Monday, August 22, 2011

Robin Hayward/Kristoffer Lo/Martin Taxt - Microtub (Sofa Music)

[my pc is temporarily--I hope--out of commission so I can't scan and I also can't find an image of this disc on-line, sorry]

Back in the mid 70s, Howard Johnson organized an all tuba band, six or seven of them, I think, called Gravity; maybe it's still extant, I don't know. I remember Braxton running into Johnson at Environ, enthusiastic about writing for the ensemble; also don't know if that ever happened. I guess there have been all tuba projects in the interim but I doubt they've been as focused and fascinating as this trio.

Two C-tubas and an F-tuba, the latter microtonal, though all three in tandem certainly depart from pitch standards. One track, some 32 minutes long, one linear idea. Linear, that is, stepping back a few paces, the way a dense rope might look linear. Within the strands, however, is an amazing depth of twining tones, long-held, resonating, forming fluctuating pulses that buffet the eardrums in delicious fashion. For the first half, well, there's more variation than in a set of Sachiko sines but it's arguably in the same ballpark, one long stretch of tubaic taffy. They then descend, spelunk into the depths of the horn, the dark booms augmented by soft breath sprays like decompressing oxygen tanks. There's water down there, cold. They emerge slightly, blink at the light and continue on, down an adjacent path, before encountering an obstacle, hesitating, sending out gentle feelers, stopping.

A fine recording, give a listen.

[Martin graciously provided me an image of the cover:]

Silencers - Balance des Blancs (Sofa Music)

I admit, glancing at the instrumental line-up, I was a bit fearful of a kind of free-jazz/eai balancing act, the sort of thing that leaves some amount of frustration one way or the other. Well, it is, kind of, but achieves, at least on occasion, a rather amazing amount of success. The quartet (Benoit Delbecq, prepared piano; Kim Myhr, guitar, resonant objects; Nils Ostendorf, trumpet; Toma Gouband, percussion) manage, at their best, to create a music that strikes me as similar to what Don Cherry's Eternal Rhythm band might have done if somehow transported intact to 2010. They manage to mix abstraction with implied melodic and rhythmic content in a way that's not disingenuous or cutesy, the prepared piano referencing, inevitably, gamelan but also mbira. If this occurred consistently, we'd have a truly stellar album, but the four also fall into some meandering ("En Turbulence"), not terribly but routine in aspect though that too picks up a head of steam midway through. I would have liked more focus but the group gels pretty well and creates an individual sound that's enticing. Curious to hear where they go from here.

Sofa Music

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