-Solo Exhibition BY JASUN MARTZ-
"This is a threat! A monumental 8 CD box-set, supremely well-curated (and tirelessly hard-working) "Solo Exhibition" is the definitive solo career retrospective by seminal musician and visual artist Jasun Martz. Spanning the full range of his non-standard, truly unique music practice, always boldly innovative, esoteric and off-centre, it covers themes ranging from essential experimental, synth-oriented electronics thru to immersive, atmospheric epics soundscapes & contemporary classical/orchestral. 200 musicians create over 10 thunderous hours on 85 original Jasun Martz tracks." --Soundholm / Italy
"Solo Exhibition" is a mega-box of eight CDs featuring all of Jasun Martz's solo music career, one of the most brilliant (and secluded) musicians of the independent American scene. Buying this juicy box-set is recommended to everyone!" --Leonardo Di Maio, Ondarock / Italy
"It’s a monumental testament to the singular musical vision of Jasun Martz. Listening to Solo Exhibition is like going to a museum showing paintings by an artist you’re vaguely familiar with, then finding eight floors of galleries filled with works from all phases of his career..." --Jon Davis, Expose / USA
"Heraldic, then pounding, the music establishes a real sense of momentum, in the process encountering some seriously complex agglomerations of ideas, lines of counterpoint cramming themselves on top of each other, as well as wild non-sequiturs, such as a retreat into soft vocalize (returning to the tone of the first movement) and a rock music-infused outburst. Martz then seemingly takes every instrument in sight and squeezes them into a tiny space, producing some of the most densely compacted music i’ve ever heard. -- Simon Cummings, 5:4 / UK
"A work of giant proportions. The music explodes in multi-layered noisy soundscapes. Jasun Martz is a man with a remarkable and curious musical career. This career that spans 50 years is now condensed in the release of ‘Solo Exhibition’, a prestigious retrospective box of 8 CDs" --Vital Weekly (The Netherlands)
Jasun Martz — Solo Exhibition 8 CD box-set
This is a threat! A monumental 8 CD box-set, supremely well-curated (and tirelessly hard-working) "Solo Exhibition" is the definitive solo career retrospective by seminal musician and visual artist Jasun Martz. Spanning the full range of his non-standard, truly unique music practice, always boldly innovative, esoteric and off-centre, it covers themes ranging from essential experimental, synth-oriented electronics thru to immersive, atmospheric epics soundscapes & contemporary classical/orchestral. 200 musicians who create over 10 thunderous hours on 85 original Jasun Martz tracks
An air of mystique surrounds Jasun Martz work, being known for having played in a couple of records huge success by Michael Jackson (!), touring with Frank Zappa and collaborating with art brut master artist Jean Dubuffet. He was inspired to compose his second symphony, "The Battle" after falling down the the world's tallest active volcano- Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador.
This box also includes the legendary 'The Pillory' album, considered a masterpiece of neo-classical avant-garde rock stands alone. Martz began composing The Pillory around 1976, assembling his 40 piece Neoteric Orchestra, taking it to recording sessions in Los Angeles shortly after. The project was interrupted as Martz joined Frank Zappa's touring group in mid '77, but things got back on track the following year, finishing up with sessions in Los Angeles, New York, and London. Among the 40 players are Zappa alumni Eddie Jobson(violin, synthesizer) and Ruth Underwood (marimba, concert bells, implemental percussion). Martz plays organ, mellotron, synthesizer, grand piano, flute, sax, recorder, gongs and numerous other things. Other names of note include Paul Whitehead (yes, the album cover artist - on percussion and bowed cymbal) and John Luttrelle (woodwinds, piano, synth). So much for the facts, on to the music.
"The Pillory" is one forty-four minute piece composed of nine movements. The music defies any easy description, yet some comparisons might be in order. Imagine Glenn Branca's "Devil Choirs" meeting Univers Zero's "Heresie" in the mythical land of Mellotronia, injected with Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", and sprinkled with elements of Stockhausen and Zappa. The music is haunting, almost frightening at times, like some pagan ritual, yet soothing and surreal, with overt dreamlike qualities. Vocals are used throughout some of the movements in wordless choral arrangements. All these dynamics work together to create a vision of awesome power, with elements of subtlety and extravagance, like a soundtrack to the passage to heaven or hell or both. This is challenging music, yet the hook of the ever-present mellotron offers a degree of accessibility, and ultimately I think most would have no trouble appreciating it.
INCLUDES BONUS: 27.94 x 43.18 four color Jasun Martz poster
INCLUDES DOUBLE BONUS: 27.94 x 43.18 original acrylic on red rosin paper, signed, one-of-a-kind, Jasun Martz painting
INCLUDES TRIPLE BONUS: Jasun Martz has autographed the inner panel of the box set. Yeah!
Jasun Martz- A Retrospective: Non Finito, Alchemy, Corrosion, Chroma, The Pillory The Battle
-- Simon Cumming, 5:4 / UK
Another unusual release I've received recently came from Jasun Martz, a US musician and artist of whom i was previously unaware, but a quick search online reveals has apparently been involved in music for almost 50 years, with a variety of both classical and pop/rock connections. What i received consisted of six discs – Non-Finito, Alchemy,Corrosion, Chroma, The Pillory and The Battle, released through January to July this year as an in-depth retrospective of Martz’s output – together with a poster and an original painting by Martz, upon which is attached a ‘Certificate of Art Appraisal’, confidently informing me that its appraised value is no less than $15,000. Ch-ching! The discs are housed in slim Digipaks, fronted with further paintings by Martz (all self portraits), and their respective album titles are all prefixed by the phrase ‘Solo Exhibition’, implying that each disc is in fact the sonic component of an audiovisual work (of which the cover may or may not constitute the only visual element). So far, so relatively straightforward.
However, progressing through these six discs it quickly becomes apparent that their contents are connected, with various titles recurring on different albums in partial or completely different forms. So the listening experience has a secondary layer of detective work, puzzling over and deducing the connections between these different manifestations. By the end, i can honestly say they’re easily among the most convoluted interconnecting and overlapping collection of pieces that i’ve yet encountered. Part of that convolution is, depending on your perspective, unnecessary, and there’s a certain amount of duplication – even redundancy – but Martz has clearly aimed to make each disc as long as possible (they’re between 68 and 79 minutes’ duration), and while the discs together constitute Martz’s retrospective – a larger 8-CD box set will also be available at the start of next year – each disc also acts as a smaller-scale retrospective, focusing on specific aspects of his output (in theory; in practice the distinctions are negligible).
The first thing to say about Martz’s music in general is that it’s not wanting where ambition is concerned. A retrospective project as large as this is ambitious enough, but a number of the pieces are clearly the product of compositional thinking that’s concerned with exploring ideas over the long-term in pieces with lengthy durations and for large-scale forces. These are where Martz is both most convincing and most compelling; i’ll come on to these in a moment. The shorter works are much more varied in terms of how engaging and successful they are as compositions. The weakest examples suffer primarily either due to an unclear sense of structure or ideas that don’t amount to much.Young and Light (For Piano) are so much cases in point that they almost sound like student compositions, meandering in an over-ponderous way, their bland ideas extended into trying exercises in empty blah. These two pieces are exceptions; for the most part when Martz is less impressive – in pieces such as Knives and Dubuffet – the music nonetheless has a cogent, striking atmosphere that’s enough to keep one actively engaged. Knives does this via a grandiose octave-doubled melodic line, Dubuffet through a network of clattering percussion and strange horn-like moans, like the heady accompaniment to some kind of Asian theatre. Threshold channels this combination of percussion and wind calls into a more focused bit of musical mind-bending, arranged in layers of melody moving at different speeds.
It seems to me that what typifies the smaller-scale works is a less coherent notion of compositional identity. Alla Prima, for organ, lets loose fast and fluid gestures running over a pedal drone, interspersed with chorale-like passages; it’s a perfectly satisfying and enjoyable toccata, but could have been written by almost anyone in the last 50-or-so years. Lost & Found explores a folk-like accordion melody over a drone to the accompaniment of a drum and shaker; again enjoyable of itself but pretty anonymous stylistically speaking. There’s a trio of chamber works, In Light, In Between and In Dark (for clarinet, violin and piano), each of which functions as a rigorous exercise in counterpoint and explores its ideas through an interesting narrative with considerable twists along the way, but which, again, have a somewhat generic stylistic flavour. These, let me stress, are observational quibbles rather than major concerns, and they’re only as apparent as they are because of the enormous imagination and unique compositional attitude exhibited in the largest works contained in this retrospective.
These revolve around three symphonies, The Pillory (No. 1), The Battle (No. 2) and Disintegration (No. 3). Of these three, The Battle – which was originally released on CD in 2005 – seems to be a work of which Martz is especially proud, being featured to some extent on all but one of these six discs. More than any other, this leads to some confusion concerning what is being heard where, so here’s some clarification. The Battle comprises seven movements, the first six of which can be found on The Battle, with the seventh on Corrosion. Everything else is fragmentary: Corrosion also includes some of the first, fourth and sixth movements, Non-Finito and Alchemy both feature a section of the first movement, while Chroma has part of the first and fifth movements plus a ‘Coda Outtake’. Phew. As a whole, lasting 110 minutes, The Battle is an impressive behemoth of a work. The first movement feels like it’s making overtures, preoccupied with low drones over which calls and vocalizations ring out, answered by a slow, meandering, melancholic string episode (that brings to mind Angelo Badalamenti) that passes through ominous dry percussion rolls before finally becoming textural, turning into a black, amorphous electronic clustercloud (now bringing to mind David Lynch). The way the music acts as though it could, but never does, let rip makes for a tense listening experience.
Through the next four movements (contained within a single track), Martz finally takes The Battle off its leash. Heraldic, then pounding, the music establishes a real sense of momentum, in the process encountering some seriously complex agglomerations of ideas, lines of counterpoint cramming themselves on top of each other, as well as wild non-sequiturs, such as a retreat into soft vocalize (returning to the tone of the first movement) and a rock music-infused outburst. Martz then seemingly takes every instrument in sight and squeezes them into a tiny space, producing some of the most densely compacted music i’ve ever heard – even more than Paul Dolden – articulated as an insanely detailed panoply, glimpses of individual instruments and ideas whirling past one’s ears so fast it’s only possible to register them for a fraction of a second before they’re replaced by something else. It closes with grand organ music, before the sixth movement returns to a Badalamenti-esque filmic soundworld and remains there, tentative and at something of a distance, atmospheric but passive. All pretty impressive, but despite the very clear focus of these individual episodes, the work’s overall sense of direction can be tough to keep track of, though this may well be a side effect of its large duration.
These concerns are easily outweighed by the work’s overwhelmingly strong final movement. However, ‘movement’ doesn’t really seem the right word for what is unequivocally a slab of music, turning away from the preceding play of clarity and density derived from instrumental and vocal individuality and opting instead for a less tangible soundworld built upon texture. Over 40 minutes, the music takes its time to evolve from grains of grit through vague and ambiguous material made from weird hanging pitches, faint squeaks, tappings and scratches and assorted rumblings, to an epicentre that’s simultaneously both softened and sharpened, polarised into low sustained pitches on the left, industrial drills and noise on the right. It’s mesmerizing, and Martz ramps up the intensity after this, though creating a strange, paradoxical sensation that fluctuates between perceiving the music as a vast, rapid slew of torrential stuff and being in a kind of floating stasis. This is a strange enough sensation, but the bizarre episode that wanders past shortly after is even more so, occupied by a light regular pulse and something resembling a decrepit chord sequence – it’s like some kind of damaged memory of pop music, hypnotically weird. Sustained pitches fill the remainder of this movement, beautiful strands of suspension, the music hanging in space but not in a passive way, feeling solid and substantial, hovering through choice. It’s an exquisite, unexpected way to bring the symphony to a close – and by ‘it’ i mean all 40 minutes of this final movement. Moving away from the instrumental and vocal emphasis in favour of a more electronic soundworld is a bold step, but it works; one can read it as a sublimation or even a transcendence. The Battle is certainly an unwieldy composition, with almost ludicrous aspirations of scale, but the fact that it doesn’t merely hang together but is capable of real radicality is a testament to its integrity and to Martz’s creative control.
A word about the performances. If it seems there’s something uncanny about the way they sound, this is partly down to the way Martz assembled the instrumental parts. Apparently, the players recorded their parts in isolation and then Martz pieced them together (again one thinks of Paul Dolden). So the ‘Intercontinental Philharmonic Orchestra’ is in fact the virtual result of this process, which must have been almost unfathomably complex; to call it ‘painstaking’ would surely be an understatement.
The Third Symphony, Disintegration, is more difficult to talk about, as it isn’t fully represented by these discs. Excerpts of it appear in four places: two minutes on Corrosion, six minutes on Chroma, ten minutes on Non-Finito and nineteen minutes on Alchemy. Almost all of the three shorter excerpts are contained within the longest one, though the six-minute excerpt seems to contain some additional material not heard elsewhere. The complete work was scheduled to be released on CD in September, but it doesn’t seem to have come out yet and there’s no information about it online, so it’s impossible to tell how much the nineteen-minute clip constitutes of the whole. But based on this alone, it’s a decidedly interesting piece, with a refrain from a soprano solo and women’s voices establishing a motif (6/8: dotted crotchet – crotchet – quaver | dotted minim) that becomes central to all the music that follows. From a gentle, ethereal opening, Martz pounds it out, making it the basis for a number of heavyweight rhythmic episodes that fly past at speed; the lightness and sense of play in these episodes lends them something of a Bernstein-esque quality.
But what Disintegration bears a more striking resemblance to are two of the early 20th century film scores of Gottfried Huppertz, Metropolis and especially Die Nibelungen. Due to the extreme length of Die Nibelungen, Huppertz’s approach (which would ultimately become the model for John Williams) is a leitmotivic one, based on a small collection of themes associated with specific characters, continually rethinking and and reworking them according to the scene-by-scene shifts in the narrative. What Martz is doing in this excerpt from Disintegration sounds strikingly similar, the musical narrative constantly being rethought, choral voices to rapid momentum, then collapsing into percussive chatter – a fabulous shift, as if all the pitch content had been suddenly erased, leaving only impacts and friction – before further emphatic restatements of the motif and a subsequent dive in the depths of a dull, vague, throbbing resonant space where, once again, echoes of the motif drift as a new melody emerges. It’s this emphatic underpinning of all the material with this primary motif through each and every dramatic twist and turn that lends it such a strong resemblance to silent film music, and as a consequence Disintegration really ignites the imagination. The end of this (presumably) excerpt is tantalizing, arriving at a huge full organ chorale over a pedal drone, at an apparent point of apotheosis. As i say, it’s impossible to know at this stage where these nineteen minutes sit within the symphony as a whole, but on the strength of them it’s going to be a very exciting work.
But for me, it’s Jasun Martz’s First Symphony, The Pillory, which is the most outstanding piece included in this retrospective. It may well also be the oldest, having been originally released way back in 1978, though as absolutely no information about any of the pieces is included with these discs – which is a great shame – one can’t say for certain. Once again, it appears on five of the discs: the entire 42-minute piece, along with a truncated live version and fifteen minutes of ‘Mellotron Outtakes and Rehearsal’ are all to be found on The Pillory, and there are various shorter excerpts on Alchemy, Chroma, Corrosion and Non-Finito.
Everything about The Pillory is fascinating. It undergoes what might be thought of as a false start, a slow dronal fade-in, focused around parallel bandwidths with some juddering and beats, leading to a sudden crescendo up to an inscrutable electronic accent that causes the music to shatter, twiddly flute and bell shards splintering off into nothing. So, two minutes in, the work begins again, slower this time, and over its new deep drone there’s now a large throng of voices audible in the middle distance, singing, calling, ululating, whistling, howling. There’s an enormous air of portent, the kind of expectant clamour prior to a long-awaited event, which here becomes clarified into a vast congregation, the voices letting rip in a repeated chant of “hi hi hi hi hi…”. i’ve rarely heard such an arresting start to a composition.
Though it briefly takes on some superficial qualities of minimalism, its cycling syncopations are moderated by the sense that they’re part of the machinations of an elaborate ritual, and soon enough (though unexpectedly), the symphony passes into a Shostakovich-sized episode of string-led ruminating. It’s tempting to hear music like this as individualistic, the product of personal introspection, but in the wake of the opening it instead speaks more as a kind of elegiac meditation for the multitude. Martz slowly dissolves it into a spine-tingling collection of faint, overtone-like whispers and whistles, indicating a shift in focus not unlike the one in the last movement of The Battle, away from conventional clarity in favour of more vague (in a good way), exploratory ideas. We arrive in a lengthy percussion episode which, considering the ritualistic environment we’ve been in, sounds like a part in the liturgy set aside for improvisational expression. That’s not shoe-horning it into a narrative, there’s an earnestness in the way the instruments are tickled, teased and toyed with (it’s hard not to hear them as being caressed) that makes this episode sound entirely of a piece with what’s gone before. The ritual continues; one can almost imagine it all taking place beside a gigantic fire in the dead of night.
In less disciplined hands, all this could become terribly self-indulgent. While i do think that’s a criticism one can make about a few parts of The Battle (though it’s interesting to note that Martz seems to have drastically reduced the length of that piece; on its 2005 release, the last movement seems to have been nearly twice as long), it never becomes that in The Pillory. The period of meticulous improvisation has the effect of energizing and exercising the congregation, and in a remarkable sequence conveying the most fabulously vivid atmosphere, the music builds, grows, intensifies and densifies, instigating an orgiastic eruption of sheer Bacchanalia. What makes this particular cacophonous frenzy so fascinating is the way its density – details everywhere – is seemingly ‘modulated’ by the shouts and calls of the voices, focusing everything into brief but unified accents, suggesting that beneath the apparent chaos, everything is fundamentally connected and, more importantly, communicative. Noise is capable of remarkable nuance and subtlety, and not just in this piece, Martz demonstrates real skill in the handling of moments like this. Considering, as i remarked earlier, that these are (or at least, sound) just as colossal if not even more so than the kind of onslaughts Paul Dolden creates, this is no small achievement. The congregation collapses, bells ring out, all is hushed, and the ritual concludes with a huge, climactic episode for full organ. Channelling a weird mixture of Jean-Michel Jarre and Gustav Holst, it ushers the symphony away into the dark.
I can’t praise The Pillory highly enough. It’s an intoxicating, exhilarating experience, and in the nearly 40 years since it was first released still sounds impressively new and fresh (and there’s absolutely nothing about the sound quality to suggest its age). At a mere quarter of the length, the 11-minute live version on the disc not surprisingly sounds a bit underwhelming, though it manages to retain exactly the same atmosphere, and in some respects – due to being a live performance – even manages to heighten them somewhat. The fifteen minutes of ‘mellotron outtakes’ may seem like the kind of ‘bonus track’ padding one encounters much too often, but as well as shedding light on the way the piece was composed, hearing this element in isolation is really quite wonderful, sounding not unlike a ’70s underground horror movie soundtrack, which only reinforces the ritualistic qualities heard in The Pillory.
There’s a lot to take in and consider across these six retrospective discs but, as i hope will be clear, there’s a lot to get excited about. i’m glad finally to have become acquainted with Jasun Martz’s work, not least because it’s completely unlike the majority of music one usually encounters. As i commented at the start, there’s a lot of overlap between the discs which at first is all a bit head-spinning. From the perspective of buying the discs, i would unhesitatingly recommend The Pillory and The Battle, and you’ll also need Corrosion for the superb final movement of The Battle, while Chroma has a nice collection of the better small-scale works. Alchemy and Non-Finitoare less engaging generally, though the former contains the longest portion of Disintegration (though it might be worth waiting for the disc dedicated to this work to be released). All the CDs can be ordered from Jason Martz’s website, and digital versions are available to download and stream via his Bandcamp site (unfortunately, individual tracks can’t be purchased, which considering the number of overlaps and duplications is a real shame). If you’re going to get just one, go with The Pillory; it’s genuinely unforgettable.
Jasun Martz — Solo Exhibition 8 CD box-set
--Expose, Jon Davis (USA)
Composer Jasun Martz has had a career that defies categorization, refusing to reveal patterns or trends - if you could plot his musical works on some kind of stylistic graph, there would be no curve or smooth shape to be derived, just scattered points. But if you think beyond surface qualities, maybe there is a coherent pattern to be found. If you regard musical style as a kind of decoration that can be applied to some deeper core, a mere trapping and not the real substance, a kind of consistency emerges, a musical vision that can be translated into various languages. Or, to put it in tech-geek terms, it’s like a website where the appearance can be changed by swapping themes while the content remains the same. This box set covers the vast majority of his musical work, though piecing it together is a daunting task. The production of the physical artifact has been plagued with delays and shifting plans, the kind of thing that happens to an independent artist on an independent label, especially when they aim for such an ambitious goal. So let’s put aside any previous reports about what would be included in this 8CD set, and look at what is there. The individual discs are named Alchemy, Antithesis, Chroma, Corrosion, The Battle, The Pillory, Visions of Time, and Non-Finito, and they are arranged by theme rather than chronology. Non-Finito is a sampler of pieces appearing on other discs, and has already been reviewed on its own.
The 1978 work called “The Pillory” is also known as “Symphony No. 1,” and is present in its entirety as a single 42:26 track, and also in a 10:47 live version. In addition, there are two tracks labeled “Mellotron Outtakes and Rehearsal” of differing length, one of which seems to be an excerpt from the other. There’s also a five-minute track called “The Pillory” on the CorrosionCD which appears to be an excerpt from around the 30-minute mark of the full track, though the mix sounds different. For those who picked up the previous CD version back in the 90s, the bonus track, “In Light in Dark in Between” is present, though it’s split into three separate tracks on Chroma. For a description of the music of “The Pillory,” have a look at our previous review.
In the 80s, Martz recorded a number of poppish rock songs with clever lyrics and catchy melodies, which are collected onAntithesis. At times they are reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, Bill Nelson’s more straightforward work, Todd Rundgren’s work of the same time, and even Stewart Copeland’s Klark Kent recordings (remember those?). Aside from a 1982 single of “Won’t Let Me Go” b/w “The Flop,” none of this material has been previously released. I find these songs consistently engaging, balancing accessibility and quirkiness, and the one-man-band instrumentation actually adds to the charm. Interestingly enough, of the 24 songs, only six have more than one word in the title. This CD is the most fun in the collection, far from the challenging and serious nature of the bulk of Martz’s work.
“Symphony No. 2” was originally released as “The Battle,” and it too is present in a variety of forms. It was previously released as a double CD in 2005, with six movements on one CD and the seventh filling the entire second CD. We reviewed it when it came out, but I'll revisit it here since it's both a massive work and changed somewhat. For this release, there are four tracks: “Movement 1,” “Movements 2, 3, 4, 5,” “Movement 6,” and “Movement 7,” the last of which is on the Corrosion CD. These were originally called "Battle 1" through "Battle 7" and were split into individual tracks. There are also a number of parts scattered around the other discs (1, 4, 5, and 6), sometimes as excerpts, sometimes as entire tracks. Like “The Pillory,” it is a sprawling and varied work, parts of which are very quiet and minimalistic while other parts are noisy and chaotic. With a length greater than Mahler’s Third Symphony, digesting it is no easy task. It is a modernist work, featuring a wide palette of sounds, from keyboards and percussion to strings, woodwinds, and brass. Some sections feature sweeping melodies, others dive into clashing dissonant lines, and students of 20th Century composers might recognize similarities to Stravinsky, Ives, Bartok, Ligeti, Penderecki, Ginastera, and so on — though obviously none of them ever included a Mellotron in their arrangements.
I’ll call out “Movement 3” for special consideration, since it’s the section that rocks, with a drum kit, electric bass, and electric guitar. Tom-toms start it out with a pattern I hear as 10/8 (3+3+2+2), and that introduces the drum kit. The bass, guitar, and a violin bring in a climbing motif, and then there’s a flashy violin solo over a building rhythmic base, with keyboards added as it ramps up. Then there’s a great riff that they all play in unison. We then get a crazy synth solo backed by chanting — this is maybe a little reminiscent of Magma — all of which gradually increases in intensity until it explodes into the atonal chaos of “Movement 4” that gradually diminishes into scattered bits of noise. This section is truly spectacular. “Movement 5” starts out with seemingly random banging on cymbals and other percussion, then morphs into several minutes of eerie chords on pipe organ. “Movement 7” is over 40 minutes on its own (shortened from the 70 minutes on the original release), consisting of a long, slow buildup of droning tones and slowly cycling keyboard chords, rumbling noise, indistinct percussive sounds, and hard-to-identify sounds working into a long section that consists mostly of roaring noise. Then there’s a long fade-out to oblivion. This is some of the most abstract music you’ll hear, with very little content that’s recognizable as coming from instruments.
The CD called The Battle, in addition to part of the symphony of the same name, also features some shorter pieces of music produced mostly on keyboards and percussion. These short pieces are interesting and varied, challenging in their own ways, but not as daunting as “The Battle” itself.
Chroma is subtitled Keyboard Music, though other sound sources are involved. “Night,” for example, is a piece for pipe organ and choir. The previously mentioned “In Light in Dark in Between” is a playful bit of chamber music for piano (Martz), clarinet (John Luttrelle), and violin (Eddie Jobson). The three sections are separated and presented as tracks 2, 6, and 9. There is an excerpt from “Disintegration” which features prepared piano, pipe organ, voices, strings, and maybe a few other instruments that are hard to make out. It’s similar to parts of “The Battle.” “Lost and Found” is a piece for harmonium and percussion that was featured on the sampler. The CD is rounded out by some keyboard-oriented excerpts from the symphonies and “Light (For Piano),” which actually features strings in addition to the piano, a moody and meditative piece of music.
Alchemy covers Orchestral Music, and starts with “Light,” a longer, piano-free version of the piece from Chroma. “The Victory Fanfare (All Hail Victory)” is heavy on brass and percussion, though it does feature a quiet middle section with woodwinds and piano. There’s an orchestral arrangement of “In Light,” and another excerpt from “Disintegration,” this one heavy on the choir and percussion, at times reminiscent of Orff’s Carmina Burana. I don’t know where this 19-minute section falls in the complete work, but it encompasses several sections as diverse as those found in his other large-scale pieces. The other new works on this CD are “Young,” a relatively consonant and melodic piece, and “The Beginning,” a brief, sprightly composition that would work as music for the opening credits of a movie. There’s also a live version of “The Victory Fanfare” which departs dramatically from the original, adding sampled voices in several languages.
The CD called Corrosion coversNoise, Soundscapes, Cacophony, and five of the eight tracks are excerpts from “The Pillory” and “The Battle,” featuring some of the more abstract portions of those works. There’s another excerpt from “Disintegration” as well, a relatively short piece that involves cacophanous percussion and rumbling noise. The other two new pieces are “Dubuffet,” which features chaotic metallic sounds and what sounds like keening Tibetan horns. These sounds give way to what sounds like an argument between several percussionists who use their instruments to try shouting over each other. It finishes with “Erosion.” This sounds very much like one of the more chaotic sections of “The Pillory,” with a massive number of instruments all improvising wildly.
The original plan was for the box set to include Martz’s Third Symphony, "Disintegration," but it was not ready in time, so Visions of Time was added to fill out the eighth slot in in the package. This is a collection of 60s recordings featuring a teenaged Martz on drums with his band American Zoo (AKA We the People). This collection was released a few years ago on the Guerssen label, and has been reviewed previously.
If you’ve stuck with my review this long, chances are you have the musical stamina to appreciate Solo Exhibition. I wouldn’t recommend listening to it in its entirety all at once, but it’s a monumental testament to the singular musical vision of Jasun Martz. Given the diversity of sounds presented, it’s unlikely many listeners will love it all, but anyone with an interest in ambitious avant-garde composition will find much of interest here. I can’t help thinking that some of the “symphonic” works would be very interesting to hear actually performed live by a symphony orchestra (augmented by keyboards and whatever else Martz included), though that seems highly unlikely to ever occur. Listening to Solo Exhibition is like going to a museum showing paintings by an artist you’re vaguely familiar with, then finding eight floors of galleries filled with works from all phases of his career.
Jasun Martz Solo Exhibition 8 CD box-set
--Ondarock, Leonardo Di Maio (Italy)
Solo Exhibition" è un mega-cofanetto di ben otto cd che racchiude tutta la carriera musicale solista di Jasun Martz, uno dei più geniali (e appartati) musicisti della scena indipendente americana. Già noto per aver suonato in un paio di dischi di enorme successo di Michael Jackson e, soprattutto, per aver collaborato con Frank Zappa alla fine degli anni Settanta, Martz è, oltre che fantasioso compositore, anche un affermato pittore e scultore (un po' come lo era il grande Captain Beefheart).
I suoi tre capolavori "The Pillory" (All Ears/Neoteric Music, 1978-1981), "In Light, In Dark, In Between" (Eurock, 1982) e il doppio "The Battle" (Under The Asphalt, 2005) rimangono dei punti fermi in un genere che affonda le sue radici tanto nel "rock in opposition" che nell'avanguardia colta e nell'ambientale, con sprazzi di musica sinfonica del XX secolo a compenetrare il tutto.
Questo cofanetto raccoglie quindi non solo quei tre capisaldi della musica moderna, ma anche le versioni ampliate e rivedute degli stessi lavori, più tantissima musica mai pubblicata prima d'ora (in tutto, circa dieci ore di ascolto), tra cui spezzoni di avanguardia spicciola (registrata nel più puro stile da "bric-à-brac" casalingo), trentaquattro canzoni rock (dall'ingenua irruenza giovanile nel garage-pop con i We The People, fino a incursioni nella new wave e nella no wave, insieme a pezzi molto più convenzionali), incise in quasi mezzo secolo di attività (ovvero, da quando Jasun era un imberbe adolescente fino all'età matura), diversi demo, provini e bozzetti vari.
Per chi vuole farsi un'idea sommaria ma abbastanza fedele, consigliamo casomai di iniziare con l'ascolto dell'ottima raccolta "Raspad" (Music Brut, 2013). Dopo di ciò, l'acquisto di questo succoso box è raccomandato a tutti: va richiesto direttamente al sito della Music Brut (di proprietà dello stesso Martz), inviando un bonifico di duecento dollari (inizialmente si può usufruire di uno speciale sconto del 50%).
Oltre ai cd, riceverete anche una pittura fatta a mano dallo stesso autore, con tanto di firma e timbro di autenticazione (e, detto in soldoni, questo rappresenta anche un buon investimento finanziario, visto che le opere di Martz godono di discrete quotazioni nel mercato dell'arte), più un bel poster a colori.
Inoltre, come si confà a operazioni del genere, ogni brano è stato accuratamente rimasterizzato. Quindi, affrettatevi, visto che le disponibilità sono (purtroppo) limitate ai soli primi fortunati richiedenti.
Ultima importante postilla: il gruppo californiano dei We The People, dove il quindicenne Jasun ricopriva il ruolo di batterista, non è lo stesso omonimo coevo gruppo (paradossalmente garage anch'esso, ma molto più ruvido e psichedelico) proveniente da Orlando, in Florida!
Jasun Martz — Solo Exhibition: Non-Finito
--Expose,Jon Davis (USA)
This career-spanning retrospective collection presents a dizzying variety of sounds from composer Jasun Martz. It serves as a sampler from his box set Solo Exhibition, which contains eight CDs of material spanning his entire career, back to the 60s with We the People and American Zoo. The sampler doesn’t go back quite that far, however, and starts with his experimental 1978 album The Pillory (which we’ve covered on its own). Non-Finito is organized thematically rather than chronologically, starting with “Orchestra” works, then moving through “Keyboard,” “Symphonic,” “Live,” and “Noise/Soundscapes/Cacophony.” The Orchestra section starts out with a slow-moving, moody piece called “Light,” featuring orchestra and choir. It’s decidedly in a modernist style, with ambiguous tonality, dissonance, and unpredictable melodies. “The Victory Fanfare (All Hail Victory)” is, as you might expect, heavy on the brass and percussion, and would work admirably on the soundtrack to an epic movie. “Knives” and “The Beginning” are in a similar vein. The Keyboard section is more intimate, and features Eddie Jobson on violin along with John Luttrell on clarinet and the composer himself on piano for a track called “In Light.” It’s a spirited piece of modern chamber music, full of dissonance and spritely flights of melodic fancy. The other Keyboard pieces are built around what sounds like a harmonium (“Lost & Found”) or pipe organ (“Dark,” which also features a choir). The Symphonic section contains excerpts from his three symphonies: 1, “The Pillory”; 2, “The Battle”; and 3, “Disintegration.” These excerpts range from 10 to 14 minutes, so you really do get a feel for what they’re like. They’re realized on a combination of keyboards, percussion, live instruments, and choir. The compositions are engaging and sophisticated, and I definitely find myself wishing to hear the complete works from which they’re excerpted. The final sections of the CD are where things get really interesting. The Live track is called “Amalgamation,” and it is assembled from three solo performances (St. Petersburg, Seoul, and Buenos Aires), and rather than editing them together sequentially, they are presented simultaneously, spread across the stereo spectrum. Given that the content of the music is essentially sound collages, the result is a sort of meta-collage, with musical and non-musical sounds coming out in a vast impressionistic cloud of varying density. “Erosion” finishes off the collection with another collage-like work, this one assembled from elements of “The Pillory” and “The Battle.” It comes off rather like a free-jazz orchestra augmented by electronics. Non-Finito presents a glimpse into Martz’s body of work, which is a vast and varied territory, and while it functions pretty well on its own, it also whets the appetite for the whole banquet (to mix metaphors) of the box set.
JASUN MARTZ – SOLO EXHIBITION: THE PILLORY
JASUN MARTZ – SOLO EXHIBITION: THE BATTLE
JASUN MARTZ – SOLO EXHIBITION: CORROSION
-- Vital Weekly (The Netherlands)
Jasun Martz is a man with a remarkable and curious musical career. This career that spans 50 years is now condensed in the release of ‘Solo Exhibition’, a prestigious retrospective box of 8 CDs, 10 hours of music, 200 musicians, 85 tracks. Documenting Martz’ musical activity from the 60s up till now.
Reflecting his career as a musician and composer. We received above-mentioned three CDs from this box, released on his own label Music Brut Masterworks. For decades Jasun Martz was the composer known for one work: ‘The Pillory’, his first symphony. He composed this work in 1977/78 on board of Frank Zappa’s world tour as his synthesizer programmer. He recorded it in 1978 with over 40 musicians participating, some of them from Zappa’s band. In 2005 he released an extended follow-up, called the ‘The Battle’, his second symphony. A work of even more giant proportions. This time with 115 musicians from all over the planet: Intercontinental Philharmonic Orchestra.
The release for the ‘Solo Exhibition’-box is not completely identical with the one of 2005. ‘Solo Exhibition: The Pillory’ opens with the version played by The Neoteric Orchestra. Followed by a shorter live solo version, that was not earlier released. The album closes without unreleased mellotron outtakes and rehearsals. ‘Solo Exhibition: The Battle’ contains the recording of 2005 supplemented with previously unreleased outtakes. ‘Solo Exhibition: Corrosion’, subtitled ‘The essential noise, soundscapes and cacophony of Jasun Martz, offers parts of ‘The Battle’ and ‘The Pillory’ and a few other works. I would have helped if information about date of recording were included on the CDs. Sometimes it is not clear to me whether I’m listening to a remix or the original. But in the end this doesn’t matter much. As all recordings give a good impression of Martz’ universe.
Martz is obviously a composer in a neo-classical vein. For this reason several passages with melodic lines dominating begin to sound a bit out-dated. However where his music explodes in multi-layered noisy soundscapes the music still sounds very up to date, relevant and over whelming. Like for example ‘The Battle Movement 7’, the most extensive piece on this CD. Or the closing track ‘Erosion’. These sections are so multi-layered and detailed. The works also still impress because of their format. What a project to have so many musicians involved. For ‘The Battle’ over hundred musicians were involved, who made their recordings all over the planet. It must have been a giant job for Martz to find his way in all these files, patiently assembling everything into one whole, led by a clear vision of he wanted to create. (DM)