‘Catching Net’ is a huge dirty bomb of a double album that’s going to detonate right under everyone’s cosy assumptions of what it is to be a ‘new music’ composer. Brooklyn based Eli Keszler, 29, describes himself as a Conservatory, where he studied composition with composer/improvisers Ran Blake and Anthony Coleman, while developing ideas about visual art.If Keszler’s story sounds familiar- you’re right, hardly a week goes by without some street-cred-starved composer talking up their punk ‘past’ to promo their latest mainstream marvel in The Guardian- he’s the real deal. His music is pathologically determined notto please and you just know he has spent some pretty sordid nights in CBGB and other New York palaces of punk.Cold Pin is a sound-art installation around which musicians are asked to respond spontaneously. Strung-up piano wires are pummelled by a choir of automated beaters, unpredictable patterns reeling out from Keszler’s carefully composed engineering. Improvisation is usually, by definition, a profoundly social activity; Keszler, though, carves up the musical space differently.
He drags living and breathing musicians – including his own detail-obsessed, busier than-you-think-is-possible drumming- into the realm of machine music, a combination that finds vulnerable beauty within the surface ugliness by highlighting the age-old fear of queried boundaries between man and machine.The music is most characterful when faceless; as trumpeter Greg Kelley, an exemplary presence otherwise, snugs slightly too closely to jazz phraseology in the live version of Cold Pin, the focus is noticeably diminished. Catching Net pairs the Cold Pin installation with a composed score for string quartet and piano but those ecstatic levels of energy and the basic sound world change not a jot. Which means Keszler has found ways of communicating the fantastical sounds inside his head with notation and with no notation. He’s on to something special.
Philip Clark, Gramophone Magazine
“According to Eli Keszler, the way he makes his music is the least interesting aspect of his work. His audience might disagree; seeing what unleashes his complex sonance patterns sounds pretty interesting to me. When Keszler constructs sound, it’s an architectural work, including not just instruments and performers, but the way intonation fills and co-opts a vertical space. Everything is part of the sound, except, ironically, Keszler himself. The sonority is part of a continuum, a previously existing entity he merely brings to our notice. As if to underline this point, criticism doesn’t affect him. He claims it is like reading the critique of a mathematical formula.
In removing himself from the work (his words), he opens up a spatial enormity that presents itself as a listening opportunity on a grand scale. It may seem ambiguous to say a sound is “huge,” until you hear the recordings of Keszler’s latest offering. Catching Net is a collection of selected installations and compositions Keszler has created during the last two years, a giant double disc of various modifications of a single idea. For example, the “Cold Pin” tracks derived from an installation with piano wires interfused at one point into the dome of the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts that rose over 25 feet, sometimes performing with an ensemble, sometimes without. The “Collecting Basin” is a giant of an installation set up at the McNeil Street Pumping Station during the MSPS new music festival in 2011. All the works are visual, too, and this disc pays homage to the images through beautiful photographs and images taken from each exhibition. However, Catching Net allows for the opening up of the sound as its own experience, building on the visual only in its influence upon the performance. In this way, Keszler here expands, or stretches, the work, bringing the listening experience to the fore and sublimating the observed.
The order of the works replaces some of the removed structure of the imposing visuals. By starting with the energetic drumming and frenzied compositional pieces from the “Cold Pin,” Keszler offers up some solid ground on which to start the journey. By the time we reach the third recording, the Boston ensemble has drifted up in the mix, and Keszler’s drums and enormous strings take on an almost muted underplaying effect, though you can hear the latter as he thumbs out his own unrelenting forward march” To Read the complete review at Dusted Magazine go to http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/7494
Tiny Mix Tapes Review of Catching Net
Past reviews include:
“L-Carrier ,” demonstrates another facet of Mr. Keszler’s work: the construction of large-scale, interactive installation pieces, which can function alone or in tandem with live performers. (“Catching Net,” a two-CD set newly issued on the German label Pan, includes contrasting versions of a similarly conceived piece.) In essence “L-Carrier” is an installation of piano wires from 3 to 70 feet long, amplified and struck with mechanical beaters triggered by input from a remote Web page hosted by Turbulence, a Web-art initiative.
“At Eyebeam, Mr. Keszler’s spindly lattice stretches across a gallery wall and extends to the ceiling beams, filling the reverberant space with the steely pangs and groans of a ghost ship rocking on a river’s currents. For Thursday’s opening-night event, presented by Eyebeam and Turbulence in conjunction with the Issue Project Room’s Darmstadt Institute, Mr. Keszler led an octet in a live version of the work.
Anthony Coleman, playing Farfisa organ, and Geoff Mullen, who applied metal bolts and a glass slide to a partly unstrung electric guitar, worked mostly in tandem with Mr. Keszler’s busy flux. Ashley Paul, on clarinet and alto saxophone, and Reuben Son, a bassoonist, provided long, slightly funereal tones; the violinists C. Spencer Yeh and Catherine Lamb and the cellist Alex Waterman countered with warm sustained chords and flitting squeals.
For just over an hour Mr. Keszler’s music waxed and waned, the installation clanging and groaning along with the performers. At times you’d swear that the mechanical beaters were assessing what the ensemble’s sounds needed: a rude jolt here, a complementary hush there. Artful, perplexing and endlessly fascinating, it could just as well have been magic.”
- Steve Smith, The New York Times
“Keszler’s latest release, Catching Net, certainly pushes past typical record-length boundaries. A double CD surrounded by selected sketches, schematics and scores for the pieces included, Catching Net is an attempt to take a few very basic thoughts and build teeming, interactive worlds of sound with them. A 10-minute version of “Collecting Basin” suggests an impossibly low-strung and large upright bass being bowed the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. The remaining five pieces, though, are all variations on “Cold Pin”, a seemingly infinite premise that Keszler explored last year on a two-track LP of the same name.
The first disc opens with three distinct versions of “Cold Pin”, an idea that uses more than a dozen motors to beat and brush multiple piano wires stretched through a large space; oftentimes, as Keszler controls the tiny machines, a loosely instructed group of upper echelon improvisers plays around and in between the sounds of the strings.
On these three takes, the foundation remains constant, but the result varies wildly. “Cold Pin 3″ is ecstatic and shrieking, with Geoff Mullen’s guitar passing long, snarling notes through a melee of percussion and horn sighs; the much-shorter “Cold Pin 2″, however, suggests a thorough deconstruction of Oval’s electronica glitches, with a thousand tiny sounds flashing and snapping above a powerful subdural rumble. At set’s end, the machines play by themselves, showing the firmament to the other atmosphere. And though it goes by the name “Catching Net”, the title track and this collection’s highlight is “Cold Pin” reworked for string quartet and piano, with the musicians playing from scores rather than suggestions this time. Dynamic to the point of volatility, the 16-minute slinks and surges, grows quiet and blasts back in at triple volume– all very surprising for a piece that, by this point in the collection, has already been presented three times…The complicated relationships between composition and improvisation, between installations and recordings of the same are just two of the binaries Catching Net tests. There’s also the idea of the human responding to the machine and the machine responding to the human controller. Keszler avoids laptops in his work, making the sounds more prone to chance and error and unexpected achievement. That seems appropriate for a composer who first rose through the ranks of punk rock and still plays in Red Horse, a clattering act described by NPR’s Lars Gotrich as an “almost industrial-punk duo.”
- Pitchfork Magazine
Eli Keszler: The Violent New Worlds of Catching Net; “L-Carrier”
What does it mean to be a multimedia artist today? For 28 year-old American composer/percussionist Eli Keszler (www.elikeszler.com), the answer might not be what you would expect.
Keszler–whose new art installation L-Carrierrecently opened on June 7 at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center in New York City (video premiere below)–frequently combines elements of sound, visual art, and mechanical engineering to create highly immersive sonic environments rooted in the tactile world.
With his double album Catching Net, released on June 5 by the German record label PAN, Keszler continues to do what few artists are able to do — effectively translate his installations into engaging audio recordings. The installation documented prominently here, with both previously released and new iterations, is Cold Pin. The artist’s press release explains the process most succinctly: “Keszler’s installations employ piano wires of varying lengths; these are struck, scraped, and vibrated by microprocessor-controlled motorized arms…” The artist has in essence created a mechanical percussionist that can either produce its own “solo performance” or be accompanied by Keszler and other more “organic” musicians.
A musical abstract expressionist, Keszler excises anything that suggests a melody in favor of myriad textures with drones that blare, sear, and scrape their way across the soundscape. His creations are unapologetically violent, and none of the double album’s six tracks last less than ten minutes. It seems as if Keszler is attempting to break us from the preconceived notion that percussion’s primary role is to establish the rhythmic foundation of the music. ThroughoutCatching Net, the percussionist elicits seemingly countless colors from his drums, crotales, and other percussion instruments. In this way, Keszler gives the percussion family equal footing alongside the other instruments, rather than relegating it to less-than-musical status. His approach to the other instruments’ timbral possibilities is similarly inventive.
The Disc One opener, entitled “Cold Pin 1,” features a relentless barrage of sound — various drum rolls, clatters, clinks, screeches, tapping, and ear-ringing frequencies. This visceral onslaught gives way to “Cold Pin 2″: whirring sounds reminiscent of baseball cards stuck in bicycle spokes and pattering akin to rainfall provide a quieter, if no less daunting aural environment. As the composition progresses, signs of enigmatic and unspecified life suddenly appear — frog-like croaking, primal squealing that sounds like electric guitars, bird-like chirping, low growls and gongs. With his double album Catching Net, released on June 5 by the German record label PAN, Keszler continues to do what few artists are able to do — effectively translate his installations into engaging audio recordings. The installation documented prominently here, with both previously released and new iterations, is Cold Pin…A musical abstract expressionist, Keszler excises anything that suggests a melody in favor of myriad textures with drones that blare, sear, and scrape their way across the soundscape. His creations are unapologetically violent, and none of the double album’s six tracks last less than ten minutes. It seems as if Keszler is attempting to break us from the preconceived notion that percussion’s primary role is to establish the rhythmic foundation of the music. ThroughoutCatching Net, the percussionist elicits seemingly countless colors from his drums, crotales, and other percussion instruments. In this way, Keszler gives the percussion family equal footing alongside the other instruments, rather than relegating it to less-than-musical status. His approach to the other instruments’ timbral possibilities is similarly inventive.
The double album Catching Net confirms Eli Keszler as an artist whose distinctive blend of soundscape and architectural engineering transcends the perceived limitations of percussion, and in the process, forges new sound worlds.
- Daniel J. Kushner, Huffington Post