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Alexander Vogel — Solo Kazoo
(Vogel 001 R, 2004, CD)

Alexander Vogel — Kazoo and Percussion Pieces
(Vogel 004 R, 2004, CD)

Alexander and Thomas Vogel — The House: Father and Son Duos
(Vogel 006 R, 2004, CD)

Brian Adair and Alexander Vogel — The Sooner Is Getting Nearer
(Vogel 007 R, 2004, CD)

Alexander Vogel — Microphone Pieces for Alto Saxophone
(Vogel 008 R, 2004, CD)

Jeff Schwartz — Solo Bass 2004
(Vogel 009 R, 2004, CD)

Brian Adair — The Final Explosion
(Vogel 010 R, 2004, CD)

Daniel Cuesta and Alexander Vogel — Concealment and Confinement
(Vogel 011 R, 2004, CD)

by Jeff Melton, Published 2005-09-01

Solo Kazoo Cover artKazoo and Percussion Pieces Cover artThe House: Father and Son Duos Cover artThe Sooner Is Getting Nearer Cover artMicrophone Pieces for Alto Saxophone Cover artSolo Bass 2004 Cover artThe Final Explosion Cover artConcealment and Confinement Cover art

Alexander Vogel is your atypical teenager with an affinity for percussion and English improvisational icons. In late 2004 he took it upon himself to begin solo home recordings which soon evolved into his own independent Southern California label featuring his father and multiple local artists of varying talents. The first set of Vogel’s experimental recordings is based on eighteen solo kazoo exercises which combine elements of free improvisation, humming and rapid tonguing exercises. Taken together they simultaneously create moments of comedy, angst and introspection. Vogel claims no unique talent on the instrument of choice; it’s more of a collection of spontaneous ideas that somehow elevates the delivery past a goofy soundtrack for a Ren and Stimpy cartoon soundtrack. The longest piece in the set begins with a slow gurgling zoop before transitioning into a sixteenth note run and random melodic phrases and some excited bipps and bops. At times Vogel’s delivery approximates Elton Dean or Paul Dunmall’s alto sax squawks in creating a cacophonous din as per plan.

The next release available for review (004 in the catalog) expands on the kazoo format but also adds miscellaneous percussion to the mix. Vogel is a bit more ambitious and confident with this set of nine untitled pieces. His reliance on random snare drum patterns to create a sense of interlocking rhythms sets a wide open tone for the recording session. Additional kazoo spurt tracks interlace the percussion pieces often adding as much chaos as sonic relief. The third piece is the first marriage of kazoo and standard drum kit with the end results bordering on controlled but enthused bedlam. The two short pieces are effective examples of shrill screams that sound like a combination of amusing smooching and monkey shine.

Vogel then enlisted his Russian-born father in a series of inspired audio experiment for volume six in the label series. Similarities can be drawn to Derek Bailey’s work with Tony Oxley and Fred Frith/Chris Cutler by using a slight audio delay to setup an open conversation. The elder Vogel is adept on guitar and the slicing and dicing technique pioneered by Frith. The two follow a path of random interjection that both propels itself and opens a format for further audio journeying. The third improvisation on the disc is perhaps the most ludicrous as the two meander along with kazoo brazenly accompanied by what sounds like fingers on top of a dinner table. The fourth piece is really onto something though with explosive guitar effects chattering away and sampled vibes clashing against clinking bottles and synthesizer runs.

The drummer’s friendship and mutual interest with guitarist Brian Adair fueled the next set of seven recordings, ranging from outright formless meandering (cut #1) to spirited interplay (track #5). Adair’s style seems to be influenced by avant garde icon Derek Bailey whom is prone to a dissonant mindset. Piece number three is perhaps the best noisy collaboration by the two sound sculpturers; Vogel’s snare plays off Adair’s distorted chording in a convincing display of turmoil. The duo’s orientation is informed partly by a need to establish interchangeable dialogue rather than focus on tempo and rhythmic emphasis. By adopting this method the two travel two improvisational roads, occasionally intersecting and often diverging with mixed results.

Vogel’s next audio tests show alternate variations to the innovator’s mindset. By transitioning to alto saxophone and forming real time ideas in a full tilt fashion, the short collection of five pieces is more to the point than previous solo efforts. The lead piece is nearly a minute of brittle rattling on par with Dunmall’s work again; the next two quiet interludes show contrast and restraint amidst the squeaks and sonic burps. The fourth excursion is the most reserved performance on disc from the drummer doubling on woodwinds; his deliberate direction allows for space between punctuated accents. The last track in the home live session extends the last piece’s formula a bit further by adding humming and harmonics to the performer’s elaborate bag of tricks.

Jeff Schwartz is also an audio explorer of a slightly more traditional type on upright bass. Across seventeen pieces he approaches the four string beast with a sense of abandon I associate with the likes of vanguard William Parker at times. His tapping of the wood body and bow stroking shows strong familiarity with the textural qualities of the instrument. By scuttling and scratching the hard surface of the strings, the artist embraces the mechanical aspects of the device. Track ten has the most melodic phrase on the recording; Song number fifteen is the longest piece of scratching in the set and indicates a preoccupation with the higher register of the bass. The last two tracks are examples of quiet passages peppered by opened bowed ambient textures.

Brian Adair undertakes his own solo performances on the eleventh release on the indie label. Beginning with some guitar pick slices upon the tuning section of his electric axe, Adair then transitions into some basic garage band riffing that is almost a breath of familiar fresh air. The guitarist’s bar chord barrage could be informed by the Ramones or Sabbath or neither; but it doesn’t prevent him from sustaining a steady metal shredding on track number two. The recording quality again is low-fi which fits into the indie label genre successfully. Two brief tuning exercises lead into longer distorted sound textures that capture the guitarist’s basic guitar grunge sounds. The last piece (track number six) is nearly Derek Bailey meets Chuck Berry with attempted riffs deteriorating into a fuzzy noise collage. Closing out the session is a brutal overdriven din that would do well on any modern grindcore horror soundtrack.

The last recording for review is another duet for the drummer, this time enlisting another guitarist (Daniel Cuesta) for two distinct improvisational rows. Vogel begins the unique conversation reprising many of his abrasive sax squalls. Cuesta’s style is less noise centered than Adair’s as he relies on chopping and chords to engage the discourse. At times the communication slacks but later picks up in part by Cuesta’s arpeggios that Vogel chirps over. Their second piece closes the disc riding a channel of random percussion, lulling intonation and plucked twangy strings. The two performers chatter away oblivious of meter but probing instead for a collective nirvana. The proceedings end in a bit of fun cacophony which in this case is a positive note.

With small independent labels like Vogel records springing up in differing sections of the world, it may be easier for novice musical experimentation to be nurtured and shared upon an unknowing populace. Such is the mission and plight of a free improvisational manifesto.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 32, 2004 releases

Related artist(s): Alexander Vogel

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