Various Artists

Real Estate: New Music From New York

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Real Estate is another stunning sampler from Berlin's Ear-Rational label, this time focusing deeply on the downtown New York scene. Among the artists represented here are Zeena Parkins, the Soldier String Quartet, Lois Vierk, Shelley Hirsch and David Weinstein, Carbon, David Fulton, Cop Shoot Cop, and others. The most notable track has to be the Parkins percussion soundscape "T-Square," with its found voices all celebrating/denigrating the price of rental property in New York, colored by thudding electronic percussion, electric harp, guitars, and basses. When the track gives way about halfway through to an almost Frippian tape-scape and then shifts gears again to an African percussion fest, one has to wonder what Parkins is on about. But that's simple, too: She juxtaposes musics to engage their essence as a way of establishing new spaces in old territories. Vierk's "Red Shift," for cello, electric guitars, percussion, and synths, is an exercise in shifting tonalities and duration. Each stringed instrument reflects different sides of the whole-tone scale as the percussion and keyboards play as ballast to the continually unwinding harmonics inherent in the retuning of the instruments. Finally, Elliot Sharp's Carbon registers in with "Jump Cut," a sideways crosscut saw of a guitar and drum jam. The piece teeters on the edge of rock & roll as its deliberately trilled harmonic lines act in tandem with the drums as a way of shifting rhythms against the tonal qualities of the guitar itself. Most collections like this don't work very well, leavening the fine material with junk. This set, however, starts well, gets better, and -- by the end -- becomes a mind blower of avant skronk and noise.

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