mJane | prayers from the underbelly

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prayers from the underbelly

by mJane

Founded in New Mexico in 2003 by conductor/composer/performer Molly Sturges, mJane is a project which brings together a wide range of improvisational & compositional ideas through live conduction systems to create an ever-changing sonic environment...
Genre: Jazz: Free Jazz
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1. utterance
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2. summon
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1:32 $0.99
3. pilgrim
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4. (dis)solve
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5. bones
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6. birch
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7. edie
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8. she
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9. (and)
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Founded in New Mexico in 2003 by conductor/composer/performer Molly Sturges, mJane is a project which brings together a wide range of improvisational and compositional ideas through live conduction systems (comprised of hand and eye signals) to create an ever-changing sonic environment belonging uniquely to each performance. Consisting of both electronic and acoustic instrumentation, mJane works between intimate and ambient, body and space. mJane relies on highly sophisticated forms of musical communication between ensemble members to reach into subtle and expected musical realms. mJane consists of: Molly Jane Sturges conduction/composition/vocals/harmonium, CK Barlow-sampling/live sampling, DJ Ultraviolet (Shawn O'Neal)-turntables, Mustafa Stefan Dill-Oud and Jefferson Voorhees-drums/percussion.
As the primary vocalist in the project, Sturges approaches voice as instrument, expressessing herself through vocables with limited use of lyrics. Drawing from vocal resonance in the body, she seeks to get beneath traditional constructs of emotion into less interpretable areas of expression and communication. Prayers from the Underbelly was mJane's first project which led to a publicly acclaimed performance at The Second Annual High Mayhem Festival in New Mexico. The recording of that performance is released on Pax Recordings (October 2004). Their second project, Samea, was performed at The Third Annual High Mayhem Festival, October 2004 and was dedicated to children who have been killed during the US occupation of Iraq. In 2005, mJane will begin touring the western and southwestern United States. mJane also has a track on the new Voices In The Wilderness: Dissenting Soundscapes & Songs of GW'S America Pax Recordings CD. Available on CD Baby, too. http://cdbaby.com/cd/vitwilderness

ABOUT PRAYERS FROM THE UNDERBELLY
Prayers From The Underbelly is one long performance broken by conducted pauses. It is a piece which abstractly addresses the concept of duality and was inspired by Sturges' near death experience during the birth of her daughter. Joining mJane for the performance was guest vocalist Julie West.

BIO
Molly Sturges is a composer, performer and director focusing on the intersection of improvisation and composition. She has performed widely as an improvisational vocalist specializing in extended vocal techniques with recent performances with composer/improvisers Anthony Braxton and Malcolm Goldstein. Sturges has received numerous commissions to write and perform original music for a wide array of projects including music for American dance companies, silent films and circuses. Sturges is a member of the improvisational ensemble "Out of Context" (J.A. Deene) and is the co-founder of the ensemble experimental/global/groove/jazz project BING with collaborator Chris Jonas who released their first recording "Galore" in 2003 (QuinnerBinner/BMI). She holds an MA in composition from Wesleyan University. As a director, Sturges leads the Collaborative Performance Projects and will be directing a large-scale intergenerational installation/performance project for the European Union Festival of Culture 2005 in Cork, Ireland. Other projects include sound installations and a long-term video/sound project called NIGHT.
For mJane booking and contact information: Web: www.mollysturges.com Email: mollysturges@yahoo.com


Reviews


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Dolf Mulder, Vital Weekly

Nice surprise from Pax!
Another hard to classify CD by Pax Recordings. Some facts first: Mjane is an ensemble led by conductor, performer and composer Molly Sturges, founded in 2003 in New Mexico. The ensemble has six musicians together combining an usual set of instruments: Molly Jane Sturges (conduction, composition, vocals, harmonium), CK Barlow (sampling/live sampling), DJ Ultraviolet (Shawn O'Neal)(turntables), Moustafa Stefan Dill (Oud) and Jefferson Voorhees (drums/percussion). Mjane offers a blend that is typical for modern music: composition
and improvisation are interwoven; acoustic and
electronic/electro-acoustic instruments and soundsources are used. From time to time the music comes close to idiom taken from all kinds of ethnic music. Besides we hear traditional playing of the oud but also turntables and samplers. What is Mjane aiming at with the help of all these different means
and influences? Liner notes give some explanation: "Prayer from the Underbelly is one long performance broken by conducted pauses. It is a piece which addresses the concept of duality and was inspired by Sturges'near death experience during the birth of her daughter. Approaching voice as instrument, Sturges expresses herself through vocables with limited use of lyrics. Drawing from vocal resonance in
the body, Sturges seeks to get beneath traditonal constructs of emotion into less interpretable areas of expression and
communication." True, despite the fact that Mjane is a melting pot of all kinds of influences, the music is very personal and emotional and has great impact. Specially because of the singing by Molly Sturges and Julie West. Nice surprise from Pax!

Glenn Astarita, Jazzreview.com

Recommended for the adventure seeker…
This quintet is almost impossible to categorize. Then again, stereotyping the arts in general can be risky business. Here, vocalist Molly Sturges also conducts this band through a hodgepodge of musical soundscapes, comprising avant-world music, electronica, and jazz improvisation. The overall muse transmitted boasts various angles and mood-evoking sentiment, throughout this album recorded live at a venue in Santa Fe, NM.

C.K. Barlow’s sampling maneuvers generally serve as background effects. And in some instances it seems that Ms Sturges’ otherworldly chant and drone style vocalize is modulated through live electronics. There are a multitude of abstracts, although a gentle flow permeates the entire outing. Nonetheless, a sense of darkness combined with elements of the macabre surface on occasion. It’s an interesting mix as tribal-like percussion grooves coalesce with Moustapha Stefan Dill’s Oud performances and DJ Ultraviolet’s turntable escapades. But nothing gets out of hand here, although Ms Sturge’s vocals often provide an eerie calmness counterbalanced by moments of high pitched shrieks. If you think you’ve heard it all done before, well, you might want to try this album out for size. (Recommended for the adventure seeker…)

Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation

Most highly recommended!
This very interesting recording was captured during 2nd Annual High Mayhem Festival, in Santa Fe, NM, in November of 2003. It is quite well recorded, after the intro. During the introduction, composer Molly Sturges leads in with sort of "low-key" vocals (what I mean by that is that you really have to listen to grasp what she is doing), but as the players get settled in a bit, and the piece begins to take shape, it is clear that the voice is being explored as the key instrument. It's not "spoken word", or some drab/screaming speaker flogging you about with phrases that don't make sense. On the other hand, as it goes into the second movement, there are some strong vocal stretches that might be "frightening" to some. & no wonder, according to the liners, this was based on a Near Death Experience (NDE) that Ms. Sturges had during the birth of her daughter. I can tell you (having been through an NDE myself) that there are parts of this that remind me of the ghostly "snatches" you see/hear when passing through the tunnel. From a listener's standpoint, this will require headphones and some level of intensity... you can not grasp what the performers are trying to communicate if you try to do this as "background" for your cocktail party. Adventurous listeners the world over will agree when I declare this to be MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED... those without any sense of adventure will probably fare better listening to the theme from Mary Poppins!

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

...many beguiling moments in this exquisite act of remembrance.
This piece's concept builds upon a close encounter with death during a birth, something that was experienced by Molly Jane Sturges, composer/improviser of these prayers along with mJane members DJ Ultraviolet (turntables) CK Barlow (sampling) Moustapha Stephan Dill (oud) Jefferson Voorhees (percussion) plus the additional voice of Julie West. We're often into Diamanda Galas/Meredith Monk territories as far as sonority and influences are concerned; suffering voices and lulling lamentations dance with harmoniums and electronics, while the oud gives a touch of spicy poetry whenever entering the frame. Every once in a while the musicians take off in ritual flights where the rhythmical scansion nears the listener to a native indian kind of invocation. "Edie" is maybe the best part: a highly engrossing mantra whose hypnotic charm is broken only by the oud/voice final beauty which is "She"; but there are many beguiling moments in this exquisite act of remembrance.

Andrew Fields

Highly imaginative, thoughtful music.
For those who like free jazz and similar types of outward music, this is a solid CD. It's subtle, but it drew me in.

Tamara Turner, CD Baby

A perfect straddling of the musical and the amusical- ingenious.
Since one of the themes in experimental/avant garde music is to defy the trends and the catchy, spoon-feed music, you would think it would be an oxymoron to find such an album that gets under the skin in a comparable way. However, this album injects itself with bizzarre but entrancing needle pricks rather than with subversive, predictable catchiness. You might say it's been heavily influenced by contemporary classical compositional exploration during the 60s in academic circles as well as 12-tone masters like Berg and Schoenberg- or you might sense the familiar, improvisational directions of free and acid jazz, but when music is stripped of its rhythmic pulsing and its symmetrical harmony to this degree, genres don't really apply anymore. That's not to say that "Prayers From the Underbelly" is random and chaotic. There is a distinct and commendable organization to these pieces and while they hover most often around the qualities of "haunting," "ghostly," "pained," and "supernatural," there is still a lyrical beauty, an intentional shaping and carving of concentrated aural intensity that results in a perfect straddling of the musical and the amusical which I would dare to call ingenious.

Dave Madden, Splendid Magazine

immediately inviting, personable...but still challenging enough...
How often can you say that you want to go a second round after experiencing a piece of experimental music? Sure, you might respect the craft and honor the musicians for their innovations, but is it too much to ask for them to produce something listenable and intriguing enough to keep you around for several spins?

The mJane ensemble must feel the same way, and craft their works accordingly. Each piece in this live recording from 2003's High Mayhem festival in Santa Fe is immediately inviting, personable and just plain nice to listen to, but still challenging enough to use as your Master's thesis. Though obviously well-versed in the genre and musically trained as improvisers, the group employs the emotional side of music as their process, something universal that transcends techniques and methods. Prayers From the Underbelly is not easily defined with logic, twelve-tone matrix charts and tonal dissection; mJane build a connection (spiritual, mystical, great chops?) between performers and audience, and foster it until you're completely under their spell.

Though the group's crossover approach -- turntables, live sampling, prepared piano, voice and random percussion with oud and harmonium -- is fairly unsettling, there's care and thought for each sound in a global perspective, each performer somehow fitting in perfectly with his or her obtuse counterpart. "Utterance" begins exactly as such, a sliced up series of turntable cuts from DJ Ultraviolet, who uses serialist records as her source. The scratchy surfaces and disjunct "piano" melodies cross-fade into Moustapha Stefan Dill's aforementioned oud plucking and Julie West's feverishly passionate vocals, which loop and form their own world via CK Barlow's sampler. Offering a nod to early 4AD "goth" bands such as Dead Can Dance, they create a heavy ethnic-mixed-with-Romantic aesthetic; percussionist Jefferson Vorhees sets a murky pace with djembe as West's layered vox continue to soar, then run their course, dissipate and give way to a startling, fierce vibrato and explosive drums on "Summon". "Pilgrim" follows with an unintelligible whisper and even less identifiable tape-loop style electronics that lay into a groove, pushing the previous track's momentum to its breaking point. "(Dis)solve" showcases Dill's work with a solo full of pregnant pauses and a wide range of dynamics, then locks him into a duet with West. They're soon joined with pseudo-throat singing and evolving white noise textures that take off on their own path. The striking "Edie" peels everything back to founder/conductor/composer Molly Sturges on harmonium; her melodies sound Medieval, but working in Indian-style tandem with West's croon.

The icing on the cake, and the element that secures mJane's blue ribbon for "most endearing players of the avant-garde", occurs in the last seconds of closer "(and)". After cheers, an introduction and thank you to each player, Sturges is heard, innocent and mild-mannered, saying, "We did it!"

It's likely that some beard-scratching academics will write mJane off, accusing them of following their muse along too broad a path. The John Zorn-loving crew will accuse the ensemble of being too focused and structured -- the word "composition" is mentioned as the album's basis. To those critics, a suggestion: you may have forgotten that music is about listening. Don't think so much and you might actually enjoy yourselves.

Dave Madden, Splendid Magazine

immediately inviting, personable...but still challenging enough...
How often can you say that you want to go a second round after experiencing a piece of experimental music? Sure, you might respect the craft and honor the musicians for their innovations, but is it too much to ask for them to produce something listenable and intriguing enough to keep you around for several spins? The mJane ensemble must feel the same way, and craft their works accordingly. Each piece in this live recording from 2003's High Mayhem festival in Santa Fe is immediately inviting, personable and just plain nice to listen to, but still challenging enough to use as your Master's thesis. Though obviously well-versed in the genre and musically trained as improvisers, the group employs the emotional side of music as their process, something universal that transcends techniques and methods. Prayers From the Underbelly is not easily defined with logic, twelve-tone matrix charts and tonal dissection; mJane build a connection (spiritual, mystical, great chops?) between performers and audience, and foster it until you're completely under their spell. Though the group's crossover approach -- turntables, live sampling, prepared piano, voice and random percussion with oud and harmonium -- is fairly unsettling, there's care and thought for each sound in a global perspective, each performer somehow fitting in perfectly with his or her obtuse counterpart. "Utterance" begins exactly as such, a sliced up series of turntable cuts from DJ Ultraviolet, who uses serialist records as her source. The scratchy surfaces and disjunct "piano" melodies cross-fade into Moustapha Stefan Dill's aforementioned oud plucking and Julie West's feverishly passionate vocals, which loop and form their own world via CK Barlow's sampler. Offering a nod to early 4AD "goth" bands such as Dead Can Dance, they create a heavy ethnic-mixed-with-Romantic aesthetic; percussionist Jefferson Vorhees sets a murky pace with djembe as West's layered vox continue to soar, then run their course, dissipate and give way to a startling, fierce vibrato and explosive drums on "Summon". "Pilgrim" follows with an unintelligible whisper and even less identifiable tape-loop style electronics that lay into a groove, pushing the previous track's momentum to its breaking point. "(Dis)solve" showcases Dill's work with a solo full of pregnant pauses and a wide range of dynamics, then locks him into a duet with West. They're soon joined with pseudo-throat singing and evolving white noise textures that take off on their own path. The striking "Edie" peels everything back to founder/conductor/composer Molly Sturges on harmonium; her melodies sound Medieval, but working in Indian-style tandem with West's croon. The icing on the cake, and the element that secures mJane's blue ribbon for "most endearing players of the avant-garde", occurs in the last seconds of closer "(and)". After cheers, an introduction and thank you to each player, Sturges is heard, innocent and mild-mannered, saying, "We did it!" It's likely that some beard-scratching academics will write mJane off, accusing them of following their muse along too broad a path. The John Zorn-loving crew will accuse the ensemble of being too focused and structured -- the word "composition" is mentioned as the album's basis. To those critics, a suggestion: you may have forgotten that music is about listening. Don't think so much and you might actually enjoy yourselves.