisation present “we
used to be such good friends” as less language than demonstration
in exponential experimentalism sparsely presented in whispered menacing
free jazz form.
Brekekekexkoaxkoax’s “we used to be such good friends” is a performance group of considerable sonic divergence. The four tracks metronome, from the aforementioned free jazz (tracks 1, 3) to the darkly smothered performance (tracks 2, 4) of Josh Ronsen, whose compositions divagate unexpectedly. This dichotomous dovetailing presents quite the offset and one that is trying on the senses.
This Brekekekexkoaxkoax jam session (tracks 1, 3 ramping up an est. 50 minutes) embarks tangled. Guitar is scraped, harmonically diced, violin pizzicato prickles like a flurry of the many-legged running late, snare drum softly cachinnates and squirreling clarinet and oboe rummage for synchronicity... With all this squirming one could imagine little rest, but the ensemble proves patience and disengagement is best for breath: places ‘tween the scampered chaos is redolent with panoply of scents and space. Slighting the freeform exposition is the dark instability that runnels the belly of the conglomerate’s sonorous output as the pursuit of experimentation burrows unexpected organic tunnels. There is certain post-modern appreciation of the first electronic/sound experimentalists here, the blurts, the faltering, the jerking, the whispering, the spooling, the tightening, the wavering, the upswelling, the festering. “we used to be such good friends” is resolutely peppered.
The pairing against Ronsen’s solo productivity breaks first with a four minute gorge of; turntable, vocals, electronics and computer delineating his squeezed wedge of dark ambience. Almost an afterthought given another score minute of the ensemble’s metamorphosing before Josh returns with haunting dominance of a bowed bass guitar and nothing else. No effects. No overdubs. No electronic processing. It spooks. Caterwaul of moans and squeals, where feedback filaments further layers of sound, peel from the sawn low-end strings, a didgeridoo of thickened bass.
If “we used to be such good friends” is indeed improvisation, a language, it is unlikely to ever be successfully translated.
— Heathen Harvest
|Been a long time that
I ain't never heard no name as weird as Austin, Texas' Brekekekexkoaxkoax
but weird is the name of the game these days innit. I'm not even sure
how to pronounce it but I think "Breakfast Coax" is close enough.
Brekekekexkoaxkoax define themself as "an open-ended art music collective,
focusing on improvisational, indeterminate performances using sound, visuals
and movement" which is pretty much how every band I wind up reviewing
defines themselves anyway. But it's cool though, Brekekekexkoaxkoax actually
have some pretty neat credits to their name: they appeared on the illustrious
RRRecords 500 locked grooves compilation where thousands of other bands
were turned away and they seem to be studious followers of the Fluxus
movement given how often their tracks show up on Fluxus-related tributes
and compilations (okay it probably only happened like twice). As I understand
it, "We Used to be Such Good Friends" is their
debut long player for the sometimes-quartet of headmaster Josh Ronsen
and compadres Jacob Green, Glen Nuckolls and Genevieve Walsh. On "Friends"
however there are guest appearances from like-minded souls Vanessa Arn
(electronics) and Bill Thompson (computer). What's interesting about "Friends" is
that the quartet only play together on the first track and again in splintered
form on the third - the other two are Josh Ronsen going it
solo. I guess at the end of the day, after all, it is still his Brekekekexkoaxkoax.
I may have made a subtle allusion to the notion that Brekekekexkoaxkoax are another run-of-the-mill campfire squatting tambourine-shaking troupe but they're really not, they're like the version of that troupe that actually went to university and majored in things like Computer Graphics & Design or something with the word Vector in the name. Or they're just adept at adopting a slight air of academia. Or that's just me misinterpreting things as usual. Well the amount of instruments used on the half-hour opener "Haifa Hi-Fi" is as staggering as you'd expect: oboe, organ, acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, violin, flute, snare drum, electronics, and more...basically everything with a string from tennis rackets down on to your mother's sewing machine is put to good use, and I may or may not be exaggerating. The resulting jam though is almost surprisingly restrained for the most part, as the four players take the time to actually pay attention to what the other is playing and meditate on it good n' long until they decide to sneak in with their own contribution. I guess the comparison that kept coming to me was an updated take on AMM (kind of ironic since AMM never really went away), or at least re-imagined by a pack of young'uns affected by/afflicted with the post-Altamont world scenario. The 20-minte accompanying jam piece "Tuesday on Sunday" is a lot less jerky and more fluid, approaching the more down-tempo moments of Labradford or Brokeback. The song is held together at its nexus courtesy Ronsen's on-going electric guitar rhythms, not at all unlike Josetxo Grieta's "European Son" interpretation we visited yester's day. By the time the track starts thinking of a conclusion, Green's oboe is already doing quiet battle with Arn and Thompson's gizmodgery and it flows as smoothly as any Milky Way I've come to know. Real long, and patience is most definitely a pre-requisite, but real nice. Ronsen's first solo track "Figure or Failure II" is a four-minute bridge between the two epics and a rather inhumanely tranquil sound sculpture plundered from turntable, voice, electronics and computer. Mostly it comes out like a black ocean rumble, as soothing as it is disconcerting and as E.A.I. as any of that - hard to hear anything other than what I suppose to be the computer in it though. Ronsen's other piece is "For I.D. II", a slothful goliath if there ever was one. It's another twenty minute jaunt but this one's a solo bowed bass performance and a rather exquisite one at that. It begins as light and airy as you can get while playing a bass guitar and slowly but certainly bleeding into more sinister territories until the sound forms around your ears as thick as an on-rushing tornado, maintaining just the right amount of pressure long enough to splinter into rubbery strands of pure dark matter. Sunn O))) by way of Scodanibbio?
Ronsen's solo takes are just as nice and fully-formed as the group tracks, which sound like Rowe, Ambarchi, Muller, Nakamura et al. getting lost on the way to ErstQuake and playing the Terrastock festival instead. "We Used to be Such Good Friends" is no revelation, but the group of musicians working here under the Brekekekexkoaxkoax banner are too talented to not pull off a work of undeniable competency. And the quotes on and about improvising music in the booklet are at least a helpful indicator that these folks aren't slobs either.
— Outer Space Gamelan
|Equally heady is the tongue-twisting collective Brekekekexkoaxkoax,
featuring the guitar and clarinet stylings of local improv vet Josh
Ronsen and a few fellow experimentalistos. We Used to Be Such
Good Friends weaves in and out of free-jazz traffic jams, incorporating
flute, oboe, guitar, and turntable for electric soundscapes with equally
boggling names like "Haifa Hi-Fi."
— Austin Chronicle
Covered in soft felt: Tender spiderwebs of winds and acoustic
|brekekekexkoaxkoax “we used to be such good friends”
Very nice…a relaxed and offbeat, quirkily charming set of four improvisations performed by Josh Ronsen and his friends, an Austin-based collective, and with some post-production editing by Josh. First piece features some gorgeous acoustic woodwinds Jacob Green on the oboe, Genevieve Walsh on the flute, accompanied by guitars, organ and other instruments…it’s a long opened this one, and not without a few unfortunate lulls during which all concerned seem a little uncertain about what to do next; but at best, the combo playing is simply uncanny, producing a truly magical consonance out of strange voices. The ‘lull’ pitfall is one that awaits any improviser and may be compounded by a group situation; but the payoff in this case shows how the rewards of improvisation can reap major dividends. This combo create a combined sound of which I’ve not heard the like.
“On ‘Tuesday on Sunday’ Green and Ronsen are joined by Vanessa Arn with her live electronics set-up and Bill Thompson on the computer, to create a uniquely Texas home-grown electro-ccoustic mix that is, at times, quite fabulous: everyone playing is totally full-on, in a very quiet, studious and concentrated way. This is an interesting American take on styles already developed in Japan and certain parts of Europe (Cologne and Vienna spring to mind). The final track, an example of ‘conceptual sound organization,’ has Ronsen bowing the bass guitar in a solo piece, achieving an effect that Organum or Iancu Dumitrescu would not be ashamed of. When treated correctly, the bass guitar can and will resonate your rib-cage in stimulating and exciting ways, as happens here. A strong and beguiling set of performances, all slow, all quite beautiful…it’s not so deep as a well, nor as the music of AMM, but you’re getting warm.
— Sound Projector #15, pg. 99
|This impossibly named collective - founded in 1996 - recognizes its leader in Josh Ronsen, a Texas-based sound and mail artist who also happens to be an active force in the outflow of unadulterated music and writing (he publishes an online webzine, Monk Mink Pink Punk, and an email newsletter, Austinnitus). The record contains about 73 minutes of music divided in four tracks. "Haifa Hi-Fi" features Ronsen on electric guitar and clarinet, Jacob Green on oboe, organ, "misc instr" and electronics, Glen Nuckolls on acoustic guitar, banjo and violin and Genevieve Walsh on flute and snare drum. It's pure improvisation, that which many are convinced to be playing but don't even get close: approximate shapes, detuned strings and unpretentious approaches to a collective imagination that lasts the space of a moment allow the music to fluctuate in search of a definition that never materializes. The four parties look for critical tresholds and hidden places, from which they seem to observe their reciprocal self-response to the complete lack of a so-called "style". Moments exist when the creature tries to spread the wings and learn to fly without success, due to an undescribable frailty that is also the true, essential beauty of the piece. "Figure or failure II" is a short solo work for turntable, voice, electronics and computer - all by Ronsen - boiling with discreet electronic possibilities and subterranean interferences under a fixed droning hum that stabilizes the matter in an engrossing self-replicating cycle, unfortunately ending too soon. "Tuesday on Sunday" is a quartet of electronics, oboe/organ, electric guitar and computer (respectively by Vanessa Arn, Green, Ronsen and Bill Thompson). Uncertain guitar arpeggios nourish a growingly tense layering of acute dissonant frequencies that generate a distressing sense of unexpected and untold; the repetition of selected patterns renders the music a little more permanent in memory, but the feeling remains one of decay and forgetfulness, reinforced by a pretty murky equalization, until the whole fuses into a final ejaculation of stridency. "For I.D. II" is a solo for bowed bass guitar that closes the show with the most frictional music of the whole CD, a roaring upheaval of granular harmonics and harsh resonances accompanying a bad trip through minimal hopelessness.
— Touching Extremes
|BREKEKEKEXKOAXKOAX - "WE USED TO BE SUCH
GOOD FRIENDS" (CDR by Hushroom Recordings)
Apart from a few appearances on compilations, this is my first full length encounter with the ever so oddly named Brekekekexkoaxkoax, the project with Josh Ronsen in the middle. You may recognize his name from his own Monk Mink Pink Punk magazine, or of N D Magazine (whatever happened there?) or his contributions to the Abrasion Ensemble, Frequency Curtain, the Gates Ensemble or the Austin New Music Co-op. This new release is a pretty long one, which according to Josh falls into three categories: two pieces are free improvisation quartets of Ronsen on electric guitar and clarinet and others on oboe, flute, snare drum, banjo, violin etc., one is an electro-acoustic sound collage and one is a 'piece of conceptual sound organization'. The first of the two improvisation pieces, I must admit didn't do much for me. The players move around too careful around each other, and there seems not to be much dialogue or interaction. In the other quartet piece however there is a lot of good tension between the players. The two other pieces are solo pieces and they are the best of the release. Especially 'For I.D. II', for bowed bass guitar, is an intense, minimal piece of music, that moves slowly around like a giant beast.
— Vital Weekly #521
|next was brekekekexkoaxkoax-- small, spacious minature guitar/bow sounds, broken by a piano solo w/ slideshow accompaniment (photographs of stark, dark limbed trees by Carmen Resendez). i particularly enjoyed the guitar, played with delicacy and restraint--and the film accompaniment (despite glitches) understated, shifting, layered, hallucinatory.
— Wholly Other Tour Diary
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax finds some order in the chaos with "ma'vet o'lam (Asiyah)" which sounds like an industrial compactor smashing
the world into a nice neat square of compressed metal.
— Igloo Magazine
|Brekekekexkoaxkoax -- s/t cd-r [self-released]
Josh Ronsen, the Austin artist behind the long name (and purveyor of the useful Austinnitus mailing list), recently coughed up this interesting, self-released cd-r, which collects up a number of compilation tracks and a couple of otherwise unreleased ones (including one recorded live at the Intersect 3 Festival). I don't believe this is available in stores -- K-Tel he ain't -- but he is most likely open to trades, and this is certainly worth trading for. The first two tracks, "for i.d. ii" and "for michael northam," are droning, ambient tracks in the vein of (early) Jim O'Rourke or Illusion of Safety, and even though they are produced with totally different sound sources (solo bass with no processing on the first, processed bowed cymbal on the second), they have a remarkably similar feel -- in fact, if you're not paying attention, you'll miss the moment when one segues into the other. Things get a bit crunchier on "for carmen resendez," where a processed contact mike produces darker, grainier sounds; it's still ambient, but now the ambience has more of a machine-like throb and the occasional bit of thumping 'n bumping. I like the tones 'n drones on "for gerard klauder," created through the use of processed prepared guitar -- bell-like tones compete with shuddering bass drones and tumbling notes, like the sound of a clock being disassembled.
Surprising sounds abound on "P008," and without the helpful aid of the liner notes i never would have guessed the sound processing originated with pottery shards (!) -- the droning, burbling sound that rises and falls is very reminiscent of Troum, which is kind of intriguing since the sound sources are so wildly different. This trend continues with "NN01" and "GF07" (and no, there's no explanation for the cryptic titles; i would assume they reference the discs being sampled), wherein CD samples are processed into oblivion to create textured drones. The final track, "i3," is live (recorded at the Intersect 3 Festival), and sounds like it was recorded to tape with no particular concern for filtering out background noise (no big surprise there, given his extensive roots in the work of John Cage); it's the most dynamic track here, and also the briefest.
It's obvious that the tracks were chosen with a significant degree of thought as to how they would work together, and they do indeed flow well. This is a strong showcase of excellent work in the field of treated guitar. A special note should be made of the nifty minimalist packaging, including a lovely abstract painting (similar to the designs on the Maeror Tri HYPNOTIKUM albums). Thou shalt investigate and acquire...
— Dead Angel
Brekekekexkoaxkoax gives us a jumpy-cd piece where random noise becomes grounded by some strumming loops.
— Ampersand Etcetera
|“Along with unrealistic philosophy and religious superstition, bad literature is a crime against society.”
—Aldous Huxley, Literature and Science (1963)