Various Artists – Three 7″ Records and 1 Various Artists CD On Generate

(Generate Records)

Ernesto Diaz-Infante / Jeff Arnal
Brooklyn Mantra

As it happens in any mantra worthy of respect, this piece — subdivided in two parts, one per side of the 7-inch — evolves over a single entrancing chord, strummed by Diaz-Infante on his 12-string bajo sexto — initially slowly, then a little more energetically, Arnal hitting cymbals and skins with relatively controlled abandon at first, soon shifting into a fairly energetic display of percussive colors. The shortage of instrumental sources is inversely proportional to the cocoon-ish qualities of the resonance generated, though in the second half the drummer introduces a larger quantity of irregular rhythms that do not change the general mood. A congenially diminutive shamanistic experience, to be played loud (and possibly burnt on CDR to be able of setting it in “repeat” mode, which I suspect would increase its mesmeric potential).

Air Below Mountains / Louder

Ben Perkins (bass), Kevin Parrett (guitar) and Matt Schulz (piano, drums) are fine exponents of a modern type of instrumental apocalypse, playing their instruments as if the news had just broke that the world is exploding within ten minutes. “Air Below Mountains” clangs, zings and sputters, underlined as it is by a massive wall of rumbling harmonic incomprehensibility barely disturbed by string sliding, extreme picking and scattered percussive convulsions. “Louder” — strangely enough given its title — starts as a more rarefied piece, echoes of industrial areas mixing with visions of mean-intentioned, transgendered minimalism whose burnt tissue exhales toxic fumes that no depurator will ever be able to dissolve. Then the true bombardment begins and it’s a particularly suggestive one, replete with harsh feedback and ominous glissandos. Do these guys still believe that there is a future? I don’t, either. Great stuff.

Gordon Beeferman
Music For An Imaginary Band

“No Meat” is the bastard child of a soundtrack to a deranged Broadway show and a trip through the glorious times of jazz’s big bands, the whole arranged by fairly rational-minded Stravinskian zealots. There’s nary a moment of quietness, intelligence abounding throughout. The recording quality favors an “all-in-a-room” trait which contributes to the music’s pleasant overtones. Same characteristics in “Far Interlude”, with a more relaxed vibe — a pseudo-ballad, anyone? — and in general a sombre disposition that adds a further pinch of melancholy to an already rather long-faced score. There are ways of demonstrating dissidence besides making noise: Beeferman’s music is perfect in that sense. Beautiful record, too bad it’s only a tiny vinyl thing. Participants: Nate Wooley, Evan Rapport, Matt Bauder, Josh Sinton, Brad Kemp, Michael Evans. My heartfelt “bravo” goes to each of them.

Various Artists
Generate Records 1999-2009

The only CD featured in this review is a lovely compilation. Usually this is a format that I pretty much dislike, given the practical impossibility of a true analysis (unless one really wants to waste some precious time by dissecting single tracks) and the customary extreme heterogeneity of the artistic levels implied. Yet this collection of improvisations contains materials so fine that, for once, immunity is granted and an invitation to listening carefully assured, especially if you want to have a precise idea of what this imprint is up to (always at very high standards of musicianship, for good measure). Label honcho Jeff Arnal is obviously present in the majority of contexts, his approach to anything percussive characteristically peerless. The disc’s musical scope links the qualities of the best contemporary free jazz and the radical derivations of chamber-influenced music, the (positive) exception being the previously unreleased “Live at CIM” by the trio of Arnal, Ernesto Diaz-Infante and Philip Gayle which ends the program with an entrancing vibe quite similar to the above reviewed Brooklyn Mantra’s. Other noteworthy affairs come from the grouping Bodies Of Water (Arnal with pianist Gordon Beeferman) and the two consecutive trios Tripwire (Lars Scherzberg on alto sax, John Hughes on double bass — Jeff Arnal on percussion) and Propele di Katsa (Barbara Fuchsberger, Joerg Hochapfel and again Hughes in a wonderful clarinet-piano-bass setting). A highly recommended sampler, no question about it.


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