CD Baby.com

PLASTIC MACHINE MUSIC

Like Primus, Sun Ra and Zappa meeting inside a pinball machine, cross-breeding and sprouting new appendages while video game-like effects bounce in and out, "Plastic Machine Music" is an ingenius hybrid of jazz fusion backdrops, experimental electronic innovation and a poprock-informed writing. While like almost all electronica, the progression and development is more linear than vertical, additive and layered, born of its computer-based, sequencing conception, there is still creative development of motives and ideas, an overall giddy enjoyment of urban, industrial and machine noises. 5 STARS!!

AllAboutJazz.com

PLASTIC MACHINE MUSIC

Greg Pagel is a nut, and I mean that in the best way. I have never met him, even though we both live in Wisconsin—I know, you're shocked that we're not all huddled around the same ice-fishing hole and/or Lambeau Field brat grill, but there you have it. But yeah, "Plastic Machine Music" is proof enough that the man is off his damned rocker, and proud to be so. And I think it is a very good thing for all of us that he is. This recording is basically just him on a variety of instruments both real and fake, making one of the funniest jazz-related discs I've ever heard. There's humor here from the very first track, where Pagel says that anyone who copies his CD will be shot; there's humor in the music, like in the discordant accordion funk of “It's Hard Work” and the pastiche of new wave synthesizers in “The 80's Sucked”; and even in song titles like “Flesh-Eating 7th Chords” and “Santorum.” (If you don't get that one, you had better do some research.) His is a big Dadaist sensibility, where anything can happen in service of a song. Sometimes he'll construct a fake scat solo over an electronic loop with sampled piano (”Oddbop”). At other times, he might need to put a fake-Chinese wind-chime top over a lazy hip-hop-esque beat (”Mission Accomplished”) or let synth squiggles run amok, like someone was holding mid-period Herbie Hancock over a pot of boiling oil (”Fact-Based Initiatives”). It's a hoot, as we say up here, a real hoot. But Pagel has another side, too. Despite some of the wacky samples and I'm-so-weird touches, the title track is credible modern fusion in 7/8 time. “Andy Plays the Guitar” is really kind of hot, with his brother Andy pulling off a stunning funk riff. And if track 9 wasn't titled “The Sound of Mucous,” you might actually think that Pagel had some very serious ideas about how to have fun with electronic music. (Or at least think that he's just done a hilariously effective parody of Hiromi's entire career. I love Hiromi, but this could be construed as a pretty great burn.) That's the only drawback here: this is a punchline disc, with not much more to it. Which is a shame; I mean, we all need fun strange funny electronic music in our lives sometimes, but we also need depth and truth and beauty, and every time you think any of that might be coming, Pagel undercuts himself with something self-consciously wacky. And that's fine, if that's where he's going. But I get the sense there's more to him. I'm interested to see where Greg Pagel goes in the future. "Plastic Machine Music" is adorable and light as a feather and a breath of fresh air. We could have a new class clown on our hands, so sorely needed in this over-serious genre. But his talent is a prodigious one, and he could end up giving us something a little more real someday.

The Strad

THE SWEET VOLCANO

An eruption of improvisatory resourcefulness

The Sweet Volcano is an exploration of the space where free improvisation meets post-Romantic chamber music. Matt Turner and Greg Pagel have been playing together for a decade and more, and have absorbed the sounds of, among others, Ives, Varèse and Crumb into their natural but purposeful musical conversations. The precise, forthright opening gestures of Turner’s cello inThe Dynamic Arch are typical, even when the tempo rises and the time to think evaporates. And with Pagel often acting as a foil, or prompt, for the more voluble cello lines, the balance and shape of each piece are beautifully poised, feeling almost premeditated at times.

That’s certainly the case in what seems like the duo’s natural emotional home: the lyrical, bittersweet world of Dark by Glance and Gloaming that frame the album. More exploratory music can be found deeper in, with shadowy, subterranean whisperings and abstractions, and occasional skittishness too. There are individual moments that linger in the memory, such as the microtonal opening of Toxin or Cosmetic and some dazzling piano scampering in the title piece. But the abiding sense is of a pair who know each other inside out, and can surprise and delight everyone else as a result.

Strings Magazine

The Sweet Volcano

The bold improvisational cellist Matt Turner teams up with pianist Greg Pagel (both are graduates of New England Conservatory and the Conservatory at Lawrence University) to explore richly textured atonal music based, in part, on the music of Schoenberg, Varese, Ives, Stravinsky, and Crumb. As you might expect, the resulting recordings are edgy and angular, as on the dynamic "Scherzo," but also surprisingly lyrical, as on the darkly beautiful "Widow's Watch."

Gapplegate Music Review

 

The creative possibilities of live electronics in avant garde music has blossomed in the last few decades, thanks in part to new devices, the laptop and software, among other things. Not everything done out there satisfies completely, of course, because it still has to do with musical creativity, but when everything is right we get something very good to hear.
That's true about Karmadog and their latest album recorded live at Culture Cafe (Ickerrecords), in Manitowoo, WI last year. Karmadog is Matt Turner on electronically altered cello and Greg Pagel on synthesizer. The live set we are concerned with here is a very varied presentation consisting entirely of free improvisations. It comes down on the side of new music more than jazz per se. It has an expanded tonality that usually has a key fulcrum center buried somewhere underneath yet it takes that tonality to the fringes of atonality at times. Other times it is firmly and ambiently tonal.
But it is the electronic sound colors and the pace of each musical section that distinguishes the music and makes it quite interesting. There are a great many more of these open-form live electronic groups out there today than might have been the case 30 years ago, so the competition (for what? Recognition, I guess. Surely not riches) is more fierce. Yet these two artists hold their own quite well in their own way.
I don't suppose I need to tell you that if Billy Joel is your idea of great music this may jar you to the roots of your teeth. But to make comparisons this is not as much a noise-oriented music than some other outfits out there so that if anybody will win over the Billy Joel fan, it will be Matt and Greg. Seriously though, that is not going to happen very often. This music will satisfy the dedicated follower of avant garde fashion. But no, fashion does not fit either, since this sort of thing is more anti-fashion.
The truth is, this may not be the place to start if you know nothing of the avant garde. Now if you Google "avant garde" as I just did you'd get 79,700,000 results in 0.37 seconds, so we are not talking about anything ephemeral any more. We have had 100 years or more of it. It may not surface in homespun circles very often, but it is very real and very much alive. Is it universally beloved? Hardly. And all 79,700,000 hits may not be positive. My partner's blank-to-English dictionary from years ago defined "beatnik" as a particular group of godless, immoral people, which perhaps misses the essence of that movement! So some things don't get beyond the "in" group intact, as that definition shows dramatically. Just an aside. It's what I face every day when communicating in these missives. How to get others involved outside of the usual converts?
Nevertheless Karmadog fits in well with all of it. This album is no marginal exercise in obscurity. It is pleasingly mellifluous, out music from two cogent improvisers who hit on good things throughout the set.
So go for it if you can see yourself listening to this and liking it. I did. Like it, I mean.

KARMADOG:LIVE

The creative possibilities of live electronics in avant garde music has blossomed in the last few decades, thanks in part to new devices, the laptop and software, among other things. Not everything done out there satisfies completely, of course, because it still has to do with musical creativity, but when everything is right we get something very good to hear.

That's true about Karmadog and their latest album recorded live at Culture Cafe (Ickerrecords), in Manitowoc, WI last year. Karmadog is Matt Turner on electronically altered cello and Greg Pagel on synthesizer. The live set we are concerned with here is a very varied presentation consisting entirely of free improvisations. It comes down on the side of new music more than jazz per se. It has an expanded tonality that usually has a key fulcrum center buried somewhere underneath yet it takes that tonality to the fringes of atonality at times. Other times it is firmly and ambiently tonal.

But it is the electronic sound colors and the pace of each musical section that distinguishes the music and makes it quite interesting. There are a great many more of these open-form live electronic groups out there today than might have been the case 30 years ago, so the competition (for what? Recognition, I guess. Surely not riches) is more fierce. Yet these two artists hold their own quite well in their own way.

I don't suppose I need to tell you that if Billy Joel is your idea of great music this may jar you to the roots of your teeth. But to make comparisons this is not as much a noise-oriented music than some other outfits out there so that if anybody will win over the Billy Joel fan, it will be Matt and Greg. Seriously though, that is not going to happen very often. This music will satisfy the dedicated follower of avant garde fashion. But no, fashion does not fit either, since this sort of thing is more anti-fashion.

The truth is, this may not be the place to start if you know nothing of the avant garde. Now if you Google "avant garde" as I just did you'd get 79,700,000 results in 0.37 seconds, so we are not talking about anything ephemeral any more. We have had 100 years or more of it. It may not surface in homespun circles very often, but it is very real and very much alive. Is it universally beloved? Hardly. And all 79,700,000 hits may not be positive. My partner's blank-to-English dictionary from years ago defined "beatnik" as a particular group of godless, immoral people, which perhaps misses the essence of that movement! So some things don't get beyond the "in" group intact, as that definition shows dramatically. Just an aside. It's what I face every day when communicating in these missives. How to get others involved outside of the usual converts?

Nevertheless Karmadog fits in well with all of it. This album is no marginal exercise in obscurity. It is pleasingly mellifluous, out music from two cogent improvisers who hit on good things throughout the set.

So go for it if you can see yourself listening to this and liking it. I did. Like it, I mean.