edition: 500

  1. moss


Moss, is a live recording from a unique collaboration by sound artists/musicians Molly Berg, Olivia Block, Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello. This was a midnight concert at the beautiful Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, CA which was part of the 01SJ Biennial. Olivia and Steve had performed solo sets on the previous nights. The final night was meant to be a duo with Molly and Stephen but the opportunity to play with musicians/friends who we admire so much called out for an invitation to play together. As the set was entirely improvised, the billing really changed in our minds from being a duo with guests to becoming a quartet. The church itself was certainly inspiring, it’s dark wood and clean dry acoustics. There was a very small but dedicated audience. No one slept and the church crew were able to, amazingly, quiet the rowdy revelers on the street for the duration of their set.

Anyone familiar with any of the four musicians involved in this recording will know the level of craftsmanship and attention to sonic tactility that can be found within. They each exercise such incredible restraint, a feat difficult to pull off in an impromptu improvised session where musicians are often found competing for space, and allow for a sense of place to work its way through the quiet recording. “Moss” breathes like a living being lying down to sleep — a delicate wave of hushed field recordings, tape tracks and subtle electronics provides a bed for which Molly Berg’s clarinet and voice (joined at times by Steve Roden) ebb and sway, allowed center- stage, in movements across the piece’s 24+ minutes. Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello provide guitar (lap steel and electric, respectively) while Olivia Block manipulates the tapes, field recordings and electronics.

Moss is a perfect example of how four like-minded friends and musicians can come together at a moment’s notice and create, unrehearsed, a captivating and beautiful sonic landscape. The connection between them as artists is completely evident while at the same time disappearing into the background to allow the piece move like a singular body.

  • reviews:
  • An one-off group at work here: Moss is Olivia Block (field recordings, tapes, electronics), Molly Berg (clarinet and voice), Steve Roden (lap steel guitar, harmonica, voice) and Stephen Vitiello (guitar, field recordings). It was one of those things that happen spontaneously, at festivals around the world: friends who meet up for that occasion and play together. In this case the O1SJ Biennial in San Jose, where Berg and Vitiello were supposed to play as a duo, but with Block and Roden joining in. The concert was entirely improvised in a church, which perhaps accounts for the cerebral atmosphere. In this twenty four some minute concert the atmosphere is quite free. Lots of field recordings float freely into eachother, while the clarinet has the leading role here. That adds a rare improvised feel to a 12K recording, but it sits well with all the other music that is going on. Gentle introspective music at work here. Recorded at midnight and somehow you can tell that. Light has faded and the nocturnal cries (ghosts? birds? owls?) come alive, all along with a solitary playing of the clarinet. A small treasure.

    vital weekly
  • The latest installment in 12k’s Limited Series finds Molly Berg, Olivia Block, Steve Roden, and Stephen Vitiello—Moss, naturally—collaborating on a twenty-four-minute live improvisation recorded at a midnight concert on September 28, 2010 at the Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, California as part of the digital arts 01SJ Biennal. The set was originally planned to be a duo involving Berg and Vitiello (previously responsible for the The Gorilla Variations issued on 12k in 2009), but as Block and Roden had performed solo sets on the previous nights at the same festival, all four were available to participate in a live performance. All contribute significantly to a total sound mass—an expansive sonic landscape of sorts—that seems to take on a life and will of its own as it develops, despite the fact that there are four individuals breathing life into it.

    Berg’s clarinet is the primary lead voice in the early going, but other sounds grow in prominence as the piece develops. The guitar and lap steel guitar playing of Vitiello and Roden, respectively, and Block’s field recordings, tapes, and electronics flesh out the collective sound considerably until it becomes a restlessly mutating organism. Berg’s presence in particular lends a humanizing character to the drone-like material, whether that comes in the form of woodsy clarinet playing or occasional voice contributions (Roden’s voice is also present). Throughout the piece, myriad individual sounds float o’ertop a shimmering bed of electronics and textures, with the four participants being careful to leave space for each other’s sounds and not cancel one another out. The mood is peaceful and meditative, and the feel relaxed and patient. As the piece nears its end, the intensity level rises slightly, prompting Berg’s clarinet to swoop and weave as the material moves into its closing moments. It’s rather remarkable to discover just how organized and balanced the piece sounds, especially considering its improvised form. Such an outcome must to some degree be attributable to the humility and restraint exemplified by the collaborators in the approach they brought, individually and collectively, to the music’s creation.

  • The four participants, Molly Berg (clarinet and vocals), Olivia Block (tapes and electronics), Steve Roden (lap steel guitar) and Stephen Vitiello (electric guitar), congregated for an impromptu performance late one night at a San Francisco cathedral. Given the nature of the performance and instrumentation, each individual can be heard clearly: Roden’s guitar appears early atop taped clatterings and subtle electronics from Block, which then is met by sparse, wordless vocals from Berg.

    When she switches from vocals to clarinet, the piece gets sharper and a bit louder, but then calms back down, allowing bird chirps and gentle melodies to fill the opened space. Sparse electric guitar from Vitiello becomes audible, as does a deep, almost rhythmic loop of clacking sound, rocks perhaps? At this point each element that comes in sticks around, leading to a complex, but not overly dense mix, placing expansive electronic drones with what could be rainforest field recordings and repeated backwards melodies. With the clarinet leading, the closing moments end up taking along a subtle jazzy feeling.

    While there is a noticeable improvisational feeling to be found, the four players synthesize their sounds together quite well, especially considering this isn’t extracted from a longer performance, and that there was no practice or rehearsal beforehand. Each artist can be heard, but no one overshadows the other, truly uniting them as a group. The result is a beautiful, understated performance that retains the live, at the moment feeling that was surely felt in the cathedral when it was recorded.

  • Although this self-titled EP consists of a single 24+ minute track, the experience captured by this recording begs to be repeated. MOSS is actually an acronym, consisting of four names, four artists and four friends – Molly Berg, Olivia Block, Steve Roden, and Stephen Vitiello. Out of this group, Berg and Vitiello have previously appeared on 12k with their 2009 release, The Gorilla Variations. Block has mostly released experimental works on Massachusetts-based Sedimental. And Los Angeles based Roden, has been contributing to Line, Trente Oiseaux, Interior Sounds and many others. Originally, the performance was only meant to be a collaboration between Berg and Vitiello, at the San Jose’s Trinity Cathedral for the 01SJ Biennial festival. But with Block and Roden in the vicinity, an opportunity presented itself that could not be passed on. The newly formed quartet creates a totally improvised sonic space, inhaling the acoustics of the church, and exhaling an immense restraint of sound. Complimented with just a touch of Berg’s voice and clarinet, Vitiello’s electric guitar, Roden’s lap steel fingerboard, and Block’s expert live manipulations of tapes, field recordings and electronics, the music on MOSS is an intricate play between the performers, the audience, and most importantly, the space itself. Recorded at midnight, the cathedral hosted a unique moment of an extemporaneous craftsmanship unfolding live within its dark, damp, and wooden belly. I am only thankful that Vitiello recorded it, and 12k released it, so that this moment can be captured, archived, and replayed.

    Headphone Commute