(First instalment of an irregular series which will last at least until I give up the ghost).
If you’re into swelling masses of transfixing pitches with a proneness to Lucier-like fluctuation, look no further than Ian Douglas-Moore and Paul N. Roth’s MediumLoud Noise Music For Saxophone And Electric Guitar, out in 2015 on their own Earwash Records. Think of a slightly milder model of Borbetomagus willing to visit La Monte Young’s headquarters to reach an amicable settlement right then and there. Decontaminating blowups a go-go, fierce but also alleviating in its own way. Go for it.
Way back in 2013, Clean Feed released a set by Trumpets And Drums (Nate Wooley, Peter Evans, Jim Black and Paul Lytton) called Live In Ljubljana. This compelling album stimulates a listener’s sentience through a discerning application of the noisier items of an unconventional improvising quartet (or double duo, if you prefer). A mongrel of up-to-date free and a somewhat droning nervousness, often quite close to silence, the latter even more frequently speckled by all sorts of congenital micro-shifts and nanoscopic pops, clicks, whispers, buzzes and whatever else you might wish that sounds wettish and metallic at once. Incontestably uninviting for late-coming “jazz fans”; worthy of repeated spins for smarter backers.
One can’t possibly go wrong with Steve Roden, right? Issued in 2016, Striations (Spekk) consists of 45 minutes of discreet electro-acoustic music spinning around a few recurring integrants (sparse guitar notes, cymbals, tapped stones, snippets of voices and other assorted found sounds and field recordings). The whole is accompanied by a persistent under-drone throb full of winsome harmonics: a humming kneading of the nerves that, ultimately, represents the key component in an album that does not break any real “new ground” but remains an unconditionally gladdening listen throughout. This composition – whose original sources were meant as supplements to a short film that in the end became soundless – seems instead to soundtrack an untroubled soul’s quotidian ordinariness. It’s a praise.
Precisely on December 16, 2015 I assured drummer and composer Will Mason that I would scrutinize his Ensemble’s debut CD Beams Of The Huge Night (released by New Amsterdam) “as soon as possible”. Yeah, right. Over two years later I unashamedly did it and was left grinning at the end, both for having found a rare example of writing that uses influences in insightful fashion and for noticing that the music has already received deserved accolades from truly reliable fountainheads. After reading on the press blurb that Mason had secluded himself in a remote area of Maine because “after I moved to New York, I worried my music was becoming a bit too stylish and urbane”, I instantly knew that he would not betray the writer’s trust. Strong points: the collective sense of unrestrained energy; a female voice NOT used as a second-rate jazz singer but as an instrument performing scored parts almost without words; a clever mix of stubborn rhythmic asymmetry and technical fitness. It all results in a compelling listen, also thanks to a coherent proclivity to the use of discordant spikiness when needed. Scattered references: Doctor Nerve, Magma, Ennio Morricone after an electroshock treatment. And much more. Check it out pronto.