Hell-Bent in the Pacific
Outpost Live is the first release on Eneidi’s Botticelli label in quite some time, featuring a go-for-broke trio with drummer Luther Gray and Joe Morris on bass recorded live in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2010. Packaged in a handmade edition of 100 with varying images on the sleeve, the disc consists of five improvisations that are in keeping with Eneidi’s extension of the searing, motivic approach of Jimmy Lyons – in other words, the music is prime Eneidi power trio material, picking up right where a record like Cherry Box (Eremite, 1999) left off. Dry and open, Eneidi’s phrases pop and curlicue on the opening “Touch,” biting and whinnying exuberantly with the supporting crashes and shoved floes of Gray’s limbs and girded by Morris’ gutsy pizzicato. A lengthy bass solo separates the opener and its follower, “Slang’n,” which enters at a slower tempo, almost pensive at the outset before Eneidi and Gray dole out biting surges, toying with a bluesy walk before the trio is off at a shimmering, squirrelly run. Working his phrases into odd patterns that zigzag and create dialogic asides, one is almost reminded of Lyons’ 1962 Copenhagen recordings with Taylor, though Eneidi is not nearly as tentative. I am unsure whether it is unfair to belabor the affinities between the two musicians because while Eneidi was/is very much a student of Lyons’ music, over three decades he has honed his craft into a personal, recognizable approach. Perhaps it’s something akin to the specific things that Eric Dolphy gleaned from Charlie Parker to build his own language, though I’d argue that Eneidi’s parallels are clearer, despite some crucial differences in rhythm and pacing (his short unaccompanied solo on “Flüchtling Wanderlung” is a thing of unique beauty). As a trio, Eneidi, Morris and Gray are elegantly complementary, and as much as the fires are continually stoked, the music develops from close listening and subtle interplay. Outpost Live is a fine and very welcome restatement of form and intent in Eneidi’s ongoing development.
Hell-Bent in the Pacific presents Eneidi in a California-centric quartet with reedman Vinny Golia, bassist Lisa Mezzacappa and drummer Vijay Anderson on nine group improvisations recorded in the altoist’s former Bay Area stomping grounds. The set opens with an awesome three-horn charge, Golia doubling soprano and sopranino against Eneidi’s alto, twirling and dancing around latter’s sweaty brays. Mezzacappa and Anderson build up a howling storm of rhythm, though they’re just as easily able to delve into a litany of smaller accents that demark the hornmen’s cascading wails. Golia and Eneidi are interesting foils, because whereas Eneidi is a motivic, cellular improviser, Golia’s phrasing is broad, gestural and texturally rooted. As far as I’m aware, this is their first recorded meeting. Hearing Eneidi’s verbose accents alongside Golia’s shrill outlines and guttural warble, one gets the feeling that their differences allow them to triangulate a sound that is neither specific nor general. Eneidi is almost “cool” in the opening salvos of “Everything Imaginable Can Be Dreamed,” inquisitive and ebullient as Anderson and Mezzacappa motor and knock alongside before the trio moves into high gear. Following a dirty slice of bass/bass clarinet interaction, the quartet is delicate and fibrous on “Pendulum” and jaunty on the abbreviated “Fumbling Fulminations.” Laconic and stately with coiled strength, Golia’s tenor is front and center on the excellent trio piece “Prisoner of a Gaudy and Unlivable Present,” a fascinating point of compare to Eneidi’s vehicle a few cuts prior, especially as the rhythm section piles on in a painterly blur. Hell-Bent in the Pacific is an hour’s worth of West Coast Hot that one would be a fool to sleep on.
NATHAN HANSON/BRIAN ROESSLER
Selenographia is the second album to feature the Minnesota-based duo of soprano saxophonist Nathan Hanson and contrabassist Brian Roessler, who have performed together for a decade and a half as part of the vibrant Twin Cities creative music scene. As with quite a number of the Cities’ musicians, Roessler and Hanson have developed a connection to Paris’ improvisers through the curatorial efforts of Nato Records founder Jean Rochard (Paris/St. Paul) and performances at the Sons d’ Hiver festival. The duo’s longstanding collaborative relationship has resulted in a completely natural language, to the point that across these thirteen pieces, one ceases to think of them as saxophonist and bassist, rather as inseparable siblings or two inflections of the same voice. To be sure, Roessler’s throaty arco and sinewy attack are in keeping with preceding travelers like Jean-Jacques Avenel and Béb Guerin, while Hanson departs from the obvious lineage of Steve Lacy for a rounder phraseology (a la later Lol Coxhill) and occasional Arabic inflections (cue the Theo Loevendie-esque solo “Sea of Crisis”). So there are external reference points for this music, but among equally peerless players. The program is diverse, running the gamut from stark and incisive improvisations to deceptively simple and dusky tunes, such as the gorgeous “Life on its Way” ramble of “The Moonbeam Song.” Hanson and Roessler may be localized in their work to the extent that the larger improvised music world hasn’t caught on, but that being said, they bring copious technique, individuality and a healthy dose of “heart” to the creative music table. Furthermore, housed in a hand-screened jacket with translucent orange wax, Selenographia is as beautiful to look at as it is to listen to.
One wouldn’t be wrong in opining that singer-songwriter,
guitarist and violinist Samara Lubelski’s records generally have a similar
tenor. Her voice is wrapped in wet, gauzy textures and delivered with clipped
breathiness, augmented by flinty jangle across a quilt of closely valued hues. Lyrically her lines are oblique, curious word choices and turns of phrase popping out from a broad field. Showing the influence of Kiwi rock a la The Clean as much as psychedelic femme-folkies, Lubelski has also brought to bear her
work in improvisational lo-fi outfit The Tower Recordings and their German
analogue Metabolismus for a series of fascinatingly personal LPs on De Stijl, The
Social Registry and Ecstatic Peace, of which Wavelength is the fifth. Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley
returns for his second Lubelski band appearance, and the ensemble is fleshed
out by PG Six and Helen Rush (Tower Recordings) and Thilo Kuhn, Mo Finkbeiner
and Werner Notzel (Metabolismus), among others, on twelve original tunes. I suppose
it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that Wavelength is entirely in keeping with the vibe one expects
from one of her records, but at the same time Lubelski's music is continually
being refined and she has cultivated a sound that is distinctly “hers.”
After all, one can never truly step into the same river twice. Instrumentally abetted by gently-layered guitars, vibraphone, organ, keyboards and harmonium, Lubelski’s vision has a painterly haze that is both comforting and oddly arresting.But not all of the tunes are breezy psychedelic folk-rock – “Age of Decay” is comparatively aggressive, and
hooks are prevalent. The closing title track has an oppressive, pulsing and fuzzed-out vibe, albeit in the form of a brief instrumental coda. Whether this is your first meeting with Lubelski’s music or she’s a familiar face, Wavelength is a fine new addition to the discography.
German bassist Peter Stock isn’t particularly well known outside of Europe (and actually he’s fairly obscure on his home continent), but that shouldn’t deter anyone from investigating Privatkredit, which features his committed return to music after an absence of more than three decades. Stock’s recorded output is small – the eponymous Just Music (JM 001/ECM 1002) and the Alfred Harth/Nicole Van Den Plas Quintet 4.Januar.1970 LP (AH 002) being the most recognized – but his impact in those ensembles is definitely felt. He’s also heard on the three-CDR set of Just Music archival material that Harth released on his Laubhuette imprint and appeared at the 40 Jahren Just Music concert in Frankfurt in 2009. Privatkredit joins Stock on a series of thirteen improvisations with bass-trombonist Matthias Siegel and percussionist Kuno Wagner; Stock’s instrument of choice is a homemade amplified contrabass that sonically straddles the line between fretless electric bass, diddley-bow, and a standard upright. Amid the light, tasteful chatter of cymbals and snare and Siegel’s metallic, garrulous chortle and subtonal guffaws, Stock’s eliding pizzicato and indeterminate electricity provides odd contrapuntal tension. Siegel’s brass improvising is deft and has a penchant for the absurd; he’s certainly following in the footsteps of the brothers Bauer (Hannes and Conny) in getting down to business on the lower horn. Across the disc’s fifty minutes, some of the improvisations seem to revolve around similar bases, and that can result in a bit of similarity. Nevertheless, Privatkredit presents three lesser-known voices in German free music with clarity and strength, and it will be interesting to hear how their music evolves.
Ewen’s horizontal string scrabble and Verrill’s roaring, throaty arco, along with tremendously particular drumming, elevate the second piece above a mere “stoner dirge,” while there’s curious parlor delicacy to the measured drift of the third tune. The latter segues into a brisk waltz-like piece with additional processed guitar from Deerhoof’s John Dieterich and finds the group’s elemental aspects at their most layered and lush. There’s an audible shift on the second side to something perhaps less severe – the seventh tune has a sunny, softshoe air even with its metronomic pulse, yawing guitar groans and sawed bass. However, altering the key a half step and switching to pizzicato and condensing the guitar attack provides a sea change in mood and scope. The final piece is both wistful and cutting, a lullaby shot through with inexact, somewhat warped filaments. There is one issue with The Weird Weeds that won’t bother the uninitiated – no Weird Weeds album has yet captured the intensity of their live shows, for which every bit of unsettled starkness is rendered with crackling, near-explosive energy. While that’s not a slight on the present disc, one can always hope for bottled genies.
VERYAN WESTON/INGRID LAUBROCK/HANNAH MARSHALL
An improvising trio absent the traditional markers of a rhythm section (bass and/or drums), the musicians on Haste explore longer forms with a balance of gestural, painterly swoops and pointillist detail. Featuring pianist Veryan Weston, cellist Hannah Marshall (both UK-based) and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (German-born and for a time London-based, though now living in New York), the trio works through three collective pieces totaling just shy of an hour. Weston is an incredibly resourceful keyboardist, but his penchant for poise and deep listening ensure that his glisses and clusters remain on axis. It’s important to note that both Weston and Laubrock are accomplished composers and, while the music on Haste may be collectively improvised, it’s clearly from a perspective of naturally unfolding structure and organization (Marshall acquits herself excellently in this department as well). Therefore, as the trio moves through these tri-logues and conversations, it’s with an ear towards engagement, dynamics and resolution. “Sleeping Down Hill” comprises the disc’s first half, beginning with subtonal reed kisses and ponticello bowing against hushed, rhapsodic chords. Gradually the three layer and spread out, becoming unruly and dense in the process – Laubrock’s tenor alternately pillowy and harried in a controlled gush against the pricks and dives of Marshall’s cello. “Leaving Up” finds the saxophonist switching to soprano at the outset, twirling and fluttering as part of a delicate three-pronged counterpoint, the trio moving between skitters and telepathic elision with seemingly sharp left-turns often hinging on bow and strings. While not quite as theatrical as Tristan Honsinger, Marshall’s cello work is similarly mealy and dervish-like, extending modern classicism into an electrifying, madcap whorl. But at the same time, her sense of control within/of the classical tradition garners more than a few nods in the direction of János Starker. Haste is a gorgeously recorded and far-ranging slab of contemporary creative music, and a fascinating entry in each of these three musicians’ output.