THOLLEM MCDONAS / MICHAEL WIMBERLY / NELS CLINE – Radical Empathy

Relative Pitch

Looking for a common ground over a restricted time span. After having found it, immediately establishing several courses of action in order to proceed jointly. Finding important answers in the sonic outcome while remaining with a somewhat stimulating perception of unsolved matters. From these three points one can try and guess how Radical Empathy sounds. But when listening rhymes with alertness, the realization of standing quite distant from what was expected prevails. And the necessity of better studying the interrelations inside the music grows stronger.

All things considered, this album is a fine specimen of no-frills, tendentially harsh improvisation revolving around a pair of fundamental axes. Cline and McDonas’ frequently altered tones – at times one hardly distinguishes who is who, until the different techniques on keyboard and fretboard become evident – match Wimberly’s percussive drive, which contributes to a further scattering of “centres”, either tonal or rhythmic. The level of musicianship is obviously high, integrating correlative schools that, in this circumstance, look to a rather extremist re-thinking of juxtaposed timbres in varying settings. In terms of dynamics, we find tracks such as “Thinkers Mix” and “Thought Pools”; basically, unchained free-for-all outbursts in which indivisible melodic particles, distorted fury and bewildering drumming retain nonetheless a factor of individual audibility. Then we have episodes that might sound relatively quiescent, but still threaten to explode sooner than later (“Pore”, “The Second Middle” and the splendidly jangling finale “On Being” come to mind).

Decisive turns towards a definite “direction” are not heard, but this – at the end of the day – is the exact reason behind our need to persevere. These men are not interested in palatable cautiousness; their collective instrumental body proudly displays lumps and bruises, with rare tight-lipped smiles illuminating the environment. However, I remember – way back in 1973 – someone singing “the path is clear, though no eyes can see the course laid down long before”.

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