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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rob Mazurek: Celebrating his 50th (Day 2)

Courtesy of Cuneiform Records
Today we continue our celebration of musician Rob Mazurek with an interview and a review of his new electronic work Vortice of the Faun.

By Matthew Grigg

MG: In the documentary 'Looking For A Thrill' you talk about the impact seeing the Sun Ra Arkestra had on you. What other musical influences, either formative or recent, do you feel have a baring on your work?

RM: Bill Dixon's works are of supreme importance to me. Bill really created his own unique vocabulary. So personal and astonishing on many levels. Extension of what a trumpet could do, what an ensemble could do. Autechre has aways been a strong influence since they started. Again, a sound that is as personal as it is original. Morton Feldman's music is a constant. Such resonances, a unique vocabulary all his own.

MG: In addition to music, you are active in visual creative mediums too; painting, multimedia, etc. Do you feel that this work offers you the opportunity to express something that you cannot with music? or do you view it as part of a larger creative process?

Making paintings and video etc... is like making music and making music is like making paintings and video etc... I have always felt that they go hand in hand. When I am working (which is a constant) I often have paintings going, video, electronic music, written music, text in the way of multiple books out and open to certain passages, sculptural ideas, Opera ideas, solo ideas... at this moment here in Marfa, Texas I have all these things in motion. Reading and looking at Wendell Berry, Samuel R. Delany, David Grubbs, Clarice Lispector, Donald Judd, James Benning, Agnes Martin. At the moment I can't seem to stop watching the Yoshige Yoshida Japanese New Wave Movie: Eros Plus Masscre.

MG: Whilst there is a strong melodic base to your music, and some of your projects are underpinned by instant grooves, your work (to me at least) seems to deal predominantly with ideas of texture. Is that an accurate characterisation? What importance to you give these elements when approaching your work/how do they differ from project to project?

Attempting to make different and interesting atmospheres in order to project a resonant life force into the universe utilizing unique personalties and instrumentation of personalities in traditional and non traditional ways. In the end its all about how it sounds to me. I enjoy putting sounds together. I can use, melody, non-melody, harmony, non-harmony, soft, loud, medium, different ranges, various rhythms, set time, free time, any note is wonderful, all sounds are something. I try to organize these in ways that sets a resonance in motion or seemingly still.

MG: Given the breath of projects you currently have/have previously had, are certain projects designed to investigate a particular idea/set of ideas? are there any in which you feel you manage to express the full breadth of your creative impulses?

I speak about Exploding Star Orchestra being the creative giant of the ensembles, but really they all have there power and interesting possibilities. I am not sure if scale, or the size of a given ensemble is necessarily the most important thing. You would believe you had more options with more personalties, but maybe it is the opposite. Maybe less possibilities offers larger projections. I have been thinking a lot about this as far as painting goes. Things on a massive scale are always going to seem more impressive and substantial initially it seems... but when looking closer it could be the opposite. I am thinking in terms of life cycles of humans, plants, universes, species... how technology intertwines with all this and the idea of the final outcome.

MG: There is an overlap with the musicians you are involved with between different groupings. How do you decide who to involve in each project? Does it begin with a musical idea or evolve from the group of musicians?

RM: Imagining the sound determines the instrumentation. I have been working with some of the musicians I play with for over 10-20 years... you have this sound in mind and you attempt to make it sing. Set it off. let if go free. Orchestration for me is sometimes just a way to free people from what they might normally do.

MG:  You have a duo recording coming out with Jeff Parker later this year, what other plans do you have for collaborations and tours in the coming year?

RM: Yes the duo project with Jeff "Some Jellyfish Live Forever" is a beautiful recording we made together focussing on melody and atmosphere. I have been working on a song cycle with Emmett Kelly that will be called "Alien Flower Sutra". These are songs I wrote for Emmett to sing and put lyrics to, based on a larger Opera world I have been working on for some time. This will be released on International Anthem Records early next year.

I will be playing the excellent Saalfelden Jazz Festival in August with Black Cube SP and Sao Paulo Underground and will travel over to Sant Anna Arresi Festival for a solo work dedicated to Butch Morris.

September I will be presenting with Damon Locks, a lecture on the idea of Vision and Sound at University of Wisconsin Madison. September we have a Sao Paulo Underground tour in the US. October I will directing a large ensemble of musicians form Brest France and Chicago called Third Coast Ensemble, which we will perform at various venues in France, a new work of mine based on shipwrecks off the coast of Brittany and Chicago.

November will be a Black Cube SP tour in Europe.

December and January I should be back in Marfa, Texas finishing a new work utilizing Text, Paintings, Video, Sound and Songs called: Marfa: Loops, Shouts and Hollers.

Rob Mazurek - Vortice of the Faun (Astral Spirits, 2015) ***½

By Matthew Grigg

The use of electronics has been central to Rob Mazurek's music, having formed the backbone of projects such as Mandarin Movie and Orton Socket, gaining increasing prominence in the development of the Chicago Underground, and, prior to Vortice of the Faun, deployed exclusively on two Mazurek solo releases (Editions Mego's Sweet & Vicious Like Frankenstein and the 2nd disc of the Rogue Art double platter Matter Anti-Matter). Mazurek's cornet, instantly identifiable and easy to pull from the dense sonic worlds in which it is often framed, was laid bare on Mother Ode and Abstractions On Robert D'Arbrissel. Here we are offered the other side of the coin, those electronic textures, so interwoven and subsumed in group settings, presented alone.

What is quickly apparent is that Mazurek's voice is as clearly defined using electronics as it is on the cornet and, as prior electronic releases have demonstrated, he has the ability to breath something organic and human into sounds which often lack those traits. Changes and additions to his sonic array are showcased here (modules designed by The Harvestman and MakeNoise) which, presented in this setting, offers new insight into the complex electronic passages which have characterised recent group offerings.

Across the recording's 80 minutes, Mazurek navigates the breadth of textures and tones possibilities within his setup with great dexterity, constructing lengthy involved pieces from the contours of his oscillators, or moving swiftly through shorter passages of playful discovery. What could be so easily have been throwaway ideas or gadget tinkering, become segues or sojourns negotiated with a continued sense of the joy of exploration. Longer passages balance diverse timbral elements through areas of consonance and dissonance, burnished surfaces and abrasion.

Joined by Thomas Rohrer (of Black Cube SP) on one of the longer tracks, four intersecting rabeca lines create a lattice which weaves through and around an undulating electronic soundscape. Whilst it isn't necessarily the defining moment of the album, it does serve as a reminder that when combining the 'electro' and the 'acoustic' Mazurek frequently produces sounds greater than the sum of their parts. When considered from this perspective, the track's inclusion early on in proceedings lends a somewhat protracted feel to the following hour of unbroken electronic sound.

With each release, Mazurek seems to be reinforcing his musical vision and his identity within it. As with many of his projects, certain facets are emphasized or investigated more thoroughly than at other times, with the experience gleamed feeding back into an artistic vision which asserts itself more defiantly with each passing release. Vortice of the Faun is unlikely to appeal to his entire audience, or win converts to this side of his approach, but it represents another piece of the rosetta stone helping decode what is becoming a singular body of work.

Available as MC & DL from here


Colin Green said...

Excellent. The last two day's reviews have raised the bar for the quality of reviews on the blog.

Martin Schray said...

I can only agree with Colin. Especially the interview is really insightful. Nice work, Matthew and Stef.