reformARTwest – The Edgar Allan Poe Suite

Sporadic Tangible Documents

The unprincipled improviser recurs to instrumental and behavioral patterns, faking unprecedented illuminations. At the antipodes of meaninglessness, this triple CD set substantiates an amalgamation of clearheaded communion and undiluted motivation. Breathing this salubrious air, not infected by cheating, is fundamental if we want to keep believing.

Released at the beginning of 2016 to document Milo Fine’s hosting – a year prior in Minneapolis – two primary exponents of Austrian free music, reedist Fritz Novotny and the late trumpeter Sepp Mitterbauer (founding members of the famed Reform Art Unit), The Edgar Allan Poe Suite corresponds to a most important outing when considering the last three decades of recorded improvisation. For starters, one is impressed – and thankful – that there’s still some human specimen publishing small testaments to freedom in times where “corporate affiliation” is the mandatory rule to survive. Even the disc-holding digipack, adorned by artworks by Agnes Fine (Milo’s mother, 1929 -2010) and Jörg Dobrovich, brings back to the days when we used to sniff gatefold covers with quasi-fetishist pleasure in the loneliness of a youngster’s room during countless evenings of acoustic fantasies.

However, it is preferable to hint at the pictorial qualities of the very music. The delicate hues of silence-probing segments that one would not really expect, and instead constitute the core of the beauty contained herein. The involuntary orchestral subtleties of the edgier sections: brief parallelisms, minor clashes. Then quietness returns, sort of a reciprocal apology for having somehow ruptured a respectful lyricism. The spirited collective outbursts maintained intelligible by their organized fluidity. The veritable call to the arms starting the sixth movement, before the instrumentalists fuse their creative juices to investigate variable dynamic synergies. An ever-present aura of authentic humanity, occasionally enhanced by the background contribution of Augusta – the very young daughter of an attending couple – heard calling mommy and adding extracurricular commentary to the contrapuntal unbrokenness. Little pinches of domestic warmth, as the attentive listener conforms to the serene rules of artists who don’t need to act confrontational.

When all is said and done, it falls on us to find a place inside a given sonic microcosm; the settings created by these nine musicians offer numerous chances for reflection. Fine’s Bösendorfer emitting vulnerable chordal suspensions and Nancarrow-ish hyperflurries; Mitterbauer’s facility in riding complex phrases and keeping a sturdy tone while jumping all over the trumpet’s range; Novotny’s impromptu shamanism on the wooden flute. The “contemporary ensemble” flavor perceived when Elaine Evans and Daniel Furuta’s strings become part of the equation is a definite plus, in a way symbolizing our growth as listeners and students. It is not swearing to the gods to affirm that this release – especially the trio and the sextet chunks – enriches the ears much more than many related albums of historical interest. But its absorption doesn’t come easy without the right commitment. How about “cultivated mercurialism” for a definition?

Here’s that room again, many years later. Instruments, records and books scattered all around. Dust. The inescapable realization of lacking the time to restore the order; nevertheless, the embryo of a planning. Suddenly, the decision to leave everything as it is, a long, intense look at the outside trees calming down the upsurging angst.

In this life, templates are not welcome.

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