Posts Tagged ‘Free Jazz’

Swimming In Bengal

Sacramento psych outfit Swimming in Bengal conjure up some heavy Sun City Girls vibes, while delving into the heart of Eastern psych on their latest album for Lugubrious Audio / Baggage Claim. The record wraps carpets of drone around improvisations built for sax, flute, harmonium, gourd guitar, and scattered shards of percussive debris. Its easy to play at creating psych that wanders into the exotic, try on a few fancy hats and pretend that non-Western music carries the only chords that “speak to you,” but SIB seem to have spent a bit more time laying into the meat that supports carrying the mantle here.

Multi-instrumentalist Tony Passarell worked with Danish-Congolese saxophonist and composer John Tchicai, and has gone on to build a unit of players that admirably blend the drive of European free-jazz, South Asian traditional tones, drone and good ole flame roasted psych. Garden of Idle Hands builds as an album, first and foremost, each track a cracked cobble stone in its craggy and crusted structure. The band has a way of imparting a worn feeling of age, timeless and turbulent to their work and as such there are few moments in the record that feel like the were laid to tape in 2016. They dart through worn street tapes picked up at adhoc Indian markets, ’60s jazz flare ups and subsequent ’70s jazz infatuations with stronger connections to non-American sounds. While it may sound on paper that the band is reaching to too many corners simultaneously, in the headphones is sounds like they may have struck just the right balance.


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Oneida & Rhys Chatham – “You Get Brighter”

They’ve played together in the past, including a stint at ATP in 2013 but this matchup had yet to put hte magic to tape until now. The union seems like a natural fit, though Chatham expressed doubt prior to their collaboration, but one listen to some of Oneida’s less rock driven material of late (the dub-inflected work on their split with Teeth of the Sea, the extended drone workouts of A List of the Burning Mountains) speaks to a like-minded meeting of innovators. The first track from the collaboration is bracing and brittle, but not so divorced from rock that it doesn’t have a feeling being comfortable on stage in front of a noise-rock crowd. As the track evolves it gathers a more experimental direction, and the notion of having to stay in the rock lane never seems like a given. The song growls and then breaks into a buzzing sea of feedback, chewed glass and wire. Its just the sort of track that I’m looking for with those two names up on the marquee.



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Forma

On Forma’s third album they’ve expanded their scope to embrace a looser approach through improvisation, though they don’t dive into the idea lightly. Physicalist is constructed in two halves, the first follows their setup of vintage synths and Terry Riley/Faust vibes with occasional flecks of Cluster strewn about the synthscape. The second, plunges the band into a broader vision populated with flute, acoustic instrumentation (a first for the band) and elements of free jazz. Since the LP version is setup as a double LP, essentially they act as companion records with each focusing on a different scope, tied together by the idea of repetition and improvisation with an emotional arc fusing the halves through what feels like a cycle of self-discovery.

The first side is bound by their usual setup, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t taken a few steps forward. Barring the more techno oriented Cool Haptics EP, the band worked in groove oriented Kosmiche on both their eponymous LP and its follow-up Off/On and both of those releases feel much more tightly wound than anything on this side of Physicalist. From the cover art by influential psych designer Robert Beatty, to the double LP sprawl, everything here seems oriented to be more expansive, more attuned to the informative qualities of electronic float. The band works through tension and turbulence on this first portion, slowly unhinging its hold on reality.

The second side takes the notion of the infinite and lets it free. There’s a distinct progression along the first half towards looser and looser ends and they continue the unraveling on the second half to great effect, each track seems less and less tied to the idea of rhythm. They work this system right up until the title track, which bursts out of the second half in a vibrant and celebratory blast. Its still built into their well of synth, but adds a layer of pop that the band hasn’t really embraced. Its as if the tension and serenity of the preceding tracks melt into the background for the band to break free into a hedonist dance, leaving the academia of the album behind. Then, as a sobering up of sorts, the final improvisation rises like the sun over the tresses of the bridge line along the river, a knowing sign that tomorrow’s here and that a sobering reality awaits. Though, for the moment, that track hits like the halting bliss of a night well lived, the calm before the comedown. Its a great step forward for the band and one that knocks them out of any danger of being accused of stasis. They’ve built an well-oiled arc that uses the album format in a way that fewer and fewer seem to relish these days.




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Laddio Bolocko – Live and Unreleased 1997 – 2000

No Quarter have painstakingly sought to elevate Laddio Bolocko’s legacy with this collection of live recordings, augmented with a companion DVD, for those (like myself) who missed out on LB’s heydey in the Brooklyn underground before being anywhere near the Brooklyn underground made you noteworthy. The set captures the band’s ability to carve catharsis out of chaos and shape noise into a gleaming force for physical change. The band dives off the cliff of pop sensibilities, there’s no regard among the players for how much carefree fun you’re having but instead the pieces chip away at the listener until they force physical, emotional and mental release. Drummer Blake Fleming, later of The Mars Volta, hammers rhythm against a wall of sax and clatter of noise, kicking his way into your head in a stutter-stop chug that’s lets the sweat through the speakers. The rest of the band aren’t playing peek-a-boo either, they strangle sound until it screams and relents and hell that’s just the first set.

The second set finds the band moving away from a bit of the clatter and more towards a realm that finds the link between Laddio’s past and a few players involvement with No Quarter alums Psychic Paramount. Math riddled free jazz fights for breath with with pummeling noise rock and the band seems to truly find their place near the sun. Its easy to see how the legend was built on performances like How About This For My Hair and As If By Remote. For the uninitiated (which I’d imagine numbers high) this is going to be both a dense entry and a welcome shake awake. Its exhausting but rewarding in the way that distance runners seem to cling to; a high that somehow pushes you through the collapse.

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Mortitz Von Oswald Trio

There’s been no lack of love for Von Oswald’s trio here at RSTB but with this new chapter of the band he knocks an already exemplary band into a new level. Replacing original drummer with current touring drummer and legend in his own right, Tony Allen, the new album from the trio takes off from the group’s usual stomping grounds of electronically bent jazz and dub then infects it with flecks of Afrobeat propulsion and synth darkness in a way that feels like the missing ingredients all along. Sounding Lines plays with space and rhythm. MVO Trio has always pushed forward the boundaries of their respective genres but here they delve headlong into a shadowy cave of echoes that tumble beats in all directions, synths that seek only to haunt and a kind of crushing heaviness that’s as threatening as a coronary. Perhaps not one for the coming summer sun but when that swelter starts to bubble up from the soil itself, Sounding Lines will feel like just the answer.



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Squadra Omega

Paring down to a trio for their latest, Italian combo Squadra Omega certainly take no decline in the size of their squall on Altri Occhi Ci Guardano. Starting with an untethered drift of noise that feigns from their true strength, the album flashes a few incisors as it barrels into “Sospesi nell’Oblio”. The threesome ties Krautrock into knots, utilizing its trademark thrust to add an insistent groove to the record, while gnarling the narrative above the churn of bass and drums. Spaced syths and impossibly coagulated guitars find a link between the open spaces of Morricone soundtracks, the restlessness of surf, the asymmetrical bite of jazz and the ambient drift of musique concrète.

That original feint of drift recurs throughout the album to cleanse the palette of frantic bop that otherwise threatens to tear a hole in your turntable but they always storm back to the fray and each new time it seems with more vicious results. The tracks push into the eleven and twelve minute territory but never feel like overwrought indulgences, instead they fill out a double LP with the kind of expansive instincts that pushed their German progressive forbears to the edges of space.



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