Al Maslakh
 
al maslakh (the slaughterhouse) is a ufo created to publish the unpublishable in the lebanese artistic scene
 



MSLKH 07
MAWJA STUDIO ONE

BULLOCK | KERBAJ | RAWLINGS

Michael Bullock |
contrabass & feedback
Mazen Kerbaj
| trumpet
Vic Rawlings | cello & surface electronics

01 | S 1.1 | 09.13
02 | S 1.2 | 07.23
03 | S 1.3 | 03.10
04 | S 1.4 | 20.32
05 | S 1.5 | 06.50
06 | S 1.6 | 12.43

all music improvised by bullock, kerbaj andrawlings

tracks 1 to 4 recorded at pancake alley, troy NY on 14th of september 2005
tracks 5 and 6 recorded at candlestick maker, chicago IL on 17th of september 2005
recorded by michael bullock
mastered by bhob rainey

artwork and design by mazen kerbaj

produced in lebanon by al maslakh



CD LINER NOTES

ONE STRIKE ISN'T ENOUGH

This album struck me like a big wave, a wave that makes you lose your consciousness and equilibrium for several minutes, leaving you wondering what just happened to you during this elusive lapse of time. Probably this is exactly the purpose of this trio, where as their music draws rust from your very skin, suburban rust, from those big suburbs where the individual melts, and all individuality is melted by the heavy burden that eats all. The sound ate the self, ate the collective, ate time, and invaded space.
I wasn’t expecting such a radical treatment of sound. The music here goes out of time, depriving it of its value despite the usual ties that link time and music as an art form. What we hear is rather a strong binding with space, using it as a compositional tool. This music does not move, but it wanders like blocks of colours or shapes in the empty.
The reunion of Bullock, Rawlings and Kerbaj for this recording leaves no possibilities for any future; it is a meeting of the here and now, like the musical result that is released with this recording. The Present time is simultaneously constructed and deconstructed, making the “now quality” predominant on the atmosphere of this record. The unified sound of the trio fills the air like a short-wave radio signal, carrying its usual load of small marginal details; a sound that resembles music or walks by it without remorse, not stopping at any station along the way.
Three musicians, both friends and enemies, yet above all partners of this same game, where there are no rules for improvising; one erases the other, without regret, for the sake of unity in sound.

Raed Yassin
Beirut, March 2007


REVIEWS

Recorded in 2005 and released by the Lebanese label Al Maslakh, which translates as The Slaughterhouse, Studio One documents two compatible performances at Pancake Alley, New York and Candlestick Maker in Chicago by Michael Bullock (contrabass and feedback), Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet) and Vic Rawlings (cello and surface electronics). Theirs is a quiet and occasionally tentative improvised music, allowing drones to establish an atmosphere before the players muddy it, in the process finding new directions and the means to explore them.
None of the acoustic instruments sound as you would expect them to but that's par for the course nowadays. Kerbaj, in particular, can manufacture a wide range of abrasive and percussive sounds from the mutes and resonators he introduce to the bell of his trumpet, all of which he uses sparingly and with discretion.
The lengthy "S 1.4" is introduced, rather unnecessarily, as a quiet piece - nearly all of the six tracks are quiet pieces - and is ghostly resonances billow and distort perception like mist on moorland. The track grinds almost to a halt around the 12 minute mark, and there's a flailing moment, which is nonetheless interesting to hear, before the players manage to re-establish a rapport and carry the music forward. Warts and all, this is a fine example of improvised music in the new millennium, and a good indicator that Improv still has something valuable to offer, something that no other music can provide.
Brian Marley | The Wire

This is the companion piece to the live collaborations I previously reviewed here, however this has the artists collaborating in a studio setting as opposed to a live one. Considering the nature of improvisations, the differences between the two settings are relatively minimal. Recorded during the same period as the Live One disc, the sounds here are, interesting enough, a bit darker, more harsh and dissonant than the improvisations in the live setting.
The raw, bass drones that open the first of the untitled tracks sets this mood early—later met with tightly controlled feedback from Michael Bullock, and other electronics, I’m assuming from Vic Rawlings—resemble an orchestra of power tools tuning up. The second piece as well stays in this rawer territory with its undulating analog noise rhythm and crashing percussion section of random objects being thrown about. Amongst all of this is some of the most pained, abused sounding trumpet playing courtesy of Mazen Kerbaj that I have ever heard on record.
The fourth untitled track, clocking in at over 20 minutes, is one of the more sparse, open tracks in this set. It is a track built more upon subtle electronics and frozen drones instead of the harsher, piercing elements of other tracks. With the exception of some rough bass string scraping, the track stays more in the spacious end of the spectrum. The closing track, also among the longer, is more into the realms of noise, with the sound of strings stretching and distant warbling electronics that are amplified in intensity by wheezing trumpet and the pulsating industrial noise.
The third and fifth pieces begin to cross that threshold from improvisation into much noisier territories. The former sounds like a dying robot: inorganic sounds throughout mixed with blasts of feedback and metal knocking percussion before all coming down into a crashing cacophony of ramshackle noise. The fifth piece is a bit more restrained in comparison, but includes feedback tones, improvised percussion and piercing mid-range electronic noise, that, in all honesty, would not be completely out of place as part of a Merzbow work. The stunted contrabass moments keep the harsher electronic moments more grounded in an organic base.
Although it would usually be expected that studio-based improvisations would be more restrained when compared to live ones, the inverse seems to be the case here. Neither is superior to the other and both represent differing sides to the same coin: a trio that improvise with each other just as well as any of the classic masters of jazz.
Craig Dunton | Brainwashed

[...] With Mawja something different is going on. It is a trio of Michael Bullock (contrabass, feedback), Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet) and Vic Rawlings (cello, surface electronics). Recordings date from 2005 and were made in New York. Bullock and Rawlings are two american improvisors who play together already for some years and have some very good CDs out. 'Studio One' is a true melting pot of acoustic playing, and using electronic and electro-acoustic means. A very radical treatment, investigating sound and textures, especially in their going together as acoustic and electro-acoustic soundmaterial. Most of the time it is very difficult saying who is playing what. They paint very abstract music, built around slow movements and changes, but dotted with all kinds of little details.
Dolf Mulder | Vital Weekly

Featuring Michael Bullock (contrabass and feedback), Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet) and Vic Rawlings (cello and surface electronics), for sure Mawja are a trio whose attitude is not overly expansive towards the audience, their music being based upon a consecutiveness of mostly subdued plumbeous scenarios, essentially characterized by background spurious staticity over which the players examine various combinations of unfriendly improvisations and noisy transmissions. There are tracks in which certain gradations are more evident, but the general sense is one of collective edginess, each one of the musicians trying to find a way to place additional measures of anxious harshness amidst strange frequencies and instrumental utterances that cross-pollinate animal voices and radical electronics. The fifth segment is the most convincing example of what I mean, a deadpan undergrowth of semi-controlled feedback and grumbling intricacies whose volume increases with the passage of time, Kerbaj's trumpet sounding (as usual) more like some mechanical appliance or malfunctioning vehicle rather than a blown-up brass. Occasionally, the music almost seems to stop altogether, like if Mawja were searching another way to render their creativity even less charming to the ears; their ideas remain nevertheless interesting, exposed as they are in a half-scientific, half-segregationist costume. A difficult album, scarcely communicative and without bright colours yet presenting us with several fascinating moments. The artists' seriousness is out of question.
Massimo Ricci | Touching Extreme

A testimonianza della mobilità di questa liaison tra Libano e Usa, nel settembre del 2005 Kerbaj ha registrato a New York e Chicago due sessions con Michael Bullock e Vic Rawlings, formalmente contrabbassista e violoncellista, ma entrambi impegnati anche all'elettronica. Il trio, documentato su Mawja-Studio One, è protagonista di sei improvvisazioni in cui il trattamento del suono è particolarmente radicale, riduzionista, con gli strumenti che sono quasi sempre irriconoscibili e privati della loro identità sonora per assumerne di fantasmatiche, sussurrate, soffiate, sfregate, picchiettate, lacerate, sbriciolate, pulsanti in lontananza. Musica che difficilmente dà punti di appiglio, che tende a sfaldarsi appena si tenta di prenderla, idealmente, tra le mani. Una musica in viaggio.
Enrico Bettinello | All About Jazz - Italia

Debiutem płytowym amerykańsko-libańskiego tria mają być, nagrane w połowie września 2005 r. i wydane w tym roku, w krótkim odstępie czasu, dwa komplementarne albumy. Będąca podmiotem tej recenzji płyta studyjna już się ukazała, natomiast "Live One" powinien wyjść na dniach. Ponieważ uważam "Studio One" za jedno z najciekawszych tegorocznych wydawnictw, postanowiłem od razu napisać kilka zdań na jego temat.
Michael Bullock i Vic Rawlings grają ze sobą regularnie od 1996 roku, występując zarówno w większych składach, jak i w duecie (to od 2000 roku). Ich instrumentarium stanowią kontrabas i wiolonczela, jednak użycie elektronicznych przetworników, generatorów, systemu mikrofonów i głośników oraz wzmacniaczy sprawia, że brzmienie tych instrumentów staje się nieomal nierozpoznawalne. Uzyskiwane przez Bullocka i Rawlingsa brzmienia i barwy bardziej niż z instrumentami smyczkowymi kojarzą się z odgłosami pracy starych, rozsypujących się urządzeń elektrycznych oraz mechanicznych umieszczonych w opuszczonych pomieszczeniach.
Podobne podejście do instrumentu cechuje Mazena Kerbaja. Jego trąbka, której głos zniekształcają liczne preparacje, wcale nie brzmi jak trąbka, a raczej jak nieszczelny system wentylacyjny, w którym szaleją wiatry i wichury. Cała trójka ma rzadko spotykany dar okrywania piękna w brzydocie, zestawiania ułomnych i brudnych brzmień, koślawych i kostropatych dźwięków w proste, a jednocześnie subtelne formy i struktury.
"Studio One" przynosi godzinną porcję stonowanej improwizacji sonorystycznej w sześciu odsłonach. Każda z nich utrzymana jest w ciemnych barwach, wszystkie cechuje pewien specyficzny amorfizm. Poszczególne utwory zdają się mieć jakąś formę, jednak, pozostając w cieniu brzmienia, to nie one stanowią o ich sile. Kształty i kontury rozmywają się, zauważalne przede wszystkim są barwy. Dźwięki i ich wzajemne relacje, wielopoziomowe, złożone z kilku planów dźwiękowych mikrostruktury składające się na poszczególne nagrania.
Muzycy zdają się nie tyle grać ze sobą, co obok siebie. Prowadzą swe partie równolegle, wspólnymi siłami tworząc mięsistą tkankę utworów, w których nierzadko nierozróżnialne jest pochodzenie poszczególnych dźwięków. Słuchając muzyki MAWJA, nie staramy się słyszeć poszczególnych instrumentalistów, zostajemy zmuszeni do skupienia się na całości. Indywidualne głosy Bullocka, Kerbaja i Rawlingsa stają się nieważne, istotne jest wyłącznie to, co do (o)powiedzenia ma całe trio.
Moim zdaniem, każda z sześciu opowieści jest interesująca. Sięgnijcie po tę płytę, muzyka MAWJI może się spodobać.
Tadeusz Kosiek | Diapazon

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About the sister CD MAWJA Live One (Chloë Recordings) recorded during the same 2004 US tour

Lebanese cornettist Mazen Kerbaj was thrown together with local bassist Michael Bullock and cello/electronics guy Vic Rawlings for a one-off gig at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, MA. The chemistry was immediate and this disc, mastered by Bhob Rainey, is the result of a return engagement. It's all impressively quiet and unaffected. Kerbaj's horn is subject to all manner of treatments, most of which render it utterly unidiomatic and the electronics and feedback generate an inclusive soundscape that must be utterly involving in a live situation.
Brian Morton | The Wire

In the world of improvised music, the action is more important than the product, but there are a lot of products to document the action. In Vital Weekly Dolf Mulder already discussed the first release by Mawja, which contained recordings from 2005 and here is the second, also with recordings from that intense week in 2005. Mawja is Michael Bullock (contrabass, feedback), Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet) and Vic Rawlings (cello, surface electronics) and started life when Kerbaj went to the USA for the first time and played improvised music. During a week these three played together, of which the first release was a studio representation of their work, while this is has two live pieces from the same week and is much along the same lines (in this world there is actually not really a distinction between studio and live recordings, as it's usually recorded in one go): an exploration of sound possibilities of either instrument, in combination with objects, such as in Kerbaj's case or electronics, in the case of his american partners. Things buzz, beep, collide, exhale, inhale, bump and distract: such is the world of improvised music in the twenty-first century. The instrument as anything but the instrument it is usually used. Played with objects, new techniques, almost electro-acoustic in approach. Three accomplished players, who know what they do and when they shouldn't be doing anything at all.
Quite nice this one.
Franz de Waard | Vital Weekly

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About the two MAWJA albums (Live One - Chloë Recordings & Studio One - Al Maslakh Recordings)

[...] Expanded spectral interaction includes bubbling mouthpiece assertions, dog-like yaps and slide-whistle-like interjections from the cornetist; full frontal slaps and pats plus sul ponticello scraping from the stringed instruments; and percussive pulsations that range from ring modulator pulsing to what could be electric shaver action and marbles being rolled in irregular patterns. Inchoate and suggesting crossed wire interference and intermittent AC/DC pulsations, the backing oscillations ratchet through the undertow to expose an intermezzo of jagged, fortissimo whines, which finally subside into rough, connective timbres.
Woody belly-and-waist reverberations from the cello and bass plus flutters and puffs from Kerbaj as well as fungible, contrapuntal modulations from a variety of electronic add-ons are present on this CD’s other track as well as on all of Studio One. This isn’t surprising since both discs were literally recorded within days of one another. However the improvisations seem to be most expressive when the traditional instruments’ properties can be isolated from the envelopes of concentrated jackhammer pressure, dense band-saw-like buzzing and woozy feedback.
Thus a single clear brass note or an emphasized deep breath from the trumpet or gentle rubs or fortissimo snaps from the strings provide more of a context for the lengthening knob-twisted sputters and drones surrounding and sonically replacing these timbres as the six tracks evolve. Flanged resonations, wire-in-socket shrills and triggered, spacey wave forms pitch-slide from background to foreground, while double-tongued, brass flourishes, wood rubbing or spiccato plucks are also stripped to their spectral nodes. The resulting echoing flanges, sideband clanging and stretched tonal twitters reveal themselves as being directed by humans, making the cumulative interface that much more impressive.
Ken Waxman | CODA magazine








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