In order to get acquainted with what “de minimis” means, just google it and check your local Wikipedia. For me, the initial aim while approaching this double CD was to gain knowledge on Mr. Huovinen (whom the very Milo Fine had never met ahead of February 5, 2010 when the former attended a concert of the latter’s Free Jazz Ensemble). To cut a long story short, the expatriate Finnish’s purpose of writing a book about multi-instrumentalists led him to look for one of the purest specimens thereof. The mechanics of creativity immediately clicked between the two and – being Huovinen a polychromatic man himself, here active on guitar, harmonica, alto clarinet, organ pedal and electronics – a series of recordings began, both at Fine’s house and live at Minneapolis’ Homewood Studios. The results might be straightforwardly described as some of the most incandescent – and, in no small part, lyrical – music that this writer has ever heard in albums involving the ebulliently (yet lucidly) thinking shaven head of the American. In this circumstance, Fine utilized piano, marimba, alto, Bb and Eb clarinets, drum set (bowed cymbals), m-drums II (electronics), orchestra chimes and electronic piano processed with additional electronics.
A visible line distinguishes rationally groundbreaking improvisers from those who – with the excuse of giving in to the “spur of the moment” – relinquish a structured course of thought during the act of emitting what they hear coming from the viscera/brain alignment. The customary outcome in that case is the disorganized mess of squawks, blasts and roars for which certified critics fight from behind the respective fences, either declaring that the players are not really united as they’re performing, or penning hymns to the “transcendence of freedom”. Fine possesses the rare gift of not acting as anyone’s creature, which – in conjunction with the thorough lack of stylistic yardsticks that has always characterized his sounds – allows him to attempt solutions that emerge as illogical to many supposedly erudite moguls. The swiftness with which he concretely executes the intellectual designs is balanced by occasional suggestions of resonance, especially when dazzling piano figurations are unexpectedly left to reverberate. Not to mention how my damaged teeth receive those piercingly bowed pieces of metal.
Huovinen’s individuality matches well with that of the recently acquired comrade. A clean (or mildly saturated) guitar tone does not diminish the desire of un-patterning and un-licking things; fragmented chords sounding luminously cluttered produce a comprehensive disinfection from acoustic mustiness. The harmonica spurts make us think of a liberated Stevie Wonder ripping the sheets of horribly mellifluous tunes and going for the jugular of the Neanderthals who shiver to the notes of “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (pay attention to the improbable interaction with MF’s drums in “Homewood 04-05” and the lovely dissonant custom-made zigzags in “Homewood 07”). The conversational battle of clarinets (transliterations audible in “Upstairs 24-25” and “Homewood 03”) is amusing and technically admirable; the recurrence of somewhat ominous organ chunks furnishes the whole with a B-movie soundtrack aroma that surely was not lost on at least one of the protagonists.
Much more should be written on the aurally redemptive qualities of such a kind of listening – not an ordinary modus operandi to be noted in over 130 minutes – and the psychological wreckage that atypical timbral – and, why not, melodic – permutations can bring on the members of the Improvisational Bigotry Club who, I’m ready to bet, won’t venture beyond the opening half of the first disc before slipping something “desirable” in the player. Simply put, Nothing Is Not de minimis is a purgative release for conscious listeners who realize that media-approved money laundering is by now a verified reality in what once was known as “free music”, some of the genuinely astounding talents of our time not even seeing the crumbles dropped from that nauseating pat-on-the-back table.