New release: Agog

Agog is Hal Rammel’s third collection of solo works for amplified palette, an instrument he first designed and built in 1992.  All seventeen percussion pieces on this collection were recorded in realtime, without overdubs or processing, using set-ups of multiple palettes arranged as a tabletop instrument and played with a wide variety of homemade mallets.  Each palette has its own unique arrangement of vertical metal and wooden rods producing a rich resonant space that varies dramatically within the selections on this new recording.

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 As a visual artist, composer, and performer Hal Rammel has been designing and building unusual one-of-a-kind musical instruments since the mid 1970s. The amplified palette – first constructed in 1991 – is simply an artist’s palette with various wood and metal rods attached to be played with mallets or bows specifically designed for the instrument.  Amplified with a contact microphone it generates sounds which on first hearing may be likened to a mbira (‘thumb piano’) or to a prepared piano or – when played with a bow – to a cello or viola.

Midwest Disquiet is Hal Rammel’s first solo recording on the amplified palette since the release of the Crouton 10” Like Water Tightly Wound early in 2007.  Solo recordings of the instrument are few and far between.  Only the set of three 7” singles LOST DATA from 2006 and the 1994 collection Elsewheres (all released by Penumbra Music) round out its sparse discography.

On Midwest Disquiet the unique timbral qualities of the palette are carefully explored from the rough growls of “Throttle and Disregard” to soft percussive rattling on “Distance So Vivid.”   Six performances round out this 50 minutes disc, including two variations on “The Undiscovered” and an extended all-percussion piece titled “Distance so Vivid,” all captured in an intimate detailed recording mastered at Chicago ’s Experimental Sound Studio.

Midwest Disquiet is released in a limited number edition of 99 in 7” sleeves. An additional 201 copies will be available in a numbered edition in conventional compact disc packaging.

A view of Lost Bridge (photo by John Rammel, 1950s)

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Regarding Hal Rammel’s previous amplified palette recordings:

“This is music for which descriptions are useless – a record that by its existence alone fails a description merely in words. Accompanied by a photograph of his invention and a detailed description of the process, it comes as beautifully packaged as the music contained inside. In a nutshell, an instant classic record.” – GAZ-ETA

“The music retains a ruminative character but balances careful consideration with a willingness to just let things happen and see what transpires. The results are simply lovely, deep and, for some of us, intensely nostalgic.” – Bagatellen

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