Erik Carlson – Piece for 12 Violins (Parts 1 & 2)

October 5, 2016
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Erik Carlson | Piece for 12 Violins (Parts 1 & 2)


The first time I saw Erik perform, I was immediately struck by the clarity he projected, the crystalline nature of his ideas and how immediately perceptible they are to the listener.  As I became more familiar with his output, both his own compositions and his performances of the works of others, I quickly realized this integrity was present in all of his endeavors – from works that necessitate perspicuity, like those of total serialist Milton Babbitt or the vulnerable austerity in the compositions of Catherine Lamb, to those that exploit relations between seemingly contradictory or incompatible techniques, both physical, as in Brian Ferneyhough’s ‘Unsichtbare Farben’, which, like much of Ferneyhough’s work, pushes the limits of the relationship between technical complexity and expressivity – and aesthetic – as in Erik’s own composition ‘At C’, which takes Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde and erases Wagner’s dense and chromatic writing, leaving only middle C.  Even in cases that air towards the latter category, Erik consistently creates a vivid sonic space that allows one to entirely immerse themselves in the expanse that connects the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of a piece.  That is to say, one becomes immediately aware that there is a logic underpinning the sounds emanating from Erik and the listener is persuaded to allow the piece to work on their ears in its own time, rather than demanding an actively critical listening that constantly requires the performer to justify the piece’s existence through their interpretation.  The interpreter’s task becomes that of transparency and self-removal, to be a conduit of the piece rather than its salesperson.  

Music for 12 Violins, Parts I+II is a testament to Erik’s ability to render music that is simultaneously pervaded by both simplicity and depth, both equally palpable and refined.  Dense clusters of precisely tuned intervals circle each other, carefully stepping from one to the next on a path that grows increasingly familiar but never registers as rote or repetitive.  The careful construction of each harmony yields a vivid superstratum of acoustic phenomena that allows the ear to traverse the composite texture by both climbing the verticalities of the harmonic movement and submerging one’s conscious thought deep into the kaleidoscopic complexion.  Part I features tightly knit dissonance resulting in acoustic beating that purrs, concomitantly massaging your cochlea and stimulating your cerebellum.  Part II immediately strikes the ear as containing more open sonorities (relatively speaking), trading the rapid acoustic beating of Part I for a slower warble and a more variegated texture.  I encourage the listener to listen to both sides in succession so that they can properly register the scale of the transformation that occurs between both parts.

Often left out of the picture in the traditional composer/interpreter paradigm is the recording engineer’s role – one that Erik has made an integral part of his work.  The ability to approach each component individually allows him to focus his energy on realizing every part with precision that is perhaps unrealistic for the scope of a live performance.  Through this, Erik is able to come within spitting distance of some kind of ideal that could perhaps be thought of as the locus where the work’s identity resides.

~Tyler J. Borden

Written, performed, and recorded by Erik Carlson
Recorded at the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, UCSD, September 2016
Mastered by A.F. Jones at Laminal Audio
Cover Art by Ellie Moser
C60 on high quality chrome

review: The Hum

MFCS.C – Erik Carlson – Piece for 12 Violins (Parts 1 & 2) (edition of 80)

Part 2 [excerpt]



$9.00 (post paid in the US)
$19.00 (post paid international)

digital release option available once physical copies are sold out

Orders within the US:
Everywhere else:

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Jacob Wick – Twice Love

August 12, 2016
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Jacob Wick | Twice Love

jacob wick cassettes

Teotihuacán to the east. Nopales.

I met Jacob on the stairs of the Rotunda in Philadelphia and much later we shared a house concert on a floor in Baltimore. Later the tunnels in Guanajuato, and the strong gasping of a goat hide bagpipe.

Napoles. Sine tones and sandwiches. Open windows. Your waist always moves just so slightly in the chair when you straighten your back to circular breathe. Pivoting sometimes, an echolocation.

Objects have secrets. Material stresses, past corollaries, brass arteries, spiny waveforms, all the fleshy tangible messes. It makes sense that we always discover new stars, new species of cochineals, pink dryer lint in the corners of our pockets, trying so hard as we are to be captured by them. Trying so hard as we are to be captured out of time and into space.

I’ve been thinking a lot about it: music’s generosity in its invitation to the body to participate as a sounding medium. Calling and threading vibrations, constellations holding hands. If we make music as song and space condensed into architectural finials and Los Angeles spring times. I imagine — when we listen — as we lean in closer to our objects, necks lengthening, the ear finds a smoother and quicker path towards the heart through our throats. Movement in our torsos as internal as frequencies on midnight lake water. We wouldn’t mind if we were pulled towards the trees on the other bank, rocked horizontally towards the center, our bodies are things as boats become things. Carrier and container – smoother vessels.

Bonnie Jones, August 2016

SIDE A recorded January 2016 at the wulf., Los Angeles, CA (Wick – trumpet | Christian Weber – contrabass)

SIDE B recorded January 2016 at Bread & Salt, San Diego, CA (Wick – trumpet | Casey Anderson – soprano saxophone, electronics)

special thanks to Ethan Tripp for design and layout QA

Wick J Card

MFCS.B – Jacob Wick – Twice Love (edition of 75)

with Casey Anderson at Bread & Salt [excerpt]
with Christian Weber at the wulf. [excerpt]


Digital album: $5.00

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Starvation Time – House of Dust

August 12, 2016
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Starvation Time | House of Dust

House of Dust is a product of shitty business practices that sometimes complicate independent and DIY music communities.

But it is more importantly a product of friendship, an innate desire to create, and perhaps of accidental genius. That’s the way I hear it, and how I experienced it from a close distance.

When Jeff Williams was living here in San Diego, I remember him talking about wanting to be in a band. He’d been a bedroom guitarist for years, but had never really “done anything.” It was inevitable that he and our mutual friend Steve Flato would get together and brainstorm the how of it. I had the sense that Steve — who would default into just about every role of production and management of the project in the writing and recording phase for House of Dust, aside from Jeff’s sometime panicked, other times whispered lyrics-to-voice process — was less than fully excited about it. While Steve is extremely comfortable with the process of discovering new territory in his own music, he can be flinchy or reserved with idealized material that enters from unexpected angles.

I wasn’t present for the discussions that took place between Jeff and Steve. I know that there were specific elements, many of which were introduced as the overall concept for their band, that came from Jeff. There would be beats. Loops, guitar. A processed bass undercarriage. And electronics. Lots of electronics. And, of course, Jeff’s fully personal way about lyrics, and his own vox.

I remember hearing the first rough takes of a couple of tracks. Steve was in every way undecided. Unsure. But he knew that, as the de facto composer of the music, he had made ‘real songs’. And there was sincere satisfaction in that for him. I remember telling him to go with it, that he has hit on something strong, and Steve expressed a characteristic brief hesitation followed by full confidence. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I think. More later.”

Steve and I have worked together many times in the production phases of his music, and I was asked to master this work for Starvation Time, and for consultation on the mixes. We worked on some things in my studio, and I took my normal forensic approach after a few listens to each track to get to the business of readying the music for others. As it often happens, it was only in the final phases that I was able to divorce myself from the work as an engineer, and listen to the final product as an aesthete.

Completely knocked out, me. Their work ruled. RULED. Jeff may have cried. I don’t doubt it. And Steve did not know what he had on his hands at the end of it, as I told him. It was, to give you a sense of my immediate impression, and without pigeonholing here, the most unwitting, tangential, and accidental homage to the Damon Edge years of Chrome, by a couple of guys who’d never heard them.

But like I said, it was much more than that. As a musician myself, the most rewarding part of engaging in music is the process itself. The assemblage of ideas, auditioning some of them, rejecting others. And the joy that comes with hearing and stumbling on something in your own work that sticks, when you’d never think it could have adhered to anything at all.

The end of this story is that Starvation Time’s music was picked up, only to sit in production hell for far longer than it should have. Unanswered emails, hazy deadlines missed, time and again, no explanation offered. It was unfair and frustrating. Several months lapsed, I told Steve to give it a few more weeks, keep their fingers crossed. And if no joy, I’d release it myself because I’ve always wanted to experience managing a label and I imagined myself completely happy and stimulated if this chain of accidents would be what tipped me over the edge.

House of Dust is, for me, a moment in time that fully captures that artistic process that I described. I will always hear it in that state, which is the state of its own birth. And Marginal Frequency is a byproduct for which I am grateful.

~ AJ


MFCS.A – Starvation Time – House of Dust (edition of 70)

Bone Seeker [excerpt]
You Must Have Had Another Bad Dream [excerpt]
$9.00 (post paid in the US)
£8.00 (post paid to the UK)
£10.00 (post paid to the EU)
$19.00 (post paid international)

digital release option available once physical copies are sold out

Orders within the US:
Orders in the UK:
Orders in the EU:
Everywhere else:

Read More