what god doesn’t bless, you won’t love; what you don’t love, the child won’t know cd/lp reviews
Vital Weekly – Shedding’s debut 12″ ‘Now I’m Shedding’ was reviewed in Vital Weekly 409 is a far cry from his new record ‘What God Doesn’t Bless, You Won’t Love, What You Don’t Love, The Child Won’t Know’. The 12″ was electronic, Oval inspired, but this new one uses ‘electronics and bass guitar’ and drums on one track. The bass and drums sound fairly traditional here. Highly minimal too. The electronic part consists of many sampled flute like sounds (Shedding being highly influenced by jazz legend Eric Dolphy here). ‘W’ is a long piece of these swirling flute sounds with the heavy pounding drums under neath. Very psychedelic, almost in an early krautrock/Faust tradition. The other two pieces are layered affairs of cello sounds and highly obscured forms of computer processing. Very nice again, and certainly moving in new directions. (FdW)
Textura – As enigmatic in sound as it is in album name, song titles (i.e., “GB”), and dedications (its creator characterizes it as a tribute to Eric Dolphy and “the bird sounds that mystify not only us, but all others who listen to our world with a different set of ears”), Connor Bell’s new Shedding release pays tribute to jazz by taking micro-samples of the saxophone legend’s music and transforming them into entirely new works (Connor contributes electronics and bass guitar to the project and Joey Yates adds drums to the second piece, thereby suggesting that all woodwinds can be safely attributed to Dolphy). On the one hand, the original elements are severed from their origins by being decontextualized, yet there’s still enough of Dolphy’s presence in the samples for the reference to not be entirely lost.
You’ll need headphones in order to hear the distant sax-and-bass clarinet pas de deux in the overture “GB.” Following that, a snake-charming flute line and funereal drum pulse initiate the 14-minute “W” in hallucinatory manner and the hazy vibe only deepens with each passing moment as woodwinds call back and forth like the birds they seem to imitate. The even longer 19-minute “YDK” paints a meditative and oft-gloomy portrait where haunted scrapes struggle to be heard before expiring and creaks echo through the empty hallways of a deserted building.
In respects beyond those already mentioned, What God Doesn’t Bless, You Won’t Love, What You Don’t Love, The Child Won’t Know is an extremely unusual release. Challenging convention, it opens at a microsound level and grows ever so slowly in volume thereafter, and when there is a tempo, it’s typically funereal. In short, it’s a resolutely uncompromising and enigmatic work and one clearly not conceived with commercial potential in mind. Still, for all of these reasons and others, it’s also a release that’s wholly deserving of a critical recommendation.
Terrascope – Trying to create electronic music influenced by Eric Dolphy and Birdsong seems like an interesting idea, and is one that is beautifully realised by Connor Bell working under the name of Shedding. Utilising field recording, samples, drums and bass, the approach works perfectly, giving the pieces a delicate touch, full of lightness and grace. You can almost see the birds, as the music gently drift around the room, the sympathetic samples and arrangements ensuring the music is exotic without becoming harsh, interesting without becoming too clever or difficult. Called “What God Doesn’t Bless, You Won’t Love; What You Don’t Love, The Child Won’t Know”, this is a understated delight that will soothe and relax you as it floats through the air. www.home-tapes.com. Also on Home-Tapes is the uplifting sound of Feather whose latest EP “Synchromy” manages to sound like a mix of easy-listening and kraut-rock, creating weird instrumentals that weave all over the place yet retain their melody and structure. Giving an extra brightness is the excellent production that brings the songs to life, enabling the listener to hear everything that is happening within the tune. Music to make you happy and much better for it. Finally on Home-Tapes Scott Solter de-constructs his own production of “Stowaway” by Pattern Is Movement to create a completely new collection of songs that have now been released as “Canonic”. Using nothing but the original recording and his own skills Solter has produced a pulsating dub-inspired album that contains elements of drone, experimental, dub, electronic music, as well as retaining a harmonic basis and a danceable heart. Music for a “herbal moment”, I would love to hear the original album to see how they compare. All three of these albums are housed in beautiful packaging, adding to the quality of the release, something that is to be welcomed in this throwaway society.
xxxSURGERYxxx – Having made little ripples with post-rock group Parlour (Temporary Residence), Connor Bell eventually stepped out of the shallow water and into the deep end of solo work as Shedding. What God Doesn’t Bless… is his second release and it’s a quiet, seeking and delicate work stretched over three long tracks more indebted to European lowercase jazz and electronics improv that algebraic rhythms. Bell cites Eric Dolphy as a major influence, especially the jazz clarinetist’s own abiding interest in the sound of birds and the natural world as they relate to composition. The sound of Shedding is, appropriately, an unlayering of musical strata down to the bedrock where it’s organizing principles sunder, leaving unbound sounds to trail off seeking new relationships. A more traditional framework of drums (by Joey Yates) and bass open and enclose track 2, “W,” before dropping away to leave behind an elemental drone adorned by cuckooing electronics. The album closes with a tortuous electronic threadwork that describes an arid. rolling landscape with lowing notes and the grain of air. Bell manages to effectively improvise with himself in a rich exploratory manner.
BOOMKAT – Well this is a very pleasant surprise, and another one of those discs that seems to have come out of nowhere, rearing its head and embedding itself in your soul with minimal fuss. The first thing I noticed about this record was the sleeve… I mean, it’s gorgeous – really gorgeous. I’m a real artwork fetishist but this just takes the biscuit, printed by the guys responsible for the simply lovely packaging on John Fahey’s ‘Red Cross’ disc (sadly it doesn’t fit on a normal cd shelf though, damn them!) it is a kind of thick, rough card folded digipak and on this is printed some absolutely fabulous paintings. These are the sort of pictures you’d expect to see in a dark childrens tale – think Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and give the perfect entrée into the world of Shedding, aka Connor Bell. The album is made up of three long tracks, but don’t let that scare you – it may as well be one as it’s not separate tracks that are the key to the success of ‘What God Doesn’t Bless…’, rather it is the way the album works as a whole. As I mentioned before, the artwork looks suspiciously like a childrens book, so it’s not surprising that the music itself takes a similarly childish and narrative-rich direction. Last week we were all treated to the beautiful and naïve sounds of Dollboy, with ‘Casual Nudism’ which reminded me very much of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’, Dollboy took the route of prettiness and twinkling innocence and although it sounds like Bell has been similarly influenced by Britten’s unusual opera he instead goes down the darker path, one replete with dark skies, frightened glances and wolves howling in the distance. This is shown marvellously in the album’s second track simply titled ‘W’, which takes a layered clarinet, underpins it with droning ambience and then introduces live percussion and bass to create a brooding almost fifteen minute long monsterpiece. If this doesn’t get you wet with anticipation I don’t know what will – it’s the sort of music that practically dares you not to allow your imagination to go into overload; humanoid confectionary, beautiful lost girls, evil witches and wizards, oversized vegetation, kindly old men with no ulterior motives – it’s all far fetched but quite, quite endearing. You might not have come across Shedding before but trust me, give this album some time to grow into your life and you’ll find it hard to forget. A real treat.
Gorilla vs. Bear – I received Shedding’s new 3-song record, what god doesn’t bless, you won’t love; what you don’t love, the child won’t know, in the mail recently. Now, I have no idea who Shedding is, and I’d likely have dismissed the album altogether if not for a couple of superficial details. First, it’s a Hometapes release, and I love those guys; further, the cover art, which I immediately recognized as the work of the wonderful Kathleen Lolley, is everything I love about her distinctive dark, whimsical style.
Well, as it turns out, what god doesn’t bless… is an often stunning, if somewhat challenging, collage of avant-garde, decontextualized “micro-sampled” jazz. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t usually have the patience for most experimental jazz (I blame my ADD…any recommendations?), but I found myself wholly entranced by the end of the first track. You can download a track from Hometapes, but it’s hardly indicative of how hypnotic the work is when listened to as a whole.
Go ahead and order the CD now, but I’d also recommend going back in January when you can get the vinyl, which I then recommend framing and hanging on your wall. Also, if you like the cover art (pictured above) it couldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with Kathleen Lolley’s work.
Smother Magazine – Connor Bell is Shedding and he is from Louisville, Kentucky. He doesn’t like conformity. Utilizing field recordings, bassy overdubs, otherworldly samples, and ghosted analog sounds, Shedding builds a truly bizarre ambient album. Things are twisted into an artform that is no longer recognizable yet is strangely quite listenable; you’ll find yourself submerged up to the waist, latching on to every echoed sound and every odd sequence. Drone this intelligent almost seems unfair. – J-Sin
Slug Magazine – Shedding = Stars of the Lid + subdued Black Dice
This album is destined to be one of my favorites of the year, mainly because of its dependency upon the listener. One of the requirements of the album is that it should be listened to at near maximum volume in order to experience the full dynamic range. This is a very experimental because of how the music was recorded. Engineers use a process of compression to make sure that an album is loud and that the dynamics don’t change much. Shedding has set these industry standards aside and have made an album that has more intrigue, passion and eeriness than anything in the current market. Organic soundscapes hide themselves among each other as they rise and fall within an enormous dynamic range. Three tracks amass 40 minutes of music leaving the listener with a sense of beauty, mystery and psychedelic redolence. –Andrew Glassett
Aiding and Abetting – Three tracks from Connor Bell; the album title tells you all you need to know. This is classical music, actually, but willfully obtuse stuff. Not really avant-garde, just nebulous. I spent about forever trying to figure it out, and I failed. But I had a fine time trying.
Losing Today – The stuff of enchantment. Perhaps it might seem a little odd to open a review in such a way with such a description but then we’d be buggered rigid if we could come up with any phrase or in a nutshell quip that could otherwise perfectly nail to the spot this particular release.
Now we have to admit to having been much in awe about this three track release since it wandered into our life catching us as it did on our blind side. An unusually passage of work it has to be said – all at once haunting, hypnotic and strangely fixating.
Inspired and informed by jazzman Eric Dolphy, Connor Bell aka Shedding follows up his acclaimed debut ’Now I’m Shedding’ release from a few years ago with this lushly bewitching set. In part reminiscent of both Stylus and Mount Vernon Arts Club in terms of desolate like cavernous drone textures, Bell takes the rudimentary aspect of Dolphy’s fascination for bird sounds and expands on the notion of hidden notes by putting the process of sound manipulation under the microscope, in so doing a new world of possibilities is opened. Dolphy’s flute and various wood wind samples are both deconstructed and reinvigorated with a new lease of life wired as they are to act as a symbiotic like collage to Bell’s electronic backdrops. Sometimes chilling and ominous at others fluent and lilting, psychedelic on occasion (as on ‘W’) and equally abstract and alien in a BBC Radiophonic Workshop way while feeding in distantly to the outer edges of Moondog’s world – the almost misty winter morn day breaking woodland inter specie chatter of the opening suite ‘GB’ – the briefest piece here at just under six minutes – could even pass for a soundtrack to those obscure Eastern European animations that frequently appeared to much puzzlement on British children’s TV screens in the early 70’s. Joey Yates is drafted in for a spot of lightly peppered metronomic like percussive duties on ‘W’ and gives the proceedings a sense of movement with the intertwining woodwind mantras seductively weaving a hazy hypnotic effect of snake charmer almost arabesque grandeur that toy and tease to swirl seductively about your headspace. At 19 minutes in length ‘YDK’ provides the set with its crowning centrepiece and its where the true ‘collaborative’ aspect of this aural adventure comes to the fore, the creakily see sawing wind samples pulsate in and out as though inhaling and exhaling atop sheens of glacially remote sounds capes that together create sombre drone like lunatic tides that vacillate between moments of snoozing serenity and overbearing gloom – sinister but special if you ask me. Also worth mentioning is the artwork with which the release comes adorned provided by the very talented Kathleen Lolley. – Mark Barton
Almost Cool – Housed in absolutely stunning packaging (which has become par for the course with the Home Tapes label), What God Doesnt Bless, You Wont Love; What You Dont Love, the Child Wont Know is the second release for the Louisville, Kentucky-based artist Connor Bell. Roughly inspired by the flute compositions of Eric Dolphy and bird sounds, the release finds Bell creating long, droning pieces that blend playing instrumentation with glacial drifts of processed sound and field recordings. The end result is a release that’s much darker than one might expect given the muses for his work.
The forty-minute release is cut into three longer tracks, and all of them blend together into a somewhat murky, creeping wash that starts in almost microsound territory before getting louder in the middle and finally dissolving at the end again. “GB” opens the effort and at just under six minutes is the shortest piece on the album. Starting with deep hits of percussion and the brush of cymbals, the track develops uneasily with ringing drones, moan-like samples, and overlapping layers of curling, filtered horns that all seem to fall into a chasm-like hole at the ending. “W” follows, and is easily the most active, again using layers of clarinet as the main (and only real) melodic element. A little ways in, though, some repetitive drumming and chugging bass enters the mix and pushes things forward in a drugged-out, creepy way that make the back and forth clarinet calls sound like some sort of pre-fight song and dance for dominance. “YDK” takes up nearly half the album running length and shuffles off down the rabbit hole even further as mercurial samples of jazz sputter though a sonic molasses in a way that calls to mind everyone from Philip Jeck to Nurse With Wound. Sounding somewhat like the more evil twin to an artist like Greg Davis or Mountains, Shedding has created an uneasy release that’s excellent and involving at times, yet rather frustrating in others. Drone jazz? Quite possibly.
ALSO: FAVORITE ALBUM ARTWORK OF 2006
Back when I was in college, I wrote a music and entertainment column for the campus newspaper for three of the four years that I was there. At the end of each year, I’d devote a single column to picking out my favorite album artwork, because as a music lover, the artwork and packaging has always played a large role in how I perceive the music that I listen to. Granted, I can enjoy albums that have poor artwork, and on the other hand dislike albums that have amazing artwork, but it always seems a little more special to me when it seems like the artist (or label) put some time and thought into designing the packaging. In this age of trading MP3s and iTunes, it sometimes feels like it’s going to turn into a lost art, but I still have a deep appreciation for some fine album artwork.
I’ve reviewed all of the below albums on my music review site (except the Shedding, which will be upcoming), and the following (ordered from top to bottom) releases may or may not be included in my forthcoming favorite albums of the year list…
A bat-like, but seemingly benevolent creature rises above the mist while schooners with horse / rabbit / dog-like creatures float on a sea of their own tears. Further panels are just as odd and whimsical, and the artwork is just the right amount of light and dark, playful and creepy for this sprawling, found sound ambient release.
Recensione – di Daniele Follero
Un tributo a Eric Dolphy e alla voce degli uccelli. Così definisce Connor Bell aka Shedding il suo secondo album. Tra i primi a produrre un disco per l’etichetta Hometapes (Now I’m Shedding, 2003), Bell proviene da Louisville, nel Kentucky ed è lì che cresce come musicista, orientato verso Mouse On Mars, Nurse With Wound e Faust. Il jazz rappresenta una scoperta molto tarda per lui, ma definitiva e irresistibile. Il suo amore per Dolphy sta alla base di What God Doesn’t Bless…, un disco che passa al setaccio i gesti musicali del sassofonista americano tagliuzzando e ricomponendo i suoi fraseggi di ampio respiro (campionando soprattutto le sue esecuzioni con il flauto) riuscendo a ricomporli rispettandone i lineamenti caratteristici e senza spezzettarne la continuità. L’effetto è etereo, lieve, con field recordings elaborati da live electronics, che dialogano con sax e flauti campionati.
Frutto di tre anni di performance live al fianco di artisti come David Grubbs, Dat Politics, Comets On Fire, Greg Davis, Mountains e Keith Fullerton Whitman, l’album è un lavoro quasi interamente solista, in cui Bell oltre ad utilizzare strumenti elettronici suona anche il basso. L’unico ad accompagnarlo è Joey Yates che suona la batteria in W. L’apporto di Yates seppure fugace è molto significativo e trasforma le atmosfere ambientali dei restanti altri due brani (GB e IDK, molto Braxton oriented) in un jazz progressive di gran classe che ricorda certi Soft Machine.
Lo stile di Connor attinge a piene mani alle espressioni più avanguardiste del jazz creando un legame con l’elettronica che segue le orme degli sperimentatori più indomiti (Braxton, per l’appunto e prima di tutti). E poi gli uccelli. Il loro cantare per quarti di tono che ha appassionato tanto Oliver Messiaen, quella leggerezza della voce, squillante, atonale, trova in quest’album una sua interpretazione. Un umile e appassionato omaggio a chi, come loro, ascolta il mondo con un orecchio diverso dal nostro. (7.0/10)
RECENSIONE (translated) –
JOKE – Crap, crap, crap. A harsh verdict, to be sure; but how else is one to characterize Connor Bell’s latest ejaculation of juvenile, overwrought, derivative studio pomp and bullshit? Some would say that Bell has come far from his early days with the notorious “Nazi-glue” band Only Following Orders, or from his early solo work in ill-fated albums like “Industrial Plumbing” and “Ménage á Trotsky” – but is that necessarily a good thing? Even a cursory listenning of Bell’s latest disaster would seem to suggest not.
The first track, “Power Drill to the Bunny,” delivers just what the title promises: a seven-minute recording of Bell tormenting small animals (including a rabbit) with a number of different power tools (including a drill). The only thing more disturbing than the premise is the undeniable fact that this constitutes Bell’s most melodically pleasing venture to date. From here, it is all downhill. Other tracks document Bell’s unhealthy fascination with (and excessive imitation of) his principal influences (Miles Davis; Wavy Gravy; The Strangler; Ray Stevens; The Replacements; Dolly Parton). There’s nothing new here, or at least nothing that hasn’t been done earlier (and better) by any number of Miles Davis-Wavy Gravy-The Stranglers-Ray Stevens-The Replacements-Dolly Parton tribute bands. And does the world really need a meandering repetitive, 17-minute disaster like “inna-Gadda-Da-Dolphy”? Don’t answer that question; to do so would necessitate sitting through Bell’s latest nightmare – and we wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
REAL – translated by Professor Blake Beattie (UofL history department):
A tribute to Eric Dolphy and to the voice of the birds. Thus does Connor Bell (aka Shedding) define his second album. Among the first artists to produce a record with the Hometapes label (Now I’m Shedding, 2003), Bell hails from Louisville, Kentucky, and it is there that he has grown as a musician, oriented toward Mouse on Mars, Nurse with Would, and Faust. Jazz representing a very recent discovery for him, but definitive and irresistible.
His love for Dolphy stands at the root of What God Doesn’t Bless…, a record which puts to the sifter the musical accomplishments of the American saxophonist, cutting up and reconstituting his full-breathed phrasings (sampling above all his executions on the flute), managing to reassemble them by respecting their characteristic features and without fragmenting their continuity. The effect is ethereal and light, with field recordings elaborated by live electronics, which engage in a dialogue with the accompanying sax and flutes.
The fruit of three years of live performances at the side of artists like David Grubbs, DAT Politics, Comets on Fire, Greg Davis, Mountains, and Keith Fullerton Whitman, the album is almost entirely a solo effort, in which Bell, in addition to using electronic instruments, plays the bass as well. The only accompanist is Joey Yates, who plays the drums in W. The contribution of Yates, though fleeting, is highly significant, and transforms the ambient atmosphere of the remaining two pieces (GB and YDK, very “Braxton-oriented”) in a high-class progressive jazz which recall some pieces of Soft Machine.
Connor’s style reaches full form in the more avant-garde jazz expressions by creating a connection with the electronics which follows the footsteps of the indomitable experimenters (Braxton, for example, and above all). And then, the birds. Their quarter-tone singing, which has so greatly impassioned Oliver Messiaen – that shrill, atonal lightness of voice – finds in this album their one interpretation. A humble and passionate homage to which, like them, the world listens with an ear different from our own.
30 de Fevereiro – Um álbum enigmático – com um título enorme mas cujos três temas se designam simplesmente “GB”, “W” e “YDK” – é o novo trabalho do músico norte-americano Connor Bell sob a designação Shedding, à qual se acrescentam seis outros projectos, dos quais se destacam Parlour e Wolverine Brass, para referir apenas dos mais recentes e activos. Inspirado pelo jazz de Eric Dolphy, que, a par do punk-rock, foi a descoberta musical mais marcante para Connor Bell, What God Doesn’t Bless… recorre às gravações de campo e ao micro-sampling para alimentar uma desmontagem análoga e digital do som, combinados com baixo e bateria na criação de temas extáticos, fora de tempo e de lugar. Desafiando convenções e apelando à imaginação, este é o tipo de disco que cresce a cada audição até se tornar inesquecível.
30 DE FEVEREIRO (translated by Professor Christine Ehrick, UofL history department, I took some liberties with a few technical turns of phrases so that it made more sense in context – e.g. she translated a passage ‘layers recordings of the country’ which I think probably means field recordings…)
An enigmatic album with an enormous title whose three pieces are simple called “GB”, “W”, and “YDK” – is the new work by the North American musician Connor Bell under the Shedding moniker, adding to his six other projects, two of the most important of which are Parlour and Wolverine Brass, to speak only of his recent work. Inspired by the jazz of Eric Dolphy, which, along with punk rock, is the most important inspiration of Connor Bell, What God Doesn’t Bless layers field recordings and micro-sampling to shape an analogue and digital assembly of sound, combined with bass and drums in the creation of ecstatic themes, out of place and time. Defying traditions and calling to the imagination, this is the kind of record that improves with each listening until it becomes unforgettable.
Erasing Clouds – Electronic musician/sound scientist Connor Bell, aka Shedding, was inspired by Eric Dolphy’s music, and a Dolphy quote about bird songs, to make What God Doesn’t Bless…, and utilized samples of his music in the soundscapes. He sees it as a tribute to Dolphy, and to “listen(ing) to our world with a different set of ears.” That’s interesting, and the music definitely shares with Dolphy the quest to hear anew. But it’d be a mistake to saddle this work too heavily to the ghost of a dead musician, when a living one has created such an absorbing, fresh work of his own. The album, three pieces in total, starts out slow in speed, but not in thought or action. It’s a busy but meandering, enveloping world of horns and electronic growls and bizarre, hard-to-pin-down sounds. The effect is eerie, but in a provocative way (like a fog-encased city). It creeps forward, pulling us further into it. And as it does so, increasing in strangeness. It’s disorienting at times, echo-y, almost dissonant but stopping short from ‘noise’, at times almost made of static, but not. Start to finish the music is mindbending: “psychedelic” but not in that tainted, dated way. It threatens to disappear, and always comes back. It’s an intriguing sonic forest – deep and wide, dense and spacious enough to get lost in. It’s less a narrative of a direct statement than its own world. And the more I listen the more particular sections and moments stand out, or come to resemble their own worlds within the world. It never ends. – dave heaton
Aquarius Records – Any record that is an homage to Eric Dolphy and his (possibly imagined) interaction and fascination with birds is pretty much guaranteed to hit the spot. But when said record is wrapped in some of the most striking cd artwork we’ve seen in ages, and is in fact a strange sort of jazz drone collage constructed from samples of Dolphy records, field recordings and some added percussion, well, it’s almost like they came to us and asked us what sort of record we wanted to hear, and we told them “Let’s see, drones for sure, some field recordings, and heck, why not include some Dolphy…”
The cover art is amazing. Like the illustrations for some childrens’ book. A big eyed, horned, bat-bird-witch flying over a forest of angular trees, sitting in the clouds over a sea filled with ships manned by black headed rabbits with water pouring from their eyes, and spiriting away with a dry eyed black headed rabbit in his claws, while below, another rabbit fills a chalice with one eye, and the sea with the other. The artwork alone sets the bar pretty high. Dark and dreamy, playful but slightly ominous… Thankfully, the music is also all of those things. And then some. The brief opening track is a tangle of bass clarinet, smeared into a deep expanse of low end shimmer, while above, melodies and melodic fragments drift and splinter. Very evocative of a cloudy day, wet streets and soft sheets of rain. The second track introduces a simple motorik rhythm, that shuffles and skitters beneath a constant shifting drone woven from looped horns. Super hypnotic and dreamy. Almost like a stripped down, drone-y jazzy Pharaoh Overlord. As the drums peter out, the horns begin to bounce and dance, chirp and flutter, and suddenly the sky is clear and full of birds, or is it just Dolphy playing the sounds of birds? The final track is an epic, clocking in at almost 20 minutes, Dolphy’s horns surface here and there, but most of the track has them stretched and smoothed out into ultra minimal low end drifts, warm swells of muted melody, a totally mesmerizing abstract drift. This is one of those records, that had we not known the story behind it, we probably wouldn’t have necessarily made the Dolphy connection, or the bird connection for that matter, and actually the jazz element is subtle and quite minimal, but as a chunk of dreamy dark drone drift, it’s really quite fantastic. And as far as we’re concerned there can never be too much tribute paid to the late great Eric Dolphy!
Skyscraper Magazine (Issue 23, Winter 2007) – This is one of the weirdest things I’ve heard in some time. Weird in a good way, as in the spirit of Charles Mingus’s “Weird Nightmare” or maybe even Jimbo portentously mumbling something about “weird scenes inside the goldmine.” Nah, scratch that. So there are drones and then there are drones, mesmerizing drones. And clarinet trills? Clarinet trills. Oboes and flutes. Chirps, trills, and twitters. Flutes as birds: an avian communication. What God Doesn’t Bless contains three long avant-garde tracks of eerie clairvoyance and ornithological translations. And the third is the most foreboding, the quietest; you need to just enter it. Arco bass or cello stirs up an ominous dread, trippy textures ensnare a careless wandering mind (so be careful). Turn it up if you dare, hear the hidden voices under the surface. Is this the impure (impure, impure) ghost of the Incredible String Band? No. I don’t know what it is. “Revolution #9” or the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” played backwards in a bird sanctuary? Maybe. Just enter it. Goodbye. (Michael Snyder)
The Phill(er) – I’m not sure I have the knowledge or vocabulary to describe this album in any coherent way. According to the notes it was inspired by birdsongs and Eric Dolphy (who also found inspiration in birdsong, apparently). The songs, or rather, pieces, are composed using both instruments (percussion and bass) and samples.
The first, a relatively short (just under six minutes) affair creates a somewhat haunting, but not necessarily uneasy atmosphere with an underlying hum and flitting clarinet (I think) samples and some light use of cymbals. Track number two brings a more straightforward drumbeat into play, but sprawling over the course of nearly fourteen minutes, it is by no means a pop song, kids. Chords created by sampled saxophone and clarinet mingle with the pulse of a bowed bass and turn into new versions of those birdsong flitters established in the first piece. When the drums cut out, somewhere around the halfway mark, a bird chorus of samples sings like it’s dawn and continues, although now the straightforward composition begins to take itself apart before it puts itself back together, and then just leaves things to the birds—by which I mean the sax/clarinet samples—and peters out into dusk. This is thoughtful music, and demands to be listened to, rather than slapped on as background. The third and final piece is just shy of twenty minutes, and sounds more like waterbirds to me, with longer, deeper tones from the sampled jazz intstruments, whereas the other pieces have more of a woodlands sound to them.
Despite the complexity of the music there’s a beguiling simplicity to all these proceedings, which seems to come about through the spareness of the compositions, the attention given to the role of silence and space, and also through the limited number of instruments or sounds—there’s not a huge pile of different sounds sitting on top of each other. Anyway, as I said, I don’t really have the expertise to describe this sort of thing with any sense of intelligence, but it’s certainly some of the most interesting and delicate music to pass through my ears in a fair long while. -Doug Cowie
Babysue – (CD, Hometapes, Experimental/progressive/modern jazz/modern classical)
This album is a strange, experimental project…or couldn’t you already guess that from the title…? Shedding is Louisville, Kentucky’s Connot Bell…a young fellow who seems compelled to create and challenge himself and his listeners. The strangely titled What God Doesn’t Bless, You Won’t Love; What You Don’t Love, the Child Won’t Know is an album full of odd moody compositions. Bell uses modern jazz as a springboard to create modern experimental pieces that are puzzling and unusual. Unlike some artists who create nothing but random noise, Connot seems to enjoy mixing obtuse noises with just enough musical substance to catch and hold his listeners’ attention. If you’re looking for easy, upbeat music…you certainly won’t find it here. This is an album to put on when you want to create a mood and/or see if your friends are really paying attention. Provocatively packaged in a beautiful tri-fold sleeve featuring artwork by Kathleen Lolley. Truly peculiar. (Rating: 5)
Rewriteable Content – A child walks among the leaves to freeze at the sight of the winged thing. Its black arms spread wide between trunks and trees, its neck cocked to the side with the posture of a stone. The child’s tiny fingers curl tight in defense to the enormity of the situation at hand. Frightened, the child stares as the winged thing begins to bend its legs to the sound of the drum sounding off within its bowels. Bending notes begin to flow out through the winged thing’s up shaped beak to bring his long lost bird relatives out from hiding atop the branches. The caws and coos begin to trickle off the tree limbs from above dropping wet sounds of rain upon the child’s skin. They are gentle beings these winged things. Shedding’s new album What God Doesn’t Bless, You Won’t Love; What You Don’t Love, The Child Won’t Know has been a companion of mine for the last month. I went in alone on this one knowing that what lay before me was a trip through the other world where we paint and create our own languages, the world we left so long ago. When we were children it was so easy to escape into that world, where beasts lived in trees and among the shadows in the hallway. There are things that only children see but there are also secret passages, chutes and ladders, which some art allows for us to ride making us visitors into that world that we once knew so well. What Shedding’s Connor Bell has done with this record is create a collage of “micro-sampled” jazz with appropriately placed bird songs and mimicry of the like. The record, though challenging if listened to proactively, is a rewarding, hypnotic guide to the other world of your choice. And coupled with the dark fantasy artwork of the gifted Kathleen Lolley it is no wonder that others are finding Shedding’s new work to be nothing more than absolutely bewitching. posted by the_KING at 10:00 AM
Delusions of Adequacy – I never knew who Eric Dolphy was until I got this album in the mail. Well, scratch that – I knew of him, but had never heard his music before – which I feel awfully stupid for since he has played with some of my all time favorites. So to better understand Connor Bell’s album which samples Dolphy, I picked up a copy of Out To Lunch and now I understand why Bell went to such great lengths to pay homage to this amazing man by creating a masterful and beautifully executed album.
First, I would like to ramble on about the artwork for a little bit here. I wish you could see the artwork. I mean, really see it and feel it to get the true impression I am trying to convey here. It is gorgeous, with muted colors used excellently and Shedding embossed in gold on the cover, adding that touch of class most album covers lack these days. It kind of reminds me of something Constellation might put out, it is that beautiful. And whoever painted the artwork for the album, my hat is off to you. I am not quite sure what the art has to do with the music, but I’m definitely not complaining here.
So the album itself. Connor Bell sampled bits and pieces of Dolphy’s work and constructed a whole new beast out of it all. The songs sound so cohesive and rich, very much so like Dolphy’s music. The three songs here are just jazz songs with a little drone here and there, diverging a bit from Bell’s last album, Now I’m Shedding. This is a complete 180 from his other musical project, Wolveine Brass, which just put out a bitchin record on Auxiliary Records – a pretty killer label run by Ryan Patterson of Coliseum fame.
I want to thank Connor Bell for creating such an amazingly moving and beautiful album and for opening my eyes to Dolphy. I can’t wait to see you at SXSW this year – I’ll buy you a beer. Buy this album now and support creative music.
File Under: Experimental jazz
Recommended If You Like: Eric Dolphy and Connor Bell
Playback: See the Light – I believe I speak for most people when I say that I am a fan of melody and hooks rather than ambient, experimental indie-jazz. In this case, I have to admit that Shedding has made an upright attempt to win me over. Though fragmented in thought and design, the concept’s overall blueprint is still made apparent by mastermind Connor Bell. “This record is a tribute to both Eric Dolphy and the bird sounds that mystify not only us, but all others who listen to our world with a different set of ears.”
Dolphy was a saxophone genius who tragically died at 36 years old. It is nice to see that the man is remembered and being brought back to form in such weird and wonderful ways. Tiny in tracks but not in stature, the three songs of What God Doesn’t Bless still stand strong at 40 minutes. Opening with “GB,” we’re served a twisted overture recalling some of Dolphy’s “God Bless the Child” saxophone licks. Headphones are needed for a more complete experience, as some of the more buried sounds really bring out Bell’s ideas. At 14 minutes, the second track, “W,” seems to make the air a bit thicker, time move a little slower, and molecules halt with its hypnotic “ohm.” The woodwind bird sounds that seem to call back and forth to each other also keep our imaginations running on high. Even longer at 19 minutes, “YDK” completes the process through vacant corridors and competing sounds of misplacement.
Obviously not for everyone, this is also not a conventional release, as Shedding is blatantly uncompromising and does not have commercial intentions. The same goes with their label. The people at Hometapes are keeping their ears to the ground, making sure we’re constantly hearing something new and exciting. That reason alone is why Shedding should be given a chance. B+ | Chris Schott
RIYL: Eric Dolphy, Fennesz
Perfect Sound Forever 2006 Writer’s Poll -Mark S. Tucker – “Best of What I’VE Heard in 2006” (among others) – Unusual post-prog; tri-fold cover art’s elegantly stunning: most artful single-CD packaging I’ve ever seen.
WIRE, March 2007 – Edwin Pouncey – Shedding is Connor Bell, whose elaborately titled CD recoungs periodic trips to his grandparents’ home and bird sanctuary in Louisville, Kentucky, and also recalls his introduction to the music of jazz legend Eric Dolphy by his friend Simon Furnish. Both adventures are cleverly entwined into the three tracks here, which Bell describes as being “A collage, a collaboration, a tribute”, where echoes of Dolphy’s playing and the ghostly aura of birdsong fuse, teetering at the edge of becoming a symphonic field recording.