Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts

It's been more than seven years since I started this project, so there's more of a sense of knowing what it is: Broad questions of what musicians are doing or how musical examples relate to my theoretical projects fade — somewhat. (Perhaps it's a cliché, but seven years has a feel of maturity in this regard.) I don't want to feel complacent about what's happening, though, even if some "usual channels" begin to stabilize, and so I'll continue to seek out the occasional wildcard, i.e. something unknown or that I wouldn't necessarily expect to appreciate much. But what sort of music? The implications of "jazz" in the title can vary: For me, it suggests music that resists the status quo, music that forges new senses of social justice, music that improvises new ways of living & interacting — and often with a nod toward the African American history of those impulses, perhaps extended to the ongoing fight against global oppression & imperialism, including domestic & neo-imperialism.

Why improvised music? Because life itself is spontaneous, and so I've tried to retain some spontaneity in writing here as well, i.e. when responding to music. Whereas it might be prudent to wait for fully sober reflections, particularly if one doesn't want one's fanciful thoughts & tangents to end up sounding silly, there's also a personal sense of discovery that cannot readily be retrieved once lost. So whereas I don't want to make counter-factual statements, I do want to retain a novel or imaginative impulse. Most of the entries here are consequently oriented around first (or second or ...) impressions of particular recordings, and I include (at least) basic documentary information, but many recordings remain on my mind, and are mentioned again subsequently in relation to later recordings. (Maybe I should start writing new entries oriented around old favorites? That would presumably provide for a more sober discussion.) Indeed, writing of one album in terms of another album becomes — more broadly — translation of something into something else, including music into writing. That's not to say that the writing is equivalent to the music, i.e. that such translation is "reversible" (as one might say), but that the writing is a response to the music: It's a response to music more than it's an exposition of music. (I've never thought of myself as a journalist, and any such attribution feels very strange. I do cite other people in my work, though, a practice of human society that dates back as far as we know....)

So what am I (here)? I'm a writer, specifically, in that I'm "doing things" with the written word: Whereas some of these entries consist of little more than noting the existence of an album that I think deserves (at least) some attention, others are more deeply engaged. And the latter are some of the texts that readers sometimes find difficult... the difficulty arising in part from my polyphonic writing style, wedged (or translated or transformed) into tapestry blocks or paragraphs such as these via juxtapositions, oppositions, parenthetical remarks, etc. Many entries thus don't proceed via linear exposition or narrative style. But then much music doesn't proceed via linear exposition or narrative style! So I'm a writer who doesn't privilege writing. (Although it won't be happening in this space, a musical response to music is certainly an aesthetic response, and perhaps an interrogation or clarification. Indeed, much music is in response to other music.) Translation has become something of my basic theoretical approach, then, including toward disciplines beyond music. One might consult, for instance, a couple of recent (ongoing) theoretical series, Basic mechanics of modernity & Practical listening. Or one might return to the previous set of entries here, with its own intro, and to those before it, etc. (This intro is simply the latest, rather arbitrary break in my work, another restart.) I like to make words dance, and pay close attention to internal rhythms in every phrase — so maybe that's a key to syntax.

The title of this space doesn't involve only jazz, but also thinking: I'm not only performing as a writer here, but as a thinker or theorist, and what I'm seeking to interrogate & unfold concerns my own thoughts & priorities. (As if any thought is entirely our own.) That's what drives the project, and in this sense, the music is by way of example. Yet as the ongoing sequence on translation suggests, example is not separable from theory: There is no "final objectivity" possible in such a narrative, no "endpoint" to a chain of relations. It's ultimately a bunch of commentary on commentary, across media, swirling around itself. To this we all bring different perspectives & priorities (not to mention different tools): My emphasis on social theory & interaction has in turn produced an emphasis on small — but not too small — ensembles in this space: Whereas I sometimes listen to solos or duos, I rarely features them. Indeed, I rarely mention most albums that I hear: I need to feel as though I have something to say, i.e. an artistic response, or at least to feel as though others with an interest might not notice otherwise. (The latter prompt actually feels more vain. The former usually comes with passion.) And as the mention of sequence further suggests... as not only thoughts in general, but thoughts on individual albums continue to develop through these entries, they depend upon each other & in the order written. (After all, significant albums will be discussed in more than one entry.) I have thus resisted prompts to present entries out of order or in a readily separable (individually searchable) format. So please scroll to the bottom for the latest.

Narrative history affects more than the structure of this writing, of course, and extends into (my prior) personal history as well: What music catches one's ear now has much to do with what has caught one's ear in the past, i.e. personal aesthetic narrative (per an opening to What is familiar?). I spent twenty years focusing on pre-modern music (from around the globe), for instance, after a shorter (but intense) sequence in contemporary classical music. (Although my family lived in a cultural backwater, and worked in construction & farming, I "discovered" classical radio as a small child: They largely left me to my eccentricities, as long as I did my chores.) Consequently, I'm not much into "alternative rock" or various other flavors of USA popular music. "Jazz" often employs such material, but that's largely orthogonal — or one might say historically contingent — to what I'd articulated in the opening paragraph. Given the emphasis on translation, one might even characterize most of my interests in this area as — beyond improvisatory — "crossovers" in some generalized sense. (Perhaps because of all this, I'm often more taken with vocal albums than most people who discuss similar music seem to be.) The "project" here then adheres according to musical relation, i.e. relations between music but also between music & anything else. As I often ask, what is the "use" of some particular recording? What does it do in various (hectic, even frenetic life) circumstances? What can it do for me? (Thus I turn the old notion of "art as monad" on its head. Instead, how does it relate, to whom, to what?)

What exactly is this project then? (It's my most intensive, but not my only musical project of the moment.) It consists of thoughts & examples — including a brief list of favorites by year, conveniently summarized for those with an interest but little time — relating music to other music, and further to everything else — the social world & (often abstract) political resistance in particular. Finally, as the opening paragraph suggests, while I have an evolving sense of what musicians are doing, there's no way I'll ever hear everything. (There are only so many hours in the day, and most of mine already involve music.) So please do let me know if some thoughts here suggest something else I should hear. Or if you already know that I appreciate your music, and have something new. (Unfortunately, like so much work, musical releases seem to come in bunches, and sometimes there are lulls, such as while I'm writing this entry. Other times I feel almost overwhelmed with quantity.) After these seven years, I don't want to find myself in a musical (or intellectual) lull — and certainly not feeling as if I know it all. (There are always new ways of living & interacting, after all. But it's one thing to know that theoretically....) All that said, here's to another productive year, at least musically speaking....

Todd M. McComb <>
19 January 2018

Although, as suggested, I might write some new entries oriented on specific older (relative to this project, that is, i.e. from the past handful of years) recordings, I don't want to start making this space about the past. However, given the retrospective mood of the previous entry, I thought I'd pick "albums of the year" going back a few years. These are selections I'm making right now, not a reflection of what I was thinking then — not that I remember what that was, if anything:

2017: Traintracks Roadsides Wastelands Debris — pinnacle of its genre.

2016: Nessuno — close choice in a year with multiple landmark albums.

2015: Oakland / Lisboa — narrowly edging Natura venomous.

2014: North of Blanco — in an asymmetric duel with Phase/transitions.

2013: Colophony.

2012: Ewen / Smith / Walter — as a bit of a toss up winner among what remains a surprisingly influential (on me anyway) field.

I'm not intending to make this into a regular thing, particularly picking for the previous year. I consider it to be a coincidence that I rebooted this page in January, and don't want to make general commitments for the end of year period. Anyway, perhaps these choices will provide some helpful further context in the present moment.

20 January 2018

Although rebooting this page during a lull in releases makes good sense in some ways, it also means I don't have something more distinctive to say from the beginning — and that would likely have been better form. (The lull is starting to end, but as noted, I want to keep the writing in experiential order.) That said, I had mentioned Planets of Kei when discussing Core-Tet Project in December, and now it's here: Not Two has more sporadic distribution to the US than some of the other high volume, quality free jazz labels — and Not Two also probably has the nicest packaging of any of the higher volume labels — but albums do eventually find their way to me. Planets of Kei is an improvised trio album involving not only Szilárd Mezei, per that earlier entry, but Samo Salamon (b.1978, Slovenia) on acoustic guitar & Achille Succi on bass clarinet & alto sax. I hadn't mentioned Salamon previously, but did listen to his recent (composed) sextet album (also with Succi) on Clean Feed, The Colours Suite, recorded a few months before Planets of Kei (September 2016 in Slovenia, in the latter case). Succi had appeared previously in this space with Scoolptures & e.g. White Sickness (first discussed here in February 2012), and has apparently recorded a half dozen other albums with Salamon. (I hadn't noticed most of these, however.) Planets of Kei is a long album, with twelve tracks including four duos, and opens with a striking three-way interaction: I'm not sure to what the "Kei" refers, but it appears in the title of another Salamon album. Nor do I know what makes this "Free Sessions Vol. 1," but presumably more (from this exact trio, from Salamon?) are coming: The opening track proceeds circuitously into something of a cadence on held tones, setting the stage for novel counterpoint from clear gesture. Indeed, most tracks have clear beginnings & ends, with the duo tracks, which are about twenty percent of the album by length, punctuating the broader development. (The last two tracks are the longest, and do incorporate a richer sense of intersecting gesture.) The album is generally neither fast nor slow, but has a relatively leisurely individual pace that can seem almost busy when all three players are active. Both the ensemble & result are thus rather akin to that on Hunt at the Brook, an album that nonetheless seems more intentional & assured. Still, there is much to enjoy on Planets of Kei, occasionally with longer (tonal) quasi-tunes, but usually in the manner of quick bursts & almost pointillistic interchanges that suggest something of a percussive quality by their back & forth interaction. (I sometimes think of Drought due to the pace & three-way timbral clarity, even if the horn might imitate viola or vice versa. Planets of Kei doesn't induce a sense of calm, though.) Sometimes the trio sounds almost jazzy behind Succi, sometimes Mezei goes off on one of his angular riffs (although not virtuosic per se to the degree of Still now), and sometimes the dialog is downright strange — although not in an aggressive way — and that's ultimately the (acoustic) charm of this album.

23 January 2018

Another late 2017 release that I want to note, albeit recorded in 2014, is Red October by Polyorchard: It actually appeared on cassette (a very silly idea, if you ask me, but it's also on the Bandcamp site) recently at Squidco — presumably in part due to the North Carolina connection. (It was recorded in Raleigh.) Indeed, Polyorchard has a rather distinctive & seemingly rather "American" improvisatory style of interaction — evocative, perhaps, of Jack Wright & e.g. Roughhousing or Calgary 2012 — that specifically warrants a mention. On Red October, the group is a quartet, nearly a typical "free jazz" quartet in fact, consisting of Jeb Bishop (trombone), Laurent Estoppey (saxophone), David Menestres (double bass) & Shawn Galvin (percussion). And on other albums, the same name is applied to different trios around Menestres. (It took me a moment to remember where I had seen his name before, but Menestres writes reviews at the Free Jazz Blog. And I have no idea what the track titles yielding "I would like to have seen Montana" are about, but I suppose that's American too, at least in a literal sense. Or maybe Russian.) I had mentioned Bishop in September as part of the trombone trio on Konzert für Hannes, and indeed he appears on many albums, particularly out of Chicago, but the other two were new to me. I was quickly attracted to Galvin's orchestral percussion, and between that & the trombone, the quartet does manage to sound different from the classics. As the album proceeds, though, the roles start to become more conventional, even while retaining a contrapuntal sense — as techniques start to seem sequential. (The fourth track is apparently composed, despite the notes talking up the group's focus on improvisation.) There are still some fine moments, with each musician contributing uniquely to the overall texture & in varying combinations.

24 January 2018

Returning to discuss more from Agustí Fernández, The Liquid Trio, in which he is joined by Albert Cirera on saxophones & Ramon Prats on drums, appears to be his most recorded ensemble: They have at least two prior albums as a trio, not to mention e.g. Before the Silence (released on No Business in 2016) on which Fernández & Cirera are joined by members of Red Trio (but not Prats), but the focus of this entry is The Liquid Trio Plays Bernoulli, recorded in Salamanca in January 2017 — so, subsequent to the 60th birthday albums previously mentioned here. The reference to Bernoulli is apparently to underscore the "liquid" theme, although clearly a trio oriented around a fixed pitch instrument like piano is not as fluid as some. (Presumably they mean what they say about being under less pressure when moving more quickly, though? Or vice versa, that slower sections carry more weight? Such "musical" Bernoulli evocations do make some sense....) Nonetheless, this trio — which might be compared to e.g. Kaufmann-Gratkowski-De Joode in its ongoing connection — seems to exemplify a significant facet of the Barcelona improvisatory scene. (Besides, perhaps incongruously, these releases from Poland, Discordian Records is another good place to explore Barcelona style. They have a large Bandcamp site: Cirera appears on at least five albums there, Prats two & Fernández seven.) Fernández is obviously central to this scene, as well as to this trio, and Plays Bernoulli is a compelling album, nearly an hour long in three extended tracks. It captures attention immediately with a mysterious piano chord that also seems to mark a sense of urgency, promptly joined by breezy sax & exotic percussion. Much of the album involves more conventional pianism, with the same chord returning in quiet moments in the (longest) first track, but there is also manipulation of the interior (including rubbed strings etc.) blending with percussion. Moreover, there are sounds of transit, explicitly jazzy passages, (briefly) static textures, as well as both relatively simple juxtapositions & complex extended runs. So the interaction is sophisticated & far-ranging, and can be rather raucous: By the end, after slowly building from the longest section of extended technique (quietly opening the third track), the pounding cacophony is quite evocative of a traditional vein of free jazz, and the audience's applause confirms the energy in the room. In short, there are many appealing combinations to enjoy, particularly as Fernández sounds that much more assured in the wake of his 60th birthday events. Plays Bernoulli is oriented more on piano (or any single instrument) than I might prefer, although the sax does occupy the lead in the (shortest) second track, but projects such a broad sense of development & mastery that it will surely appeal relatively widely. (It can also be heard on the Fundacja Sluchaj Bandcamp page.) It's the overall tapestry that stands out, particularly on the opening track, despite that the piano generally remains centered — not so unlike Celebration Ensemble with its larger forces.

Also recently from Fundacja Sluchaj, I want to note Ultra by Joe Morris & Agustí Fernández & a string trio (Tanya Kalmanowitch, Yasmine Azaiez & Junko Fujiwara). In this case, Ultra was recorded back in 2011, and Morris had to be encouraged by Fernández to release it. The former had wanted to pair bowed strings with guitar — and had done so with the quartet on Camera, recorded in 2010 & mentioned here in 2011, pairing guitar with two bowed strings (including Fujiwara) & drums — such that those combinations apparently remained on his mind. (Ultra was also recorded three days after From the Discrete to the Particular, a relatively popular album with Morris & Fernández joined by Nate Wooley, and discussed here in December 2012.) Morris had begun his ideas for such an ensemble by composing the music (& including horns), but Ultra was (ultimately) improvised: His concerns had revolved around making sure that the guitar was audible, and balance does remain an issue on Ultra. However, the piano is generally quite audible — the piano quartet is a classical format, after all — and so sculpts & buoys a rather busy interaction of "squeaking doors," pizzicato, harmonics, and ultimately some more minimal playing. Indeed, the opening is amazing, and most of the striking moments come early in the program, as the quintet seems to run out of steam as it goes along, eventually ending in some tuneful moments. I've regularly been taken with ensembles featuring multiple bowed strings, as a quick survey of recent entries here will indicate, and they usually include another instrument (or two), so Ultra fits the mold: Some other albums of note are Chant with its four strings joined by marimba, as well as its generally quieter & smoother texture, The Afterlife of Trees (discussed here in December) with its (in this case) rather minimalist piano quartet interaction, and even Colophony for its tight ensemble of similarly jagged interactions around pizzicato, etc. So whereas Ultra might fail in terms of economy of forces, and not meet Morris's original vision showcasing guitar, it does make some striking contributions to a relatively new & evolving ensemble genre, particularly via its strong sense of rhythm. I guess Morris gave up on ensembles such as this, at least for a few years....

25 January 2018

As I prepare to discuss a handful of new releases, beginning to appear again after the year end lull, including a few items actually dated 2018, I want to revisit the "albums of the year" entry from last month: As my remark regarding 2012 already suggested, I didn't really go back & spend time evaluating a choice. I went more on memory & "impressions," and indeed was in something of a rush to provide something tangible (or even juicy) for readers at the head of this new page. Anyway, having subsequently taken some (renewed) time with my favorites from 2012, I realize that I should have listed Yad: Although it's not necessarily as available as some items, and perhaps there's been some "water under the bridge" between me & Jeff Shurdut, Yad is the album from 2012 — among (of course) multiple excellent choices — that I'm finding most compelling here in 2018. (I guess it was a natural outcome, i.e. that I'd reach my limit & go a little past, in terms of what I wanted to relate, and end up overstepping on a choice. And then I'd revise. Perhaps I should also note that the list of yearly favorites wouldn't be identical to a hypothetical "top whatever" list of favorites in general, which — as readers might expect, given my priorities — would be weighted toward recent issues, and likely far more volatile.) I did end up working a bit with Jeff on some projects after that release, a concert & an interview in particular, and sometimes we saw eye to eye, and sometimes we didn't. I know Jeff didn't like the interview result. Honestly, I didn't enjoy the process either: I felt as though we weren't being genuine enough, and I don't really understand Jeff's attitude about... his reputation, I guess it is... so in that sense, it's a matter for him & not me. Jeff basically seemed to want to present himself as a larger than life figure, and for me, that belied his musical strengths, which I take to be more immanent, more participatory & inviting. He's got that "everyday" vibe (in a positive sense such that I find his music to be "useful") to what he's doing, with a variety of sounds from the (usually urban, but also indoor) landscape, including his wonderful idea to tune to environmental resonances. I (still) find the resulting style compelling, so for me, being frank about the whole process made plenty of sense. Anyway, I don't know, maybe this isn't what I (or likely readers) had in mind when I suggested writing new entries about old favorites.... Yad actually involves one of the larger ensembles on the list, an octet, and making the various layers & divergent personal styles come together in a single tapestry is one of Jeff's strengths: That Yad can be both quite dissonant & quite tuneful, often simultaneously, is something I associate with both Jeff & this album (which, incidentally, was recorded at DMG, perhaps marking a particular era). Yad takes in broad territories, via a wide palette of sounds & evocations — powerfully so amid an ongoing drive toward constant newness (reinflected, perhaps, with a traditional tune). It's a great album, and if anything, the followups (& Jeff has a huge prior, exploratory discography as well) are even less available, meaning it continues to stand out after six years: It continues to be a model for me of musical interaction at this scale. And now I've explicitly said so (again).

8 February 2018

Although there are still some releases from 2017 awaiting discussion here (and perhaps more that I have yet to hear), 2018 releases are underway with Stomiidae by a trio of Daniel Levin, Chris Pitsiokos & Brandon Seabrook. Stomiidae (recorded over two days in April 2016) refers to a family of deep sea ray-finned fish, and the seven short tracks name various genuses & species in the family, so at least the title seems congruent with many of the earlier Dark Tree releases, which mostly revolved around naturalism & human-environmental figurations. These were by French performers, though, and so this trio is something of a departure — although incongruously, Dark Tree has most recently released a couple of free sessions from 1970s Los Angeles! — as is the music, which despite the titles, seems rather more abstract than it does naturalist. (Perhaps the music's basic aggression, which seems to fade somehow with exposure, is reminiscent of at least the look of these fish.) Anyway, Levin has been something of a fixture here since early in this project, and Stomiidae marks another improvised project for him, following New Artifacts (another two "strings" & horn trio) & others with Mat Maneri: His style continues to develop, particularly in these improvised settings, perhaps most decisively on the solo album Living (recorded August 2015, like New Artifacts, and discussed here in September). Pitsiokos has also appeared here on multiple occasions, most recently with Nate Wooley's enigmatic Knknighgh (in August) — and Wooley was also a fixture in the Daniel Levin Quartet (which has mostly featured composed music). Seabrook actually appeared here way back in 2012, in rather different music, and then most recently — underscoring these various cross-connections — on Pitsiokos's Before the Heat Death (with Weasel Walter & Tim Dahl, discussed last February). With the cello, the instrumentation of this trio is distinctive, although with bass instead, it would be rather classic — from the first Jimmy Giuffre Trio to e.g. You Haven't Heard This from last year. (Or with viola, as one might consider the cello as "between" viola & bass, a comparison would be e.g. Hunt at the Brook. Note, moreover, that the Daniel Levin Quartet had differentiated cello strongly from bass, with the former as a clear front line instrument, so perhaps this latter comparison is more apt.) That said, Stomiidae is indeed a raucous album at times, with various extended techniques, but often slows too... there is sometimes a shadowy melodic sense amid the motion, but at other times, there is traffic or screaming, albeit transformed. (I do have an issue with the recorded sound at times, which is closely mic'd & can lack definition or become muddy, although the three instruments — all in different families — are usually clearly audible.) It generally features quick exchanges, with multiple lines articulated at once from short figures, and so many novel timbral combinations — making for a great start to 2018. I understand that the trio intends to continue performing, and so I look forward to what they do next. This project appears to have great potential, featuring three distinctive & maturing voices from the NY-area improvising scene.

Rather tangentially, although given the (near) overlap above, I do also want to note Weasel Walter's new quartet album Throes are the Only Trouble (on his Bandcamp site): Walter is joined by Michael Foster (saxes), Steve Swell (trombone), & Brandon Lopez (bass). Of course, Swell participates in many quality projects. Lopez seems to have really burst onto the scene — including recently with his own quartet album, The Industry of Entropy on Relative Pitch. Foster appeared with Walter (& Lopez) on Igneity, and also on While We Still Have Bodies (discussed in November). Throes are the Only Trouble is a rather traditional album for Walter, using a classic "free jazz quartet" format (albeit with trombone rather than trumpet), which might be why it's kind of under the radar. There is a distinctive collective sense of rhythm, however, sometimes moving at multiple different paces: Perhaps such "throes" are worked through, however, as the quartet moves more into "slow" (yet busy) rumbling waves (not so unlike Lopez's quartet) by the end. So it shows something of a "coming together" style. Further, although it's a duo, I also want to note Walter's new album with Sandy Ewen, Idiomatic, which is much more probing (including in slow sections) than the trio's (with Damon Smith) recent Live in Texas (discussed here in November 2016) in terms of following the revelatory (and generally very fast) Ewen / Smith / Walter. Anyway, it will be interesting to see where Walter goes from here, as his absence from album production seems to have been short lived after announcing the closure of UgExplode.

15 February 2018

In November, I took the plunge to discuss a couple of recent FMR releases by Udo Schindler, and whereas there was much to appreciate, they involved tracks recorded in different months, different performers participating track to track, etc... basically they seemed more like compilations than "real albums," in whatever subjective sense that might be meaningful. Apparently I could have waited only a little while longer for the yet more recent Sound Energy Transformation, as Schindler continues to release albums at quite a pace. Sound Energy Transformation was recorded in Munich in July 2016 by a group called "TrioSET" (their initials) consisting of Udo Schindler (clarinets, soprano sax, euphonium), Korhan Erel (b. Turkey; computer, controllers) & Sebi Tramontana (trombone). Tramontana had performed with Schindler on Hell dunkel, and here instead of horn players employing electronics alongside their instruments, as on that album, the two horns are joined specifically by Erel to handle this dimension. (Schindler's release pace is not confined to FMR either: He has another new album, a duo with Erel, Leben | Nebel on Creative Sources, recorded a day later & mentioned in the info from FMR.) At times, the resulting sound combinations might be compared to the recent Trialectics (albeit including string bass there) or the post-processed horn trio of World of Objects, but as with the previous albums featuring Schindler, there is a rather different mood: Even the most bizarre or seemingly aggressive extended techniques retain such a sense of calm precision that there is clear sonic beauty evoked — even when e.g. blowing a clarinet through its finger holes. Such clarity of tone combines with a clarity of gesture to give the ten short tracks rather different characters, and not generally (overly, overtly) serious characters either. Although I prefer e.g. the opening, where the intricate technical counterpoint even reminds me a bit of, say, Milton Babbitt, there are others in which forms are more open or tonal (and presumably much easier for the listener) — all of this being encapsulated in the notion of "bagatelle" that subtitles the album. (Beethoven's Für Elise is likely the best known "bagatelle.") There is thus almost a lightness projected by what is often rather novel music. Textures are usually not very thick, yet transformation (as per the title) is nearly constant, as each bagatelle (or gesture) proceeds in some clear yet seemingly arbitrary (musical) direction. Some are far more animated than others, while some are more intricate or instead involve broader temporal figures, making for a great deal of sonic variety on the album overall. The result is also something of an electronic interrogation (by Erel) of horn sound, both brass (including euphonium) & (less ubiquitously) reed (& even uncredited, voice), and so might be compared to e.g. Growing carrots... which involves something similar (performed by Wade Matthews) with or for a violin family duo: The latter is rather more piercing (at least at times), and involves a lot more sustained — even gritty — tone from the strings, plus needn't rely on electronics so much e.g. for pitch bending. In other words, Schindler does not have a "dirty" sound in the sense that early improvisers with electronics (many subsequently going into rock music) would understand the term, although there is sometimes "noise" per se: At least after the somewhat startling percussive opening, he & his companions generally maintain a sense of beauty & precision across a wide timbral spectrum. (Timbral transformation proceeds as far as low brass into chimes.) Sometimes they come off almost as mad scientists (or kindly professors) demonstrating tricks — again per the bagatelle notion. Perhaps this suggests or provides the welcoming sense to Sound Energy Transformation, as there is undoubtedly a distinctive warmth injected into these highly technical concerns by Schindler et al. (Transformation of sound & energy per se is undoubtedly a big part of that too.) What they have ready to demonstrate does seem to have run its course by the time the album ends, so I guess we'll have to wait to learn what they cook up next.

18 February 2018


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