With a history of conservatory training gone awry, oboist and
electronic musician
Kyle Bruckmann combines the rigorous
discipline of a classical foundation with raucous sensibilities more
indebted to punk's aftermath in a dizzying variety of artistic
endeavors. He has performed throughout the U.S. and in Europe
as a composer, an interpreter, and an improviser and has
appeared on more than 40 albums of various genres.

Long-term affiliations include the electroacoustic duo EKG and the
experimental "rock" monstrosity Lozenge. Bruckmann's quintet
Wrack performs original compositions drawing equally from the
traditions of contemporary jazz and classical modernism,
cultivating an "ability to combine turned-up flame with
clear-headed attention to texture and space."  As a member of
the Bay Area new music collective sfSound, he has performed
works by composers including Andriessen, Berio, Braxton, Cage,
Carter, Feldman, Ferneyhough, Penderecki, Scelsi, Sciarrino,
Stockhausen, Varese, Webern, and Xenakis.

Upon moving to San Francisco in 2003, Bruckmann joined forces
with sfSound and the wind quintet Quinteto Latino. He has since
performed with the San Francisco Symphony and regional
orchestras throughout the Bay Area while becoming firmly
enmeshed in the vibrant local improvised music community;
current working groups include Shudder (with Lance Grabmiller
and Phillip Greenlief) and Pink Mountain (an outrock band with
Sam Coomes, Gino Robair, Scott Rosenberg, and John Shiurba).

In the course of his travels, Bruckmann has shared the stage
repeatedly with a cast of improvisers including Allesandro Bosetti,
Tom Carter, Audrey Chen, David Dove, Harris Eisenstadt, Anton
Hatwich, Boris Hauf, Guiseppe Ielasi, James Ilgenfritz, Greg Kelley,
Larry Marotta, Tatsuya Nakatani, Polwechsel, Bhob Rainey, Vic
Rawlings, Steve Rush, Sara Schoenbeck, Jason Stein, and Jack
Wright.

Apart from and/OAR, Bruckmann has recorded for Hat Art, New
World, Musica Genera, 482 Music, Sedimental, Barely Auditable,
Archive, Lucky Kitchen, Formed, Nine Winds, Another Timbre,
Wodger, Rossbin, ToYo, Sickroom, Farrago, and Locust Music.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Olivia Block: field recordings, piano, reed organ, editing and
mixing.

Kyle Bruckmann: oboe, English Horn, suona, accordion, field
recordings, editing and mixing.

Bruckmann and Block’s creative relationship dates back to the
recording of Block’s 1999 release Pure Gaze, shortly after both
artists entered into Chicago’s vibrant experimental music
community. Their decision to create a collaborative duo ensued,
but remained in the realm of good intentions until shortly before
Bruckmann’s relocation to the San Francisco Bay Area.  They then
began playfully stockpiling sounds from a myriad of sources,
collecting field material, and recording duo improvisations in
various spaces using hallway intercom systems and unorthodox
microphone placements, among other processes and techniques.
This initial activity was followed by five years of collaborative
editing, processing and mixing, resulting in the emergent expanse
that is
Teem.


Olivia Block is a contemporary composer and sound artist who
combines field recordings, scored segments for acoustic
instruments, and electronically generated sound. Block works with
recorded media, chamber ensembles, video, and site-specific
sound installations.

She has performed throughout Europe, America, and Japan in
tours and festivals including Sonic Light, Dissonanze, Archipel,
Angelica, Sunoni per il Popolo, Outer Ear, and many others. Her
works have premiered at La Biennale di Venezia 52nd
International Festival of Contemporary Music, and she has
completed residencies and premiered works at Mills College of
Music and The Berklee College of Music. She has taught master
classes at several additional universities.

Block has created sound installations for public sites and
exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in
Chicago, the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the
Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room in Chicago, and at the "Echoes
Through the Mountains" exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics in
Turin, Italy.

Her 2008 DVD release with video artists Sandra Leah Gibson and
Luis Recoder, Untitled, on SOS editions, has been screened at the
2008 Sundance Film Festival and the Expanded Cinema
symposium at the Tate Modern in London. Her release Mobius
Fuse was voted one of the best albums of the decade by Pitchfork.

Block has published recordings through Sedimental, and/OAR, and
Cut, among other labels.

She is currently teaching part-time in the sound department at
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
catalog number: either/4
artist: OLIVIA BLOCK & KYLE BRUCKMANN
title: Teem
format: CD
status: sold out
JUST OUTSIDE (JULY 2010)
Four pieces, which I hear as a suite of sorts, recorded and
rearranged by Block (field recordings, piano, reed organ, mixing)
and Bruckmann (oboe, English horn, suona, accordion, field
recordings, editing & mixing). Trying to parse out who was
responsible for what is a fool's errand, even in sections where
one of the pair is much more prominent than the other. I know
Block's work far better than Bruckmann's, so I tend (unfairly, I'm
sure) to hear
Teem more in context of her oeuvre and there are
certain strands of continuity. One is the up-front-ness of many of
the approaches, the saturated sound, here redolent of
double-reeds (and, I assume, the reed organ), a keening swirl
over the clatter and rustle of taped noise, chorale-like here,
strident there. Played at volume, the overtones set one's inner
ear abuzz (the opening of part II could clear many a room!). The
second and third sections, the two longest, sub-divide into
contrasting portions, the howl of the reeds, for example, giving
way to obscurely-sourced but spacious field recordings (one
guesses highly post-processed, but one could be wrong). On that
track, the second, I found the jumping a bit rocky and couldn't
quite corral the parts into a cohesive whole, even as the massed
reeds re-emerged a couple of times--not they needed to be or
were intended as such, but the third track works so well that I
wanted to hear more of the "same". On that one, there's a huge
welling up of field recordings (I'm thinking Block's handiwork here,
but who knows?), a spatially dense and rich fabric into which
gasping reed organ is interwoven. Again, about midway through,
the gears shift--indeed the gears seem to be grinding, harsh
screeches against electronics (processed accordion?), once more
multiplying plies into an exceedingly complex weave but here it's
one that bears some poetic affinity (to me, at least) to the music
that we'd heard just before. The sound is simply amazing, the
piece very powerful. The concluding section indeed has something
of a denouement feel to it, a soft, pulsating set of reed tones,
again multi-layered, rich and detailed. A fine recording, as
fascinating as it is occasionally troublesome to decipher.  
(Brian Olwenick)
VITAL WEEKLY (JUNE 2010)
From Chicago, both of them: Olivia Block (field recordings, piano,
reed organ, editing & mixing) and Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English
horn, suona, accordion, field recordings, editing & mixing) - the
meeting of a serious composer (Block) and an improviser
(Bruckmann being part of EKG, among other things). It's a
combination that works well. Both ends are covered well. We
hear Bruckmann's wind instruments playing strange figures, while
along we have the more rigid organization of Block's field
recordings and organ parts, as well as the rumble and tumble of
acoustic objects. They bump and collide into each other, attract
each other, and then move away from each other. Four parts
were recorded over a period of five years, from nervous hectic of
part three to the quiet, introspective fourth part. Demanding
music here, which requires your full attention. This is not music
which allows you to go and do other things, but in these thirty
seven something minutes you need to stay with it, and focus. Its
only then when it unfolds its beauty. After that you may be tired,
but perhaps also, like me, utterly pleased. An excellent
collaboration.  
(Frans de Waard)
THE WATCHFUL EAR   (JULY 2010)
So a very late post tonight. My day didn’t quite follow the course I
had originally planned for it really. Early this morning, instead of
writing blog posts I ended up knocking down a porch (don’t ask…)
and then this evening I went out for a (to be honest pretty
horrible) meal but in wonderful company. So I only got around to
listening at about eleven o’clock tonight, but fortunately to an
album I have already played quite a bit. The disc in question is
Teem, the recent duo disc by Olivia Block and Kyle Bruckmann on
the either/OAR off shoot of the excellent and/OAR label. I like the
word Teem. Its one of those that just sounds nice when you say
it… Strange that this disc should appear at almost the same time
as Teeming, a different CD that I reviewed here.
Teem is also
Meet spelt backwards, which seems a fitting title for a disc of this
type.

Before describing the music, some thoughts about how it was
made. It appears that the four pieces here were put together
over a period of five years, beginning back in 2003, soon after
Bruckmann had contributed to Block’s Pure Gaze album. The two
musicians live on opposite sides of the USA now, so with the
exception of a recording session together in 2008 that produced
material for two of the tracks, the majority of the music here was
put together gradually by exchange of sound files. Both musicians
are credited with mixing and editing, plus a long list of other
instruments and processes, with both contributing field
recordings, Block including piano and reed organ, and Bruckmann
working with oboe, English horn, accordion and suona (whatever
one of those might be). The truth is then, that given the mix of
instrumentation and the method of production, its impossible to
tell who is responsible for what, which adds a kind of mysterious
quality to the music.

So what does it sound like? Well it varies quite a bit, but is
generally a massed forest of high pitched acoustic sounds (oboe,
horn, reed organ??) and hissing, crackling splutters that vary
between what sounds like popcorn cooking and assorted small
metallic items being thrown down a rubber staircase. The opening
piece, titled "I" though also has an eerie melodic line threading
through it, courtesy of the oboe I believe, that has a kind of old
English folky feel to it, slow and slightly unnerving in its
melancholy sat behind the pops and crackles. I like this piece a
lot, but it has a sort of Oliver Postgate (sorry to non-English
readers) feel to it, a kind of other-worldly sensation.

"II", although retaining many of the same sounds kicks off in
completely different fashion, a wall of high pitched wailing from
assorted instruments hits you, giving way after thirty seconds or
so to a vaguely familiar clanking and knocking recording that
gently turns over behind small puffs and scribbles from one of
Bruckmann’s wind instruments or another. Here the music takes
on more of a constructed, musique concrete feel for a while, but
the sounds all feel organic, piano strikes, whispery tones and
more mechanical, clockwork patterns until this all gives way to
airy reeds and some kind of industrial sounding field recording.
The track then just keeps evolving and reinventing itself  like this
for its seventeen minute duration. This piece is great, wonderfully
balanced, with a great ear for keeping sounds for just long
enough before cutting them dead and replacing them with
something altogether different and yet somehow complimentary.
As with the Seth Nehil disc I reviewed last night (Nehil is another
that has collaborated with Block quite a bit) the composition here
sounds carefully considered. Given that it has taken five years for
the music to progress to its finished state I think I’m probably
safe in this assumption!

The third piece follows in a similar vein, but things grow into
swells much more easily, building to an almighty climax of high
wailing tones and rattling field recordings ten minutes in, only to
shatter into a gradually subsiding percussive clatter that peters
out over the last minute of the track. The closing "IV" is gentler,
softer, made up mainly of layered acoustic tones, mostly reeds
but who knows what else. Its shorter at a little over seven
minutes and coupled with the five minute long opening track
forms a kind of bookend for the album, a gradual winding down
from the intensities of the middle two pieces.

This album is yet another great example of how improvisational
techniques, when combined with careful, collaborative
composition over time can result in really strong, refined musical
statements. Like the Korber/Wehowsky disc from early this year
this is a great example of two very talented, experienced
musicians taking their time and using their experiences in an
improvised setting to produce music of this kind. A fine release.

(Richard Pinnell)
ALL ABOUT JAZZ  (AUGUST 2010)
The duo of composer and sound artist Olivia Block and
reedman/multi-instrumentalist and composer Kyle Bruckmann has
been in the offing for a decade, though
Teem is the first iteration
on disc. Because of Bruckmann's 2003 relocation to the Bay Area
(Block resides in Chicago), the possibilities of real-time duets
were extended to a cross-continental collaboration, one which
took place over five years. Composition and the notion of
instantaneousness—whether real or perceived—are funny things.
Certainly, in this instance, there is both a real-time and a broad
spatial concept of collaborating, and though fragments of “actual"
duo improvisation are woven into
Teem's final fabric, much of the
material was formed from a process of co-editing and mixing
separately formed sounds/actions into the whole. That being
said, the overall feel of this record and its four subdivided
movements is very cohesive—collisions of close-miked scrabble
with occasional piano clusters and Bruckmann's high, split-toned
oboe and cor anglais wail seem to occupy a common
environmental impulse. Areas of contrast seem natural, such as
the yawing horn, oboe and clanging (set to an almost baroque
poise) fronting a scrim of piercing overtones and glitchy rustle in
the first movement. It wouldn't be an either/OAR release without
the presence of field recordings; the label's mode (or part of it,
anyway) is the presentation of environmentally-derived sound
sources, and both Block and Bruckmann include naked and
processed nods to human, animal, and industrial in gauzes and
terse asides to their electro-acoustic webs. Rarely does Teem
approach “noise," though there's a dense introduction to its
second movement. The sounds collected, presented and
organized here are environmental in the truest, most non-
ambient sense of the word, derived from relationships and
experience, and that's a wonderful thing.
(Clifford Allen)
THE WIRE  (OCTOBER 2010)
Teem's title is apt - the album offers an eventful and spatially
dense aural experience, a rich and teeming sonic fabric that is
constantly evolving. For their latest collaboration, Block and
Bruckmann collected field material and recorded duo
improvisations - Block on piano and reed organ, Bruckmann on
oboe, cor anglais, suona and accordion - and edited the results
together over five years.

The piece is structured into four sections, on a principle of
juxtaposition rather than development. The first is a prelude, with
wheezy reed sounds set against nervous electronic rustling. The
second and third sections subdivide into contrasting episodes.
"II" begins with howling reeds whose beating phrases and
piercing overtones are enough to set one's teeth on edge. After a
couple of minutes the howling gives way to gentler, watery
environmental sounds where reeds play a more subdued role,
succeeded by industrial noise against a high-pitched whine. In
this process, the mechanical features of reed sounds make for a
highly effective interplay with non-musical sound. The sound
spectrum is saturated, and there's an exotic interpenetration of
contrasting material, most memorably in the case of swelling reed
organ over clattering taped noise.

These longtime musical partners have collaborated for a decade,
in Chicago and then the San Francisco Bay area. Block is a
composer and sound artist who has made a practice of combining
field recordings, scored material for acoustic instruments and
electronically generated sound, while Bruckmann performs in
contemporary composition and experimental rock ensembles. For
Teem they used such unlikely media as hallway intercom systems
and unorthodox microphone placements to create an oblique take
on improvisational practice. The result is a novel and beguiling
interpretation of an ancient artistic imperative: electronic and
organic sounds are made familiar, while musical sound from
acoustic instruments is defamiliarised.
(Andy Hamilton)
DOWNBEAT  (DECEMBER 2010)
****
 Despite working together for more than a decade, Teem is
Olivia Block and Kyle Bruckmann's first duo project. The disc was
conducted over a five-year span but with only one joint recording
session (Bruckmann moved to the San Francisco Bay area in
2003, and Block lives in Chicago). At the heart of the four-part
suite is Block's immaculate field recordings, which often cast
nature as an ominous, harrowing presence, combined with
Bruckmann's massed double reed lines (ranging from
upper-register multi-phonics to rugged acoustical beating). Yet
there's much more going on. Clatter and scrapes derived from
highly amplified, unidentifiable sources give the music a bracing
tactility, and a meticulous sound mix suggests
three-dimensionality. The constantly changing array of foreground
activity and subtly morphing environments produce a gripping
suspense that complements the stunning tonal palette.
(Peter Margasak)
TOUCHING EXTREMES  (MARCH 2011)
The instrumentation includes field recordings, piano, reed organ,
oboe, English horn, accordion. Both artists are credited with
“editing & mixing”. In the first of four movements, rustling noise is
utilized as a complement of an abundance of stratified oboes,
mainly in the acute region. At times, the sense of presage elicited
by the music recalls Fred Frith’s “Kick The Can” (on Speechless),
melodic arcs moving inside the bush.

The second and longest part starts with a wobbly dissonant
drone, think Niblock rendered by the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
A kind of melting is perceived, then snippets of events – pitches,
gurgles, held tones, everything sounding fairly natural. One
notices an alternance between mechanical/industrial taste and
quiet contemplation. The result is often indecipherable, with
sudden illuminations and openings. Around the tenth minute, a
throbbing cluster – soon ceasing its existence – introduces a
segment where nocturnal tranquillity, distance, interference and
liquidness weigh the same. It’s a fine amalgam of reality and
hypothesis, ending in consistent dissonance.

The third track is characterized by an initial ebb and flow: there’s
movement from unknown sources, some manipulations of objects.
Tactile, yet powerful. More undercurrents are detected, frenetic
activity occurring as aborted chords try to get their voice heard.
Hundreds of rays of different consistency glowing upon an
unstable ground, echoes of Biota materializing for those in the
know, just for instants. Chaos, invulnerability, urgency, silence.

Final chapter: great control of the upper partials by Bruckmann,
additional oscillations and throbs. A stasis of sorts is achieved, a
feel of elevation begins to emerge, all parts fusing into a whole.
Weakness revealing intensity, suspension, oblique lights
changing colours before a Reich-like pulse pushes us towards the
end, the ultimate doubt lingering on: where does this organic sum
belong – and where do we?
(Massimo Ricci)
FLASHES OF TIMELESS JOY  (MAY 2011)
There are records that feature duos that fortuitously play with
each other and then there are two people who want to play with
one another as they feel unison of purpose.  “Teem” strikes one
as being the latter of the two.  Dating back to 1999’s “Pure Gaze”
release, sound artist Olivia Block and multi-instrumentalist Kyle
Bruckmann pushed the envelope on duo possibilities, while
producing music that is as challenging as it is beautiful.  While
Block contributes a mass of field recordings, piano, reed organ,
Bruckmann play an oboe, English horn, suona, accordion, and field
recordings.  Both share in the mixing and editing duties.  Album
starts off with a squawky collage of reed organ, accordion and
oboe.  While field recordings are featured in the background, the
sound grows in intensity [with a blend of free-playing and very
melodic backbone], until the second piece explodes with
cacophony of rich, blasting noise.  Ringing in the listener’s ears is
caused by the steady assault of horns, and layered organ.  It’s
almost a disappointment when only a few minutes into the piece,
chaos is replaced by subtle field recordings that are mixed to
lower volume.  Near the end of the 16 minute piece, the buzzing
swarm of sound returns and the players seem to feel right at
home with this sort of intensity.  In fact, the quiet-loud dichotomy
continues on the CD.  These sections are especially challenging as
the listener is confused as to volume level that should be set on
the stereo.  Set the volume too low and you’ll miss all nuances of
the quiet sections but if you set it too high, you’re bound to piss
off your neighbours.  Third track continues with a rattling of
aggressive kind [Bike chains? Wooden blocks? Dripping water?]
and bulldozer strength assault of the most potent proportions.  I
found my heart racing in sections as the build-up of sound is so
intense, I was only hoping I could hold my breath for a few
minutes more until the next subtle, more serene section came
along.  Record at hand should really be re-named “Team”.  Rarely
have I heard such great teamwork featured where both players
have a keen understanding for each other’s specific ideologies.
(Tom Sekowski)
SCRAPYARD FORECAST  (MAY 2011)
I've come to recognize the name Olivia Block, but Bruckmann's is a
name I'm not at all familiar with. It turns out that much like Block,
Bruckmann's musical standing came to fruition through an
academic stream. He studied Oboe and earned undergrad
degrees in music and psychology at Rice University in Houston. In
'96 he earned his Masters at Michigan U where he became very
interested in contemporary improv, electroacoustics and avant-
garde composition. He composed this album with Block between
2003-2008.

Teem is in fact teeming with life. The aptness of Block and
Bruckmann's title rings true from the onset of the opening track,
fading in quickly before steadily growing into a barrage of
dissonant horns, droning reed organ and teeth-on-tinfoil static. I
was rather surprised by the overtness of this track, along with its
unmistakably chaotic free-jazz feel, though have grown to
appreciate its unique take on the style and have embraced its
chaos. On the other hand, the remainder of the pieces are easier
to fall into, lulling the listener through a steady flux of drones,
improv segments, and mixed in field recordings tinged with an
industrial starkness–an obvious exception being the beginning of
the second movement, a nearly two minute gamelan infused blast
of free-tonal noise that's sure to improve posture (see sound
sample).

There exists a remarkable ebb and flow to this album, from the
teetering point between clatter and out-of-control noise to
sublime moments of fluttering ambience. Far more 'active' than
much of the music I like, albeit a refreshing and welcome change
in the routine of daily listening. Lovely packaging design by Dale
Lloyd and equally lovely drawings by Kate Atkin.
(Adrian Dziewanski)
APHIDHAIR  (DECEMBER 2010)
This sh*t is composed, friend. They make that apparent from the
beginning. Although there are sections one could be fooled, I s’
pose. Not to say that’s a bad thing, in fact one may agree that it
leaves an element of suspense to TEEM, which is “co-composed”
by Olivia Block (field recordings, piano, organ and editing/mixing)
and Kyle Bruckman (oboe, English, horn, suona, accordion, field
recordings, editing/mixing) from 2003-2008. And this is one of the
best explorations of this juncture I‘ve heard in a while. It works
purely as sound, as music; it has nothing to do with the
conceptual art piece, of the ruse and compositional
overcompensation that the kids are flinging. Hell, that shit’s
burning in a paper bag on your porch right now, but just don‘t
stomp it out. It’s what they want.

No, no, this is music that makes sense in all it’s improbable
cohesion and it bristles from the opening moments in “I.” This
initial movement reminds me of an orchestra finding it’s footing in
a tomb full of cockroaches, flying ants and centipedes, Temple of
Doom style; once in a while an oboist just has to brush that shit
out of his hair, but the walls are still moving and that door just
won‘t open. And while there is that feeling of the improvised here,
the results never sound like two people fumbling with sweaty
palms behind the coat racks, but indeed more like an ensemble,
an orchestra that knows exactly what it wants, even if you don’t
— sepulchral banging in the dark, cracking-thorax field recordings,
lilting Scariano-like oboe and French horn lines twinning and
pulling apart. And that’s just the first track; it’s probably hard for
“I” not to seem simply like a warm up, albeit a beautiful one,
before the opening salvos of “II.” What appears to be Bruckmann’
s oboe and French horn are overlaid into a pure, bludgeoning
blast of frontline horns, like an antiseptic version of Brotzmann’s
Machine Gun’s opening battery, but elongated into a distinct and
shifting smear. It’s a disorienting effect and a powerful follow up
after the first section. It eventually sinks away to something less
defined, plosive breath noises, an reed organ plaintively
sounding. Then gone. Here things emerge and disappear like so
much of this kind of music but the sounds themselves are
beautiful, interesting, ugly, depressing — fuel for fleeting visions,
imaginative gambles… And what becomes apparent is the obvious
skill of the editing and mixing, the attention to delicate detail and
that momentum that keeps it going, moving on, positing the new
and unexpected in welcome, fascinating ways. This thing moves
and breathes. It never appears to be the herky-jerky mud fling
which I can find in some musique concrete, even though it’s
nearly always shifting gears– just never slipping them.

But if there is a fault with TEEM, it could be the clinical nature, it’s
nearly perfectly edged and smoothed make-up, that reflects the
obvious time and care put into it’s 5 year gestation. Nah, not
really a problem when the results are so joyful in their strain. And
gestation seems an adequate analogy to some of the music here;
the first part of “III” conjures a maggot nestling into rotten flesh
that is veined with tin foil. It’s all feasting and gorging in dark and
sticky places until emerging with protoplasm hanging from it’s
wings. “III” of course moves on (how can it not) to fun house
mirror accordions, and white noise slag; again this merging of the
planned with the unplanned, the ugly with the beautiful, the
mundane with the fantastic — this teeming. Ah, yes.

“IV” seems like a fitting coda. Less hyperactive and more minimal,
what sounds like Bruckmann’s oboe courses through the jet trails
of overlaid French horn(?). While an accordion asserts itself again,
but with none of the baggage associated with it– none of the
greasy table Italian joints, the balls of dough sticking to the
ceiling, your ma and pa yelling for you to get out of the ferns. You
little creep… No, it’s more of an ethereal meander from the scene,
but a superbly placed one after what’s come before. I’m not a
huge fan of the ethereal most days, but here it works just fine,
more than fine– it’s like a surface tension so frail that it could
burst and collapse back into itself. Back into the muck, the mud,
the myriad. Jeez, it’s a beautiful world sometimes, isn‘t it?

I’m glad the excellent either/OAR put this out (and for such an
affordable price), as it’s a personal favorite for the year. And as
long as you’re checking this one out, Bruckmann’s work in EKG
should be looked into, as well as Block’s solo’s on Sedimental and
Cut which are essential if you’re into this sort of thing. And I’m
assuming you are if you’re reading this far. So get to it.  
(Tanner Servoss)
AQUARIUS RECORDS  (JULY  2010)
It's unfortunate that we've not reviewed any of the material from
electro-acoustic composer Olivia Block. She had begun making
music in Austin in the early '90s, having started a guttural
shoegaze project called The Marble Index, but shelved that
project upon meeting Michael Northam, John Grzinich, and Seth
Nehil. Those three had begun their explorations with field
recordings, electrical vibration, found object ruminations, volatile
drone, and organized decay, and it was this sensibility that
inspired Block to leap into piles of rubble armed with little more
than a contact microphone. While all four of these artists emerged
from a similar aesthetic, each has wandered down his or her own
path, with Block taking more of a musique concrete approach,
often bringing in various instrumentalists to provide a particular
timbre to accompany her tape machinations, not unlike the early
Jim O'Rourke compositions Tamper, Scend, and Disengage. One of
those chamber musicians who Block had employed was Kyle
Bruckmann. The two had met in Chicago in the late '90s, with
Bruckmann contributing to almost all of Block's compositions since
1999. Bruckmann, now based in San Francisco, has quite the
career in the realms of avant-jazz / new music /
classical-experimentation / whatnot. Despite their decade long
collaboration, Teem marks their first proper collaborative body of
work. At the beginning of the record, a scrabbling of small metallic
objects builds upon a spiralling drone from Bruckmann's circular
breathing through the oboe, followed by a series of descending,
purposefully off-kilter melodic phrases from that same oboe. As
painterly as this piece is, the second track uses Bruckmann's
circular breathing for a far more atonal, bruitist attack through a
head-throbbing elongated blurt, that recalls those Hermann
Nitsch symphonic noise assaults or Penderecki's scabrous
crescendos. Block's sensibility speaks more on this track through
the oblique noise attack and transitions into passages of concrete
noises from various pre-industrial machines struggling to get
started. Glowing drones of feedback hang upon a muffling
passage of woodwind errata, eventually building through jittery
abrasions again reprising that Nitsch-like howl.