Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Music Reviews

Artist: Renaud-Gabriel Pion
Title: Hinterwelt In Silico
Format: CD + Download
Label: Audiotrauma
From the off, it’s clear that Renaud Gabriel Pion’s dual role as classically-trained pianist and electronic producer is going to make this an unusual release. Despite being the work of one man, the steady pull of the clarinet towards jazz while the electronic work pulls towards glitch and abstraction is at the core of the album’s friction. But it’s a friction that gives energy, rather than stress, as evidenced beautifully in the upbeat opener “Zeitgeist”.

At times the see-saw swings more to one side, sucha s in the beautiful layered second half of “Russian” which gives us a dubsteppy wub-wub sound playing deferentially quietly under multi-tracked rich clarinet tones. In return, there are points in pieces like “Lush” or the decidedly trip-hoppy “Katana 2” where the clarinet takes a breather (but not for long) to let the intricate and detailed click rhythms and synthetic pad work come to the fore.

“Radiance” features the soft, fragile vocals of Big Sir’s Lisa Papineau. It’s a standout track, not just for that reason but for the richness of expression throughout. Fans of Submotion Orchestra should absolutely connect with this, and I hope it has some broadcast success that draws people in to hear and appreciate the instrumental work.

It’s mostly fairly punchy stuff, bordering on frantic in the rhythm department occasionally, though there is a nicely timed mid-album lull in “Cyborg” where the sounds get a little darker and more expansive, before opening up to a new dawn in “Tala” and beyond. Examples from the international rhythm flavours in “Bunraku” to the electro bass of “Neo-Tokyo” emphasise the diversity of elements being called on.

Across thirteen fairly short pieces, the electronica here is not revolutionary or ground-breaking. But the fusion between the electronica and the earthy expressive tones of a clarinet (which as previously documented is an instrument I’ve got a serious soft spot for) is handled absolutely beautifully here, and it’s that richness that genuinely makes this one of the most striking and attention-grabbing albums I’ve heard this year so far.

Artist: Patrick Shiroishi / Arturo Ibarra
Title: LA Blues
Format: Tape
Label: Eh? (@)
Rated: *****

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I received several tapes from the label Eh? which is a side label of Public Eyesore. I have been familiar with Public Eyesore for a while now and was pleased to check out some of what they were sending my way. This tape is a duo of Patrick Shiroishi & Arturo Ibarra. Patrick Shiroishi is a Free Jazz saxophone player who also performs in several groups. I was not familiar with his work before this release but it does remind me of a bit of John Zorn at times. Arturo Ybarra spelled on this release Arturo Ibarra is also someone I was not familiar with previously, he is listed on Discogs as a Guitarist from Mexico. This is currently the only release he is listed on as the main member. He has contributed to several other rock albums over the years it seems.

The liner notes state that this release is loosely inspired by the forms of Japanese Guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi who performed as part of the New Direction Unit. LA Blues is the title of this album two tracks "Projection 8" and "Projection 58" are considered mass projections which are fairly chaotic, while "Projection 14" and "Projection 3" are considered gradual projections and build into chaos slowly.

Overall, I would recommend this release to anyone who enjoys this type of "free" or "psych" jazz music. It is well composed and for sure a great addition to any collection!

Artist: Ben Holmes
Title: Naked Lore
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Chant Records (@)
Rated: *****

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Ben HolmesNaked Lore (Chant Records) is an intriguing and hypnotic set of music from the trio of Holmes on trumpet, Brad Shepik on guitars, and Shane Shanahan on percussion.
From the opening moments there is no doubt about Holmes mastery of his instrument, his fluid and dextrous trumpet swirls and punches across every track, his virtuosity a by product of his expression, every beautifully crafted line and interjection is woven as a narrative thread throughout this set. Self-described as “a soundtrack to the folk stories your grandparents vowed to forget,” there is a lot to unpick or get lost in here. Contemporary folk music from the Brooklyn enclave.

The plaintive wail of Invocation I/Snake Money gives way to swirling Sephardi flamenco flavours and hypnotic rhythmic propulsion, the music is a heady mixture of the protagonists varied experience, whilst conjuring moods and flavours stretching into the past and an otherworldly sense of mystical geography, it also feels rooted in the Downtown/Brooklyn reality of its conception. An alchemists melting pot transmuting global influences into an elixir of 21st century tradition, skipping between its constituent parts, flamenco, balkan, Indian flavours swept in and scattered out in a cohesive flurry of ecstasy.

There is a joyful interaction of the contrapuntal opening of Two Oh No’s and an Oh! no No! With Holmes and Shepik playing lines that swirl around each other set amongst Shanahan’s percussion breaks before converging and darkening, thickening into a dark and brooding middle eastern theme. Holmes extemporising and increasing in intensity over a building, driving, relentless ostinato, his pyrotechnics soaring into the higher register before reiterating and extemporising on the opening again as a launchpad for Shepik’s improvisation is a high point of the track as well as the record.

First We Were Sad; Then We Danced stretches the band out on a rollercoaster journey, Holmes pulls eloquently at his melodic line alternating between crisply articulated flurries and laid back melodic fragments, the music evolving into a more grungesque flamenco backing as backdrop for another sparkling solo, Holmes is able to condense and transport the history of avant-Jewish trumpet playing from Ziggy Elman, subverting the Hora, to modern day master Frank London (who Holmes has subbed for in Zion80) into a single whinny, placing him in an enviable continuum.

The elegiac All Together flits between ballad and etude, a deceptively angular melody with wide intervalic passages smoothed into a passionate weeping refrain. Similarly with Invocation II/The Dust Of Unremembering The trumpet cadenza/invention as an introduction leads gloriously and seamlessly into further exploration over a deeply hypnotic groove pattern. Holmes’ canon as solo performer thrust into the spotlight on these tracks, his solo playing relishing the space and vacuum, flowing out to fill the void.
There is a feeling of solo etudes which stretch out into ensemble interaction, building and reinventing with organic delight.

Naked Lore is well crafted and varied, the ensemble handle the creation of space deftly, able to flit between deceptively dense sections and starkly isolated moments. There are reminiscence here of Ron Miles’ Quiver beyond the obvious line up parallels and stylistic differences the interplay and interaction which speaks to a deeper understanding of the musicians. The playing manages to both highlight their skills but place their interaction not individualism at its core.

Artist: Let Spin
Title: Steal The Light
Format: CD + Download
Label: Efpi Records

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Let Spin almost exist in two distinct parallel realities, their live performances are driven by an intoxicating, visceral energy, momentum building inexorably before crashing into frenzied climax. Their studio offerings lose none of this power but integrate the idea of the studio as a medium in itself. An extra layer of complexity and depth is added with the post-production additions and manipulation. There is no concept of one being a commentary on the other they both exist as statements perfectly apposite for their environments.

The four piece supergroup of Chris Williams (alto sax), Moss Freed (guitar), Ruth Goller (Bass) and Finlay Panter (drums) put their egalitarian philosophy at the front of their identification and it is easy to hear why aside from their sharing of compositional duties. This is music that depends on micro-level interaction and sympathy. Their individuality clearly expressed but subsumed by service to the music, each pulling and testing the limits of self-expression within the ensemble. Starting from common inception they pull at threads, weaving through the layers of possibilities, stretching the elastic parameters of improvisational exposition before coalescing, returning as if through the prism of a greater understanding and eschewing mere recapitulation.

Stuttering, stumbling grooves and shifting time feel like cornerstones of this album. Restless and unpredictable foundations juxtaposed with flowing melodic lines, dirty, industrial grooves and beats as contrast to ethereal beauty and linear exposition, everyone in turn assuming propelling, supporting and elevating roles, switching swiftly as each turn refocuses energy and direction.

Goller’s bass at the start of the albums single Sketch explodes with crackling hard-edged rock intensity, driven by Panter’s incandescent hip-hop flavoured drumming, the track feels headed towards a febrile avant-rock bonfire before the subversion of Williams and Freed’s entry with beautiful wide open harmonic lines, evoking an ECM/Frisell-esque dream state, red and white hot flames pulling and feeding each other before a turn-on-a-dime change in pace. Let Spin are a dextrous ensemble, their music is complex but deceptively beautiful, able to imbue rhythmic complexity and harmonic adventurousness with an an effortless mastery, at turns provocative and playful.

Ghostly produced by Kit Downes sets itself apart without incongruity, recut and multi-layered, with sonic reminiscences of Naked City’s Absinthe and Kagel’s Improvisation Ajoutee, the joyful, transcendental chaos and convergence of this track makes the three year gestation from recording to release, and the five years since 2015’s Let Go worth the wait alone.

Each of the album’s tracks are individual sonic edifices deserving and rewarding of repeated listening, explosive and beautiful at first listen there is more here than it is possible to digest without immersion.

Artist: Dave Douglas (@)
Title: Dizzy Atmosphere
Format: CD + Download
Label: Greenleaf
Rated: *****

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Maybe its easy to forget with the passing of almost 80 years since the Bebop revolution, that Dizzy Gillespie wasn’t the clowning showman of grainy youtube footage watched all at once with time compressed into meaningless instancy but a fearless sonic radical, changing and innovating, moving through revolution and change creating and assimilating myriad influences, restless and experimental. He was fired from Cab Calloway’s band ostensibly for the firing of a spitball at the leader (for which he was blamed) but more likely because he kept playing all that “Chinese music’ incongruent with Calloway’s sonic safe space.

Dave DouglasDizzy Atmosphere tribute draws on these conceptual ideas of experimentation and evolving music, tribute as continuation of ideas rather than slavish recreation.
Of the albums nine tracks only two are Gillespie compositions, placed at the heart of the album, allowing Douglas’ originals to spread and spiral out from their legacy as if they are the planet and the new compositions are the atmosphere made possible by their existence.

The dual trumpet front line with Dave Adewumi allows for infinite sonic blurring and possibility, their tones coalescing and diverging as if brush strokes, definable but with blurred edges bleeding into the music and refusing to be tamed into straight lines. Their numerous interactions evoke not the ‘cutting contests’ of Minton’s jams, apocryphal or real battles but the feeling of artists in pursuit of a intangible perfection, mutually inspiring each other to greater heights and revelling in the sonic treasure of the rarefied atmosphere.

The record is lush and beautiful, Fabian Almazan’s piano creating deep and immersive lagoons over which the trumpets wallow romantically and soar with angular dexterity, moving effortlessly between wistful romanticism and hard-edged corners. Shades of Mingus and Ellington evoked with effortless mastery, whilst other moments of orchestration have wistful traces of Kenny Wheeler.
Matt Steven’s guitar acts almost at times as an anchor in modernity, the use of subtle effects and pedals pulling us forward and rooting us in now, juxtaposing without jarring, always sympathetic, channeling us down another path of possibilities.
The Bass of Carmen Rothwell provides consummate anchoring of the ensemble and also acts as portentous foreshadowing of change, ominous cadences prompting fiery pyrotechnics.

Dizzy Atmosphere is a complex and layered work, creating sound worlds built from seemingly divergent sources all masterfully and sympathetically built into a series of shifting realities that undulate and stream into new environments propelling the improvisation and interaction into an interconnected stratosphere. Made possible by a dextrous and beautifully attuned ensemble, building huge sonic environments and capable of the tiniest of subtle intricacies as well as the large almost overwhelming impressionistically orchestral vibes.

Crucially though, Dave Douglas on any project is always instantly identifiable. He has his own distinctly recognisable sonic identity and language which transcends the idea of imitation, allowing him to transcend superficial ideas of artificial genre construct. Whether as a side musician or leader he always sounds like himself and is always in the service of the music, never shrinking into a facsimile but constantly connected to a vast infinite heritage of musical input. With his tribute projects he draws us inside a process, holding up a torch in a swirling vortex of infinite possibilities and picking a path. An exploration of the endless continuum of inspiration his uniqueness is a perfectly apposite admixture of heritage and innovation.

One of the strengths of the music here is the way it propels and implies, it’s almost impossible to listen to Cadillac without hearing Gillespie’s gravely voice drift across the trumpet coalescence of the melodic centrepiece, likewise Pickin’ The Cabbage is a wild ride through implied big band motifs and large ensemble power, a black and white newsreel footage ride through 52nd Street in Bops heyday and contains a delightful Joey Baron solo which brings Chano Pozo to the forefront of your mind without ever sounding like anything but Joey Baron.

There is restless innovation as well as deep respect and appreciation here, constant tension and release, the ensembles pulls you in different directions very tangibly exploring the endless possibilities for this music and often leaving you dazed by the amount of ideas introduced, explored and developed seemingly in a short space of time. The hypnotic effect of the beauty of the ensemble building and exposition places a timelessness on all this material, its possible to get lost in this music and I will continue to joyfully do so.


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