Jaap Blonk

Five Men Singing

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You may call them sound poets, vocalists, or even singers, but when you gather all five of them on-stage they become pure entertainers. Five Men Singing is the genuine avant-garde voice summit. Recorded live at the 2003 Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, this performance is a delightful demonstration of what the human voice is capable of, what level of excitement group improvisation can provide, and what creative singing is all about. The performance is spontaneous, mischievous, occasionally deviant, often humorous (Koichi Makigami is the spiritual heir of Looney Tunes' voicemeister Mel Blanc), and extremely physical. Between the opening group dirge, the various subgroupings, and the cacophonous, intentionally messy passages, the listener is taken on a vocal roller coaster where the most powerful male voices in new music drone, groan, growl, buzz, weep, and shout in every possible way. Tracks are credited to single composers and, indeed, the group appeared on-stage holding sheets of paper. Some passages are clearly scored, like the "Five Men Singing" finale and the Bob Cobbing medley "Six Cobbings," while other pieces are very spontaneous, as the madness of "Four Way Four" (where Koichi Makigami yelps in the most disturbing way, answered by shrieks from David Moss) can testify. All five singers enjoy high-profile careers on the international avant-garde circuit and rich discographies, but this album stands as a highlight for every one of them. It can become difficult to keep track of who does what, especially if you are not familiar with each artist's favorite extended techniques, but it matters little since they achieve a compelling, fascinating group sound. Most of all, it's a lot of fun and a liberating listening experience. Highly recommended.

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