Shirin Neshat & Cherubim

Not a collaboration exactly… My friend Sujin Lee (text, video and performance artist) put together this promo video for Iranian contemporary artist Shirin Neshat’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea and the opening montage features music from Cherubim’s show last fall at Spectrum.

You can listen to a longer excerpt here:

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The 2013 Sroky’s are in…

As some of you may know, in 1897 my great great great aunt Godzislawa, thrice removed, started the Srokasonic Awards as an excuse to go on a three and a half day bender and angrily rant about the invention of the Telharmonium.  So in that spirit, I welcome you to the 117th annual Srokasonic Awards (or Sroky’s)!

The Sroky for best drum solo of 2013 goes to Gerald Cleaver, for “Cracking Hearts” on Craig Taborn trio – Chants.  I don’t even know what that is, I think I heard some dried leaves crackling, some demolition happening in the next apartment, possibly somebody doing a slappy on a curb down the street, but all at once and coming from different directions.  Damn.  Listening to these guys play together is like trying to spy on a triple headed hydra through a prism. 

The Sroky award for baby making music from outer space goes to James Blake – Overgrown.  Stark, strange, sexy, a lot of soulful humming, I feel weird saying that. Really far out production, I keep coming back to this record, wondering how it’s even possible.

The Sroky for achievements in filial inspiration goes to Molly Drake. Wow.

The Sroky for music I’m most embarrassed to have enjoyed goes to Vampire Weekend.  It’s just embarrassing to like a band with such a stupid name.

The Sroky for diaphenous, blissful melancholy goes to this Skuli Sverisson & Oscar Gudjonsson for The Box Tree.

The 2013 Sroky for lifetime achievement goes to the Flaming Lips. Had they tried to continue recreating their biggest hit (which was “She Don’t Use Jelly” from ’93 and was performed live at The Peach Pit on Beverly Hills 90210) they never would have lasted 25 years. Their 13th record, The Terror, is a disorienting and aggressive trip. I’ve been a fan for like ten years and I’m not even sure how I feel about it, but I’m glad they’re still out there, keeping it weird for the rest of us.

Very honorable unmentionable in this category go to Sigur Ros, who are still kicking after almost 20 years with Kveikur, and the Necks, who have been mining the same territory for almost 25 years with their latest, Open, and somehow it’s still startlingly original. These guys have The Shining, go figure.

The Sroky for totally unbiased admiration of friends go to Andrew Mckenna Lee and his project The Knells, Kaoru Watanabe’s beautiful album, Convergence, of traditional and modern Japanese music with Kenny Endo, and Toby Driver’s 7th Kayo Dot record, Hubardo . The reason I live in a shit hole like New York is because I get to be surrounded with artists of this caliber, and even be friends with them. I feel like I know them better for having this magic jangle my earbones. I can only imagine what a complex, interior journey it was to have brought these to fruition and I’m grateful.

The Sroky for being down to make music at any time or place go to Yuko Pepe and Shawn Baltazor. Big respect and inspiration, glad to know you both. I loved making this music with Yuko, and not to worry Ergo has something coming too.

…and of course the 2013 Sroky for best song in a skate video goes to Bob Seeger – Night Moves, for Cory kennedy’s part in Pretty Sweet (at 0:11:47).  Plus, front half-cab to front feeble down a nine stair handrail… come on.

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Sine Qua Non premiere at Roulette 1/20/14

I’m very pleased to announce the premiere of Sine Qua Non this month at Roulette, with my friend and longtime collaborator, pianist Carl Maguire. This work is an electro-acoustic improvisation that transforms into a generative sound installation, developed in part at Alfred University’s Institute of Electronic Arts and the Vilnius Academy of Art, Nida Art Colony in Lithuania.

Monday, January 20, 2014, 8pm

Sine Qua Non with Carl Maguire
509 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 10002

In an improvisational dialogue Carl is sampled and processed, his playing becomes his accompaniment and foil in something like a mobius strip of sonic ideas, continuing through electronic abstraction and acoustic response. 

As the performance concludes the sampled fragments slowly take over, transforming through generative processing.

With the outputs of the Max/MSP instrument each mapped to a separate speaker, the room is immersed in an ever-changing abstraction of the performance. In this way, Sine Qua Non, which means, “the essential part,” offers each listener a unique experience of the whole through their engagement with the space.

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The Joyful Shrieks of the Cherubim!

“I heard the joyful shrieks of the cherubim singing and shouting ‘Hosannah,’ and the thundering shout of rapture from the seraphim, which made heaven and all creation shake.” -Ivan Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

I hope you’re all enjoying this lovely fall, wherever you are.  Cherubim, the project I began last year with guitarist Yuko Pepe has just released our debut recording, “The Joyful Shrieks of the Cherubim!” on the Zeromoon label for intelligent noise music.  Cherubim is a completely improvised amalgam of drones, pulses, melodies and noise, and is unlike anything I’ve done before; in large part due to Yuko’s beautifully unorthodox playing and partly due to the playing and developing I’ve done with my Max/MSP software instrument over the past few years.  One of my favorite tracks is “Tincture”, a dark, noisy rabbit hole of an improvisation; each time I get into the middle of it I wonder where I am and how I got there. We’re offering it with the option to “name your price,” so please listen to it and own it for whatever you can afford.

get it from:


like Cherubim on Facebook:

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Ergo recording fund SALE!!!

Soon Ergo will record our fourth album, As Subtle As Tomorrow. To help fund it I’m offering this sale of our last two CD’s for only $10 each (plus shipping)! Every purchase comes with a free copy of our debut album, “Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005.” If you’ve ever considered owning one of our recordings now would be a great time to do so and help fund the next one in the process. Thanks for your support.

sincerely, Brett Sroka

“This wildly experimental electro-acoustic ensemble… concocts some strangely compelling music. From the droning, Terry Riley-inspired loops of “Sorrows of the Moon” to the exquisite music box pointillism of “Two For Joy” and the free-jazz vehicle “Little Shadow”, nothing is predictable or tame on If Not Inertia.”
- Jazz Times

“[Ergo] has a deft touch when it comes to molding silence and drones into rich celestial balladry. The subtleties of the new multitude, solitude are a nifty confluence of George Lewis’s dreamscapes and Miles’s Lonely Fire, and while it’s a record that invites you to watch the embers glow, it does its fair share of shooting off sparks.”
- The Village Voice

“…part of a generation for which Autechre and Sigur Ros are as pressing concerns as Armstrong and Sun Ra. That’s certainly evident in the timbral sophistication, spacey contours and slinky grooves of the band’s debut record, Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005.”
- Time Out, New York

(please calculate the appropriate shipping amount for overseas orders. Thank you.)

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This April and May I was an artist-in-residence at the Vilnius Academy of Arts – Nida Art Colony in Lithuania, to compose music for the next Ergo record and to continue work on my proposed installation Sine Qua Non.

I’d never been to Lithuania or the Baltic region, and knew little about it. Being a small, eastern European country (although technically at the geographic center of Europe), with a complicated history, as recently as 1991 becoming independent from the Soviet Union, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found it to be quite thriving, with an rich culture of it’s own, somehow blurring with the cultures of it’s past occupiers, not at all unlike other central European countries.

When I arrived in the capital of Vilnius, winter was still in full force and it continued to snow for the next few weeks. During my weekend there I was fortunate to meet Max Micheliov, a staunch champion of avant-garde Jazz, a web designer for many musicians and part of the team behind the great Lithuanian Jazz label No Business Records. After almost a full day walking around, enjoying delicious Lithuanian beers, meats, and Russian dumpkins and discussing nearly every topic under the sun, I can say he’s a friend and a person I genuinely admire.

The majority of my stay however was on the other side of the country, a long, snowy train ride to Klaipeda, a short, rickety ferry trip to Smiltyne, and a bus ride through the woods to the town of Nida.

Nida is located on the magnificent Curonian Spit, a long sand peninsula located between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, and extending from the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Slowly, the snow melted and deer, moose, birds, hares and boars came out of the stark forests as they turned lush and green. Eventually big, fat mosquitos came out too, and it was summer. Traditionally a fishing village, with it’s own unique heritage and iconography of moose, boats and goddesses of amber and the sea, Nida is now more of a summer destination, so the town slowly came alive too.

I spent my days wandering the dreamy dunes near the Russian border, the Baltic beach and the dense forests looking for secluded spots to practice trombone. Most mornings I biked down to the children’s art school where they generously offered their piano for me to use. Otherwise, I was holed up composing and programming in my massive, modern studio with it’s 30 foot high, vaulted, concrete ceilings and long, dense echo. (which sounded like this)

Many days and nights were also spent talking, dancing, drinking, collaborating and taking searing sauna’s with the seven other artists-in-residence and the gracious staff of the Colony.

This is an excerpt of Swiss spoken word and performance artist Gilles Furtwangler and I collaborating one day. I hope we’ll continue to do more, I’m fascinated by his work.

In April, I gave a workshop to some really bright and enterprising high school kids in the small town of Sakiai and on my way back was able to visit Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas, which is also rich in history and art. Pictured below is the massive Fortas IX monument to Holocaust and World War II victims, the re-established Fluxus Ministries and the Old Town Square.

Towards the end our stay the Academy hosted an international arts symposium where we each got to present our work and meet dozen of artists, teachers, curators, and thinkers. This .gif, courtesy of artist Carlos Carmonamedina, is of violinist John W. Fail presenting some sounds with me during the open studios. John is also a provocateur who never seems to sit still, during his stay he turned his room into a bar.

I also presented a prototype of the generative processing that will be used in Sine Qua Non. This example processes samples of Carl Maguire’s playing piano.

Afterwards I traveled to Riga, Latvia, Strasbourg and Paris, France and Amsterdam, Holland. Now I’m back in Brooklyn preparing to play some gigs with Ergo and record our fourth record, “As Subtle As Tomorrow,” and working towards the debut release by Cherubim on the Zeromoon label this fall. Below is a bit of Ergo’s new music, I hope you can make to our shows. Thanks for reading, as always, we love you madly.

Monday, July 8, 930pm
ShapeShifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place Brooklyn, NY 11215

Friday, July 26, 730pm
The Lily-Pad
1353 Cambridge St., Inman Sq. Cambridge, MA

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Computer Music Journal

M.I.T.’s Computer Music Journal recently reviewed the Sonic Circuits Festival from last fall, of our performance they wrote:

“Ergo uniquely combined live modifications of sound with chordal materials that were deeply rooted in traditional jazz harmonic practice. The hybrid cross-genre sound focused on the lengthy, developed rhythmic and melodic lines that referred to minimalism while avoiding any obvious cliches.”

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latest news

Haven’t had too much to report lately, but here are some of my recent activities:
• I’m just finishing up the score to “The Jerusalem Syndrome”, which is coming together nicely and I think will be a very compelling documentary. You can hear a bit of that here.

• In less than two weeks I’ll be headed to the Nida Art Colony in Lithuania to finish composing the next Ergo record, continue work on my installation project Sine Qua Non, as well as mix some recordings related to that project with pianist Carl Maguire and flutist Kaoru Watanabe.

• The Cherubim record (possibly to be titled, “Joyful Shrieks of the Cherubim”, after a line in The Brothers Karamazov) is finished and so we’re trying to find a label or figure out the best way to release it. Let me know if you have any ideas. Here’s is another track that will be on that record:

It looks like 2013 will mostly be about getting these projects together, and hopefully by the end of the year bringing them to the public. Thanks for your support, and as always, we love you madly.

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Institute of Electronic Arts

Here’s a recent post from the Institute of Electronic Arts at Alfred University about my recent visit-

I have lot’s of audio and video from the week to go through, so there’s more to come soon…

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Favorites of 2012

I can’t say I’ve heard enough new releases this past year to have a “best of” list, but here are some of the favorites that I did hear, in no particular order:

Ben Frost & Daniel Bjarnason – Solaris
This record takes on the ambitious task of creating a new score to Tarkovsky haunting classic “Solaris”, the result are a powerful, worthy blend of orchestral composition and visceral sound design. I didn’t hear much about this one and as I spend more time with it I’m sure it’ll continue to reveal new details.

Dan Deacon – America
Although I didn’t feel that “America” evolved much from Deacons prior record, “Bromst”,  it has some expansive, grandiose moments that remind of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”, and I love his style of spazzy, midi minimalism.

Janel & Anthony – Where is Home
Fellow Cuneiform artists Janel & Anthony experiment with exotic, beguiling melody, ambient and progressive sensibilities in just the way I like. I’m still kicking myself for missing both their Brooklyn show and their Sonic Circuits Festival show.

Grizzly Bear – Shields
This one blew me away. It brings so many things together in such a beautiful, cohesive way – poignant writing and performances, detailed production that experiments with spaces, textures and at times undercurrents of violent noise, harmonies and riffs that sound at times like something the Bad Plus’ might play. Most people like anthems, they’re anthems for a reason – they’re powerful, but I’m often annoyed by the manipulative and obvious ones that many bands use, on Shields Grizzly Bear employs anthems that grip you slowly and subtly.

Bobby Womack – The Bravest Man In The Universe
I love Bobby Womack, but I wasn’t really expecting to like this record. However Damion Albarn’s futuristic and funky production together with his soulful voice has a bit of magic to it. Sort of like something Thom Yorke would make if he had grown up in the black church. 

Vijay Iyer – Accelerando
Using minimalism, the avant-garde and groove Vijay’s trio has really hit on refined, powerful sound. I think I’ve heard him say that the Duke/Mingus/Max record “Money Jungle” is one of the main inspirations of this trio, and that’s one of my favorite records of all time, totally unique in Jazz, and I wish more bands took their point of departure from it.

Peter Wright – Folk Songs and Blackness
I’m a fan of drones and starkness whenever it’s done well, Peter Wright reminds me of Loren Connors in that way. This record is only $5 at


Ergo – If Not Inertia
I’m really proud of this record, but was disappointed that critics, by and large, seemed to have missed out on it.  For a record with the least amount of written material I’ve ever done, we rehearsed more than any other record to achieve a very refined sound and new approach for the group.  I understand that there are too many great records coming out every year and a lot of artists doing incredible work, so I tried not to have too big a pity party for myself, but I felt somewhat vindicated that Destination Out, a blog that I read and respect felt the same way.

Thanks for reading and supporting, I’m very much looking forward to some good things in 2013, including: developing my first sound installation at Alfred U’s Institute of Electronic Arts, releasing the first Cherubim record, a two month residency in Lithuania, and hopefully recording the next Ergo record, stay tuned!

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