MILO FINE – Apophenia

Atrocious Gnosis

I must confess that my long-time admiration of the trenchant righteousness of Milo Fine’s improvisational aesthetics runs parallel with the feeling of inadequacy that assails yours truly whenever it comes down to reviewing a new record affirming the aforementioned qualities. Case in point Apophenia, released in 200 copies lodged in a mini-gatefold cover whose transcendent artwork – again courtesy of Fine’s mother Agnes (1929 – 2010) symbolizes, together with the very music, the practical impossibility of putting the profoundness of the beauty that (still) surrounds us into mere, and ultimately futile words.

In a strict acceptation of the term “documentation”, the CD represents Fine’s attempt to leave a certification of some of his interrelations with a few trusted collaborators; the reason, to quote the principal, being “because my ongoing interfacing with certain valued colleagues has not been well represented (if at all) on disk”. The object itself comprises eight tracks – durations from 3’15” to 20’57” – that, interestingly enough, don’t really sound as separate episodes, unless one remains with the eyes stuck on the player’s screen. That is to say, whatever the ensemble combination and the relative orchestration, we’re in presence of a veritable continuum. Accordingly, temporal subdivisions and names may even have little, if no meaning (although titles such as “The Slow Death Of False Assurances” and “The Peculiar Smell Of The Inevitable” do contribute to raise the spirit; a sharp irony always defeats a fudged authenticity).

The “colleagues” in question are Charles Gillett and Joseph Damman (guitar), Elaine Evans (violin, pocket trumpet), Daniel Furuta (cello), Sam Wildenauer (bass) and Benjamin J Mansavage Klein (tuba). Fine interacts with them via b flat/e flat/alto clarinets, Bösendorfer Imperial piano, drum set/percussion. What emerges from the reiteration of the listening experience – make no mistake, you seriously need to set aside tranquil afternoons for this album – is a wonderful compound of assertiveness and fragility, explicated by acoustic nuances that reveal each participant’s focus on the instant cognition deriving from the interplay.

At the beginning, the overly logical analyst attempts to classify in function of his/her rational limits. A quiet duologue, a vivacious counterpoint, a momentous silence. The pregnant vibration of bowed strings, the quixotic flurries of the piano, the weird moans of the electric guitar. The tuba’s throb, the quasi-spastic franticness of the drums, the clarinet’s screaming upper partials. And, the touching reminder of the intelligence that only a conscious tackling of the most stringent facets of self-research can call forth, expressed by a communion of similarly absorbed souls.

The elapsing of time introduces the realization of a total absence of stereotyped jargons and stylistic double-dealings. If anything, after several spins one starts to recognize how the air was vibrating at a given point. When the listener finally manages to become a part of the texture/intellect amalgamation, his/her intrinsic motility finds no problem in coordinating its breathing with the instrumental eloquence. In a nutshell: everything heard is going to make sense, without the necessity of an explanation.

It’s difficult nowadays to escape from the idea of forcibly inflicted “artistries” exclusively dictated by a marketability grounded on the “edible-for-the-semi-cultivated-masses” principle. It is even harder to find someone rebelling to the sensation of being labeled as fools when something stamped by the establishment is described as innovative amidst Vogue-ish covers and multiple nonsensical awards. Allowing ourselves hours in the company of Milo Fine every once in a while constitutes an effective therapy against the oppression of ordinariness.

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