FORBES GRAHAM – Return: The Journey

Kendra Steiner

Forbes Graham: all instruments & sounds, composition

“Evenness” is not an employable term to exemplify the music comprised by Forbes Graham’s Return: The Journey. The CDR – a 123-copy limited edition released in 2013 – includes in fact such a multifariousness of timbral properties, disjunctive structures and compositional systems against the formal rule that there’s no way to prove one’s understanding of its content without quality time spent listening to it with the due attention.

Graham, a talented trumpeter who has worked with renowned improvisers across an intriguing career to date, is interested in extracting contrastive matters from the disembodiment of diverse sources, often in rather disproportionate shapes but maintaining – as per his own description – a “funky” attribute as an elemental criterion. You wouldn’t imagine that while confronted with the immoderate atomization occurring in “So Off The Hook”, incidentally a rare instance in which a pure trumpet tone is heard. A drum machine programmed to resemble a spastic weapon and discharges of electronic blunders in freakish dynamic mutation impart an otherwise unreproducible feel of acoustic obstreperousness.

In “Xklaktenus”, constructed upon crisp ill-shaped snippets attacking the integrity of silence, we were seriously questioning the correct functioning of our player. “Walkthrough: National Portrait Gallery” is a location recording where a hall’s resonance is magnificently exploited to bring forth soothing effects, a stark contrast to the overall disobedience of the album’s bulk. “Her Poetry” is perhaps the track where the highest level of unexpectedness is reached, a veritable turning of apparent incompatibility into toothsome sonic anarchy. A damp Jon Hassell phantom materializes in “Erbor”, also utilizing shards of regular and altered voices taped off TV/radio. Just maybe.

Startled by the heartbeat-like pulse sustaining the initial “Guntor”, we couldn’t have guessed that an obscure disc belatedly retrieved from a plastic box could keep the headphones stuck on our cranium throughout Christmas. But with its flaky fantasies and complicated innocence, this brilliant collection of ideas has become the day’s finest gift. See if you can still snatch one for yourselves; it’s deserved, after the excesses of malodorous consonance and fatuous virtuosity.

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