Thursday, June 11, 2009

Theo Bleckmann: Origami (2000)

If you haven't heard him, you have no idea what kind of music Theo Bleckmann makes.

His mostly-worldless vocals create the same kind of atmosphere I like in early church music. The sense is that I've stumbled into the midst of some kind of ritual I don't understand but immediately recognize as significant — so I shut up and listen carefully.

The solemn and sometimes even glacial pace is pretty much constant throughout this recording, but that doesn't tell you much. Nor does it help to note that Bleckmann mixes jazz instrumentation, electronics and the most organic instrument of all to somehow recast Tin Pan Alley standards as the soundtrack for the moment after death when your soul floats toward the ceiling.

It's hard to tell how much is improvised, so I suppose it may not even qualify as jazz "as we know it." But it's really, really good.

Bleckmann's discography lists eleven recordings he leads or co-leads, so you should, you know,
go buy some.

Theo Bleckmann [voice, piano, live electronics]
Ben Monder [guitar]
Matt Moran [vibraphone]
Skuli Sverrisson [electric bass]
John Hollenbeck [drums, percussion]

  1. DNA
  2. Douce dame jolie (Machaut)
  3. None of the Above
  4. Origami
  5. Static Still
  6. Alloy
  7. I Remember You (Mercer/Schertzinger)
  8. Like Brother and Sister (Montano)
  9. Nova Scotia
  10. An den kleinen Radioapparat (Eisler/Brecht)
  11. Without Sky
  12. Rhombicosidodecahedron
  13. Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries (Brown/Henderson)
December 2000, NYC
Compositions by Theo Bleckmann except as noted.
320 kbps mp3 rip from an eMusic download of Songlines CD 1534


Festoonic said...

ish said...

Perhaps posting a record that this artist is still trying to sell for himself isn't the best way to support him.

I've been lucky enough to see him perform many times...definitely catch his show live.

Festoonic said...

I told myself I'd rethink this enterprise at the first hint of negative feedback about the ethics of it. And Ish is a Blogger of Note in this corner of the music blogsphere, so I take his remarks to heart.
No, this isn't out of print, but I've never seen any of Bleckmann's work at my local record store and I never would have found this one but for having had the luxury of sifting endlessly through eMusic offerings back in palmier days, so I think that qualifies as "hard-to-find." On the face of it, though, Ish is right. You could -- and should -- buy this one through Bleckmann's site instead of downloading it here for nothing. But if you don't know about his work, would you do that? Here in the hinterlands, we don't have access to his performances and his records don't appear in the shops.
One of the sole virtues of pegging all such questions on the existing laws regarding intellectual property is how it allows us to sidestep questions of ethics. But every other approach raises as many questions as it answers. If I download this, like it, and purchase a bunch more of his records through Mr. Bleckmann's site, isn't that a net good? Should I have more reservations about posting music from musicians I've seen and talked to than to those I know only through recordings? And is all of this blather really just rationalization? Probably. You could make the same case for lots of other recordings I've posted here. Initially I posted only the most obscure stuff I could dig out, but lately it's been more about sharing music I'm excited about that meets the standards of "hard-to-find" according to a conveniently shifting scale. And my own downloading habits have become more promiscuous, too. Maybe it is time to stop.

ish said...

I'm sorry for leaving a trollishly short comment here before Festoonic; thanks for your thoughtful response.

I've struggled with these questions myself, both for what I've posted on my own blog and what I've downloaded. I've received many comments on my blog from musicians who were thrilled their old records were getting some new exposure and new fans. The issue just gets cloudy when it comes to newer stuff from indie artists who we, as music bloggers, really want to spread the word about but who may also be actively trying to promote their own careers.

I recently posted two albums by a relatively recent artist--like Bleckmann--and I went back and forth over whether I should. I tried to find if they had any presence as current musicians on the web and found no evidence. If I had found these guys selling their own records with a current following I probably wouldn;t have posted them. That said, you love this Bleckmann record--rightfully--and want to share it. Perhaps the solution is to offer lower quality bitrate, or not the entire album, or, even better, make a compilation of your favorite underexposed discoveries, and include a couple of his tracks and send people in his direction for more.

I don't mean to discourage you from sharing or's a new world and we're working out our own standards for it; in any case I certainly am not trying to play God or your conscience. For me, it's about striking a balance between saying we love this music an also wanting to respect the musician. In cases of a super rare 1971 slice of vinyl from a long-gone indie label I have no qualms about offering this up; and truthfully my only qualms about offering up the latest Mariah Carey CD (questions of good taste aside!) are legal ones. But here's a guy making his own career and well, it's more complicated. Peace.

corvimax said...

i have no listened yet, but presentation is encouraging. i never heard of Theo Bleckmann, and i live not even hinterland but in the out of nowhere zone.
and one cannot buy everything -unless is superrich- is good we have the chance to listen new music
also to buy on the net require a card that not everybody has or can have
so thank you for this post

Festoonic said...

I like the notion of offering recent work at a lower bitrate. I'll give that some thought.

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