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arunself thumbnail
arunself Michael Manring is GOD !!! Favorite track: Zen/Unzen.
CH thumbnail
CH this is a gorgeous treasure, a perfect blend of Pinhas' longform drone mode, Cleveland's hypnotic electricity, Manring's expressive phrasing, and the propulsion of Alberti's layered pulse. gradually transportive as textures unfold and sonic images emerge from - and melt back into - a seemingly endless parade of color and depth. Favorite track: Zen/Unzen.
John Cratchley
John Cratchley thumbnail
John Cratchley "To pass the barrier of no-barrier is to pass through the self-centred dream we maintain...Mu is not an experience but seeing..." Elihu Genmyo Smith
Can't help feeling that Michael Manring steals the show, though...
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Zen/Unzen 09:26


One day a troubled monk approached Joshu, a renowned Chinese Zen master, intending to ask him for guidance. A dog walked by and the monk asked Joshu, "Has that dog a Buddha Nature or not?" The monk had barely completed his question when Joshu shouted: "Mu!"

Mu is often translated as “nothingness,” but as the response in Zen’s most famous koan, the gesture speaks to a truth deeper than rational dualistic thinking can obtain—therefore also resonating with the creative mindset accompanying the purest forms of musical improvisation.

The music created by French guitar iconoclast and electronic music pioneer Richard Pinhas and insistently inventive San Francisco Bay Area guitarist Barry Cleveland on Mu originated in just such a way, arising seemingly from “nothingness.” The two had contemplated performing as well as recording together for several years before their stars finally aligned, and they played several Bay Area shows during the same period that Mu was recorded.

Unfettered by genre conventions, Mu is a mesmerizing combination of entirely improvised music and Cleveland’s post-production compositional development. The four long pieces unfurl as a confluence of overlapping musical currents informed by art rock, ambient, electronic, avant-garde jazz, and various “world” music inflections. Joined by two longtime Cleveland collaborators—electric bass innovator Michael Manring and Brazilian-born drum master Celso Alberti — these expansive and timeless soundscapes will have definite appeal to fans of artists like Jon Hassell, Arve Henriksen, Nils Petter Molvær, Bill Laswell, David Torn, Brian Eno, David Sylvian and David Bowie.

Pinhas’ distinctive musical aesthetic is facilitated by his Metatronic live-looping and effects system that enables him to create an astonishing variety of tones and textures and layer them into continually changing stream-of-consciousness soundscapes. His approach on Mu was especially dynamic. “Besides opening up fresh sonic horizons himself, Richard did an impressive job of responding to the rapid shifts in tempo, tonality, and intensity of the quartet, which is far from easy when using a looping system such as his,” explains Cleveland. “His performance on ‘I Wish I Could Talk In Technicolor,’ in particular, may be the most dynamic and nuanced I’ve heard from him yet.”

Cleveland’s aesthetic is equally sui generis. In addition to playing guitar in the conventional manner he plays with a bow, a bowhammer, an Ebow, and other devices, as well as using sophisticated electronics and looping to access intriguing new aural realms. On Mu, he also played Moog Guitar, sitar guitar, Vocalizer 1000 woodwind synth, M-Tron, zither, kalimba, gong, and incidental percussion.

“Hyperbassist” Michael Manring’s mind-blowing virtuosity is equaled only by the richness of feeling expressed in his playing. He and drummer/percussionist Celso Alberti, a master of multiple rhythmic traditions, share a near-psychic connection that enlivens their truly uncanny interactions.

In bringing together this singular quartet, Cleveland and Pinhas take another bold step with Mu. Given their long histories of innovation and experimentation it shouldn’t be surprising to find them venturing into the unknown. But there’s still something inspiring about witnessing veteran artists willing to follow a thread of inspiration into the void, only to emerge with new revelations. “In many ways,” says Cleveland, “this album represents the culmination of concepts and techniques I’ve been developing my entire life.”


released September 16, 2016

Forgotten Man
RP: synthesizer guitar, Metatronics
BC: guitar, Moog guitar, percussion programming

I Wish I Could Talk In Technicolor
RP: guitar, Metatronics
BC: guitar, Moog guitar, bowed guitar, bowhammer guitar, EBow guitar, sitar guitar, M-Tron, kalimba, zither, gong, incidental percussion, samples
MM: bass, EBow bass
CA: drums, electronic drums, percussion

RP: guitar, Metatronics
BC: guitar, Moog guitar, Vocalizer 1000, M-Tron, gong
MM: bass, EBow bass
CA: drums

Parting Waves
RP: guitar, Metatronics
BC: guitar, 12-string guitar, gong, samples
MM: bass, EBow bass
CA: cymbal

All compositions by Richard Pinhas and Barry Cleveland.

Produced, recorded, and mixed by Barry Cleveland at ElevenEleven Recorders.
Acoustic drums and percussion recorded by Celso Alberti at C.A. Studios.
Bass on “Parting Waves” recorded by Michael Manring at Funk & Disorderly.
Guitar synthesizer on “Forgotten Man” recorded by Richard Pinhas at Heldon Studio.

Mastered by John Cuniberti.

Cover painting “A World On Its Own” by Bedri Baykam. Courtesy of Bedri Baykam and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.
Processed photos by Barry Cleveland.
Group photo by Celso Alberti.

Graphic design and layout by Bill Ellsworth.


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Cuneiform Records Washington, D.C.

Cuneiform Records is an independent record label releasing adventurous, boundary-bursting music by artists from around the world.

Founded in 1984.
Based in Washington D.C.

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