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:
available
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.