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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nate Wooley - Seven Storey Mountain V (Pleasures of the Text, 2016) ****

Nate Wooley’s Seven Storey Mountain V is the latest addition to an interesting series of albums. The first Seven Story Mountain album was recorded live at the Abrons Art Center in 2007 (released 2009) and featured a trio of Wooley with David Grubbs on harmonium and Paul Lytton on percussion. The newest addition to the series, also recorded live at Abrons in September 2015, features a nineteen piece group. The low end is handled by Colin Stetson (amplified bass saxophone), Josh Sinton (amplified bass clarinet), and Dan Peck (amplified tuba). C. Spencer Yeh and Samara Lubelski play amplified violins. Chris Dingman and Matt Moran are on vibraphones while Ben Hall and Ryan Sawyer provide percussion. Ben Vida is on electronics. Nate Wooley plays amplified trumpet and tape. The TILT Brass Octet is also along for the journey.

From the lush brass chorale opening through the squall to the final quiet moments, SSMV is an adventurous journey over the course of almost fifty minutes. At times Wooley literally speaks through his trumpet, reading sentences from authors like Jim Harrison, Herman Melville, and Wallace Stevens, whose muffled, distorted voices push through the veil like ghosts long forgotten. There is a repeated ding that runs through the piece, like a typewriter carriage returning at the end of a line. Squalling drones drift through like sand storms deep in the desert. The feedback can be as blinding as a late Agnes Martin painting, disorienting you as you wander across the albums’ expanse.

This album requires active engagement on the part of the listener. It’ll push you through your confusion into a place satisfyingly close to enlightenment. High volume and good speakers are heavily recommended.

Looking forward to the final two installments in the Seven Storey Mountain series.


MJG said...

This has been an interesting series by Wooley and it sounds as if this one may maintain that interest. Thanks for the review.
Nice to see Agnes Martin referenced. A recent retrospective in London introduced me to her work in greater depth - I'm interested to know which of her late works you find blinding.

Colin Green said...

Any from the following selection, all at the Tate retrospective, might be regarded as qualifying:

MJG said...

Interesting selection, Colin.
I found that many of those works you highlight were restful on the eye, creating an immersive and almost meditative response. The stunning room of "white" canvasses "The Islands I-VII, 1979" created a stillness that was overwhelming but also a brightness that may have been "blinding" for some viewers. Whereas I thought the almost unbounded iridescence of the gold leaf of "Friendship 1963" had more potential to overwhelm sight by its brightness. pictured on this page
I'll be very interested to see David's response as to which later works he was referencing as it will hopefully introduce me to some other of Martin's works or to a new perspective on those I've seen.
Maybe this is all a bit off topic from Free Jazz although I see that Evan Parker is performing at the Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the RA and discussing links between the two art forms. Maybe a potential to expand the blog!

Colin Green said...

There’s a fragility and internal glow to Martin’s work, particularly when seen collectively, that it’s difficult to capture in reproduction. I agree: they seem more meditative than bright – with the exception of the reflective “Friendship” – but to a certain extent it’s a matter of subjective response.

The RA’s Abstract Expressionism exhibition looks promising. For those of us not able to visit MOMA it should be a treat – De Kooning’s majestic “Woman II”, for example. These works are often better seen as part of a mixed collection than as single artist retrospectives – there’s only so many Rothkos you can take at a time (not so with De Kooning I think).

I hope to catch the exhibition when I’m in London in November, but I don’t think that will coincide with Evan Parker’s discussion and performance. There are many connections between free music and some of the Abstract Expressionists. Try Irving Sandler’s “Abstract Expressionism and the American Experience: A Reevaluation” and his earlier “The Triumph of American Painting”, two very good accounts of the period. I’ve alluded to some of these connections from time to time in my reviews.

Colin Green said...

And for anyone interested in these connections, consider the following from the painter Robert Motherwell, quoted by Sandler:

“With known criteria, the work of the artist is difficult enough; with no known criteria, with criteria instead in the process of becoming, the creative situation generates an anxiety close to madness; but also a strangely exhilarating and sane sense too, one of being free – free from dogma, free from history, from the terrible load of the past; and above all, a sense of nowness, of each moment focused and real, outside the reach of the past and the future.”

In my view this mirrors a number of the issues facing free music in the Sixties, and which remain, even though what Motherwell and others were doing took place some twenty years earlier (things don’t always move in parallel).

David Menestres said...

I was thinking for the six works in the Agnes Martin Gallery at the Harwood Museum in Taos, NM. These paintings were done in 1993 when Agnes moved back to the Taos area. Really remarkable work, in a beautiful space designed to house these paintings. If you ever have the chance, it is worth a visit. You can sit on furniture made by Donald Judd and look at these paintings for hours.

Colin Green said...

That's a beautiful location.

MJG said...

Thank you David. I second Colin's sentiments, what a stunning room and gallery - sadly a long way away. That Martin herself sat in the space adds a poignancy

Colin - you mention Motherwell. Did you know about this exhibition just over the road from the RA? Should still be open when you visit RA unless you're coming in the last week of November. An ideal companion exhibition I suspect

Thank you for the Sandler references - I shall track them down as preparatory reading for the exhibition

Colin Green said...

Thanks for the tip. I didn't know about the Motherwell exhibition. I might even pick up a butty from Fortnum & Mason between exhibitions - scrumptious!