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JAM: Jim Black (d), Assif Tsahar (s), Mat Maneri (v)

Industriesalon Schöneweide. Berlin. October 2021

HUMANIZATION 4TET: Luis Lopes (g), Stefan Gonzalez (d), Rodrigo Amado (s), Aaron Gonzalez (b)

Ausland. Berlin. September 2021

Klaus Kugel (d), Joe McPhee (s), John Edwards (b)

Zig Zag Club. Berlin. September 2021

DLW: Christian Lillinger (d), Jonas Westergaard (b), Christopher Dell (v)

Jazzwerkstatt Peitz 58. Germany. September 2021

Elisabeth Harnik (p), Wilbert De Joode (b), Jan Klare (sax, fl), Michael Vatcher (dr)

Manufaktur Schorndorf, September 2021

Frank Gratkowski (as), Jasper Stadhouders (b), Steve Heather (dr), Sam Hall (dr) and Dirar Kalash (ts)

at Au Topsi, Berlin, August 2021

Friday, December 3, 2021

Mars Williams - An Ayler Christmas Volume 5 (Astral Spirits, 2021) *****

Almost all the music reviewed at this location is shifted toward the extraterrestrial end of the spectrum. Even when the instruments and notes are perfectly ordinary, the music is exploring some dimension of sound and texture that would be entirely alien to fans of more popular genres. To put it mildly, the first time I listened to Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity, I really felt like I wondered into the ghost realm.

For that reason, the title An Ayler Christmas initially struck me as somewhat less plausible than a musical version of Silence of the Lambs. After spending a bit of time with it, it still strikes me that way. That is not a criticism. You might fill the theater for at least five shows with readers and reviewers from this blog.

That, at least, is what Mars Williams seems to have accomplished. I am reviewing Vol. 5 of an Ayler Christmas here. I knew Williams’ sax best from his addition to the Ken Vandermark 5 (Target or Flag 1998, Single Piece Flow 1997). He is backed up by an excellent band, including Kent Kessler another Vandermark 5 veteran. Kessler’s double bass is one third of the DKV Trio (with Vandermark and Hamid Drake).

There are really rich veins of music being excavated here. Much of the music right off Ayler’s albums, almost note for note if memory serves. I would go so far as to say that, were it not for the better recording technology, I wouldn’t be sure that it wasn’t the man himself.

Track One, “The Divine Peacemaker Plays Dreidel In Frightful Weather,” joins Ayler’s “Divine Peacemaker” with “Let It Snow.” Williams likes to pour in a lot of sound, but he brilliantly places individual players in spaces of quiet and then blends in a complimentary instrument. In my favorite moment, Peter Maunu’s lovely violin gives us a bit of fragrant Christmas incense, with is following an instrument that struck as mostly bagpipe. The effect was stunning.

Many of Ayler’s compositions sound like they were performed before a large holiday gathering. “The Angels Sing with the New and Old Ghosts in the Manager” weaves Ayler spirits with traditional melodies “Hark the Herald Angels” and more modern samples such as “Feliz Navidad” into a tapestry that is beautiful to the ear and velvety to the touch. The sixteen-minute cut begins with an Ayleresque solo that sets just the perfect mood for the larger band to come in behind of. The energy constantly builds after that and doesn’t taper off until very near the end.

The exquisitely titled third cut “Did You Hear They Found Light In Darkness” begins with honest to God sleigh bells. A horn chorus follows and the crowd of merry makers lights up. Ayler’s “Light In Darkness” finds its perfect match in “Do You Hear What I hear?” The pace is builds a church around it, on Christmas eve.

I am not sure that this is what you want to play on Christmas morning with Grandparents in attendance. Unless, of course, your grandmother happens to be Patti Smith. But if you want to cut the Christmas cookie sweetness with some genuinely brilliant free jazz, this is your next cocktail.

If you are looking for something a little less demanding, I recommend a collection Jingle Bell Jazz. If you find the right one, it has the Dexter Gordon Quartet playing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Might be the most perfect cut he ever recorded. Meanwhile hunt down Mars Williams recordings. Something for the stocking.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Peter Materna – Live in Düsseldorf to launch “The Kiss” (JAZZLINE, 2021) ****½

By Matty Bannond

Early one morning in 2020, free jazz saxophonist Peter Materna was composing music. Suddenly, the door opened. His wife entered the room. And she kissed him. The natural tenderness of that moment inspired an album brimming with raw intimacy and howling passion. It’s called The Kiss, and he recently performed songs from the album on stage for the first time.

For the concert at the Jazz Schmiede in Düsseldorf on 19 November, Materna was joined by Duy Luong (bass) and Karl-Friedrich Degenhardt (drums). Materna has been recording and performing for thirty years. He also founded the Jazzfest Bonn in 2010 and is the festival’s Artistic Director. Luong and Degenhardt are young musicians – this was their first performance with Materna. They grabbed the chance to experiment, explore and explode together in a vibrant and heavily improvised show. “It was a very risk-friendly concert,” Materna said after the gig. “We’re musicians who want to try things out, take new paths and push each other to play notes you’d never normally dream of playing.”

Pinging, zinging, singing

The first sounds of the concert set the tone for a stormy and heavily charged evening. Degenhardt took an introductory drum solo full of ominous cloud and foreboding thundercrashes, beaters bouncing off the toms and cymbals screaming. Softly at first, Materna’s distinctive saxophone sound slithered into the gaps with the melody from Hymne, a repeating phrase with rising pitch that careens through the ozone layer and then arrows back down like a blazing comet. This was followed by Oxygen 2, where Materna switched from alto to soprano sax. Luong began pinging high notes on his bass, while the drums were zinging and the saxophone singing to create a panicky, shallow-breathing atmosphere.

With the audience cowering behind their physically-distanced seats, the trio changed the tone and moved the goalposts. A Blues is not in the key of A. It’s also entirely devoid of the sweet melancholy that characterises many of Materna’s compositions. Instead, it’s funky enough to have listeners reaching for their star-shaped sunglasses. For his bass solo, Luong tipped over the toybox and found a Hammond-Organ-y sound that warmed the room as if he’d poured molten caramel in through the roof. Degenhardt tossed the rhythm around like a rag doll – here a military cadence, there a soulful groove. And Materna puffed his chest out and slipped free from every structure his co-conspirators dared to set up. The audience cheered and whooped. The musicians grinned. “It’s so much fun when you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Materna announced. “Like a conversation with someone you thought you knew well.”

Swaying, baying, playing

The show moved on to Wish You Were Here, a slow-paced bluesy shape with a sleek and slimy melody. Next came 343, a waltz for three musicians that was driven by Degenhardt’s skittering brushwork. The drummer opened up on Place to Be with a swaying, baying solo, endlessly stumbling from one beautiful idea to the next. The band then played the album’s title track, a sheet of tumbling sound like powdered snow slipping off a roof. Luong’s solo was punchy and precocious. Materna’s sax loose and lovelorn.

An album with multiple layers

The Kiss was recorded with Silvan Strauss on drums and Lisa Wulff on bass. “They leave a lot of space and put a sharp focus on groove,” Materna explained. “The gig in Düsseldorf was heavier, more crowded with ideas. But jazz is always different. If it was constricted by tight borders… it wouldn’t be jazz.”

The album stays in the memory for a long time, perhaps more like a first kiss than a familiar matrimonial smooch. But it’s a record with a deep spirit of celebration too. The presence-and-absence miracle of Wulff’s bass is pure joy. Strauss has a relentless, too-many-E-numbers style. Materna’s fuzzy, fizzing, buzzing, busy tone creates textures and temperatures that bring out the rich layers of his compositions. The record may be roomier than the concert at the Jazz Schmiede, but those open spaces unleash the life-force of exploration that is the beating heart of Materna’s music. If one kiss stirred that heart to produce such a moving and grooving album, it must have been a very good kiss indeed.

The Kiss is now available on CD and vinyl. Check out the preview video here:


About the Author

Matty Bannond is a 36-year-old fiction writer, music writer and sports writer. He was born and raised near Manchester, UK. He now lives in Germany. Twitter: @MattyBannond

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Marta Warelis, Rosaly, Lumley & Dikeman - Sunday At De Ruimte (Tractata 868, 2021) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

There is no doubt that jazz is very much alive and vibrant, and that new talent keeps bringing new ideas to music. One of the upcoming artists is Polish pianist Marta Warelis, who after graduating with honours in her home country moved to the Netherlands, where she is now fully part of the forward-looking music scene in Amsterdam. 

This year, she appeared on "Turqoise Dream" (2021) with Helena Espvall, Marcelo Dos Reis and Carlos Zingaro, last year on "Omawi" (2020) with Alistair Payne and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Other noteworthy albums include "Piano Trialogues" (2019), on which  Nicola L. Hein, on prepared guitar, and Etienne Nillesen, on extended snare drum, are accompanied on the three tracks by three different pianists: Magda Mayas, Eve Risser, and Marta Warelis. Last year, she also released "Microclimates" with the Hupata! ensemble, which further consists of Ada Rave on sax and Yung-Tuan Ku on percussion. The fact that she was asked to join Dave Douglas "Secular Psalms" tour in Europe this month says enough about how much she is in demand. 

On this album, she is in the company of saxophonist John Dikeman, who no longer needs any introduction, and who also has been residing in Amsterdam for many years; his fellow countryman Frank Rosaly is on drums and Canadian Aaron Lumley on bass. 

On "Sunday At The Ruimte", they bring us four improvised pieces, all four of exceptional quality, and all four musicians are also in great shape. The sound is a real collective co-creation of free improvisation: nervous, agitated, sharp, precise, hurried, yet expansive. There is some urgency to tell the story, creating strong ensemble dynamics, and intense interactions, yet they also take their time to give space and listen. 

Like Warelis, Dikeman is a musician with strong character, alternating lyrical phrases with moments of relentless insistency in a more parlando style, creating a sense of expansion and contraction, of departure and recentering on the music's core. In fact, he is magnificent on this album, getting better with the years, as we already noted with "Goes Without Saying, But It's Got To Be Said", released earlier this year. His sound is deep, warm and emotional, even in the more exploratory moments. 

Rosaly thrives in this environment too. His crisp and inventive playing is a real addition to the overall sound, making me think even that he's more European than American in his approach. Check also the excellent "Sude Des Alpes" by the Rempis Percussion Quartet, released earlier this year or "The Strobe Sessions", his duo with Dave Rempis. Of Aaron Lumley I only knew his solo bass cassette "Katabasis/Anabasis" from 2016. His playing is solid and captivating, as in the long solo he gives on the second piece. 

Despite the obvious freedom of the music, there is a post-boppish feel, a Coltrane-ish sense of musical space, lyricism and expansiveness, and the fact that all four musicians manage to weave mini-repetitive patterns into their improvisations results in a hypnotic feel. 

The sound quality is not optimal, possibly because it was recorded live - at the Doek Festival in August 2020 - you can hear children shout on several tracks, but unfortunately there is no further interaction with the audience to be heard. 

In any case, it's pure musical joy from beginning to end. 

Highly recommended. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few - Cosmic Transitions (Division 81 Records, 2021) *****

By Nick Metzger

This album is outstanding. Cosmic Transitions is Isaiah Collier’s third album with his group the Chosen Few, after 2017’s Return of the Black Emperor and 2019’s The UNAPOLOGETIC NEGRO and it’s an instant classic, may be a masterpiece - only time will tell. That it was recorded on Coltrane’s birthday in 2020 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio using the same equipment used for A Love Supreme should give you a sense of the guts Collier has. Though most true believers would shake in their boots at the thought of having to deliver anything substantial on such a day and in such a hallowed setting, Collier, pianist Mike King, drummer Michael Shekwoaga Ode, and bassist Jeremiah Hunt didn’t make the trip to kneel at the altar, they came to take up the torch and start new fires. The spiritual language of free jazz’s old guard is their native tongue. Not from, but of. This is ancestral music made manifest by a group of sonic shamans, and on four cuts across four sides Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few show a bright path forward.

The album begins in a mystic way: the sounds of chants, shakers, bells and bowls signifying ritual and meditative communion, a christening in which the members of the band set to the task at hand. The momentum coils around Ode’s thumping entry before abruptly exploding into a disorienting burst of sound. The gravity of the piece takes hold, the pieces begin to fall in place then resolve into the soaring piano chords that kick off “Forgiveness”, and I’ll tell you what, I still get goosebumps. The long and elegantly hostile solos of Collier and King roil over an absolutely stellar rhythm section. On “Humility” the husky tenor line beckons a shift in the rhythm and King takes over, delivering his most spectacular solo of the set. His majestic play is countered by the organic volatility of Collier over the latter half of the track. Even during his most emotional and free passages he retains unbelievable control over his instrument. The track winds down into a solo from Hunt that serves as a bridge into the intro of “Understanding/Truth”.

Once the theme has been stated Hunt provides an interminable respite from the unrelenting squall with an articulate and rumbling solo that totters against the yielding piano harmonies and rustle of percussion. When King takes over he builds up the temperature slowly and subtly with airy chords, rolling glissando, and audible vocalizations which reach a peak as Collier restates the theme. The track dissolves from there into a shifting tonal field that Collier probes with soulful Ayler-esque strokes until the din fades to silence. “Mercury’s Retrograde” begins from this silence. Little noises at first, whistles and small horns that Ode quickly buttresses into a roiling clamor. Collier screams on soprano, then tenor, then both. The clouds part abruptly and the final piece begins to spill out. This last one features some of the quartet’s most intense playing, as if they are engorged with these sounds and simply can’t get them out fast or vehemently enough. Collier’s soprano conjures whirlwinds, you can hear the mechanics of the instrument struggling to shape his breath. Over the final three minutes Collier and Ode deliver a beat down of immense proportions, smashing skins and splintering reeds. The group restates the theme again and it’s done.

At this point I can almost assure that you’ll want to start it up again immediately. Perhaps like me you’ll have trouble processing what you just heard and excitedly, senselessly, and viscerally just want more. I had so many questions after that first listen, and I can tell you now that the answers lie within. To quote Angel Bat Dawid in her liners for the UNAPOLOGETIC NEGRO, Collier’s is “ A return of a sound…from a not so far present future space. A return to the ancient wisdom teachings of ascended masters .” Amen to that. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Makaya McCraven - Deciphering the Message (Blue Note, 2021) ****

By Martin Schray

He has done it again: Over the past ten years Makaya McCraven has proven several times that he’s not only a jazz drummer who knows all the tricks of the trade, but also a very clever remix artist and producer. On the one hand, his own drumming mixes the styles of jazz heroes like Max Roach and Art Blakey with that of his father Stephen McCraven. On the other hand, when working with loops, he takes his cues from innovative DJs like J. Dilla and Madlib. What is more, McCraven likes to sample himself when organizing impromptu sessions around the world or when he’s invited as the guest star. He then edits the audio files several times to create contrasting moods.

Like on his Universal Beings album he uses classical jazz elements and enriches them with lots of funkiness and consistently develops the direct preliminary study for this album, his reimagination of Gil Scott Heron's last album We’re New Here Again (2020). On his new album he actually samples classics of the Blue Note catalogue but he doesn’t make the mistake to simply adore the achievements of the late greats. He hits the nerve of a younger generation instead because the music is viewed from the perspective of a newly added subjectivity (hiphop, drum’n bass). McCraven shifts the focus on the music’s novelty character, and thus it’s how it acquires a new musical relevance.

For Deciphering The Message he draws on the quality of the young, highly talented musicians of his band - vibraphonist Joel Ross, trumpeter Marquis Hill, saxophonists Greg Ward and De’Sean Jones, guitarists Matt Gold and Jeff Parker, and bassist Junius Paul - to put a fresh spin on the tracks. Joining them and McCraven on the virtual sampling stage are Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, Dexter Gordon, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell and Elvin Jones, among others. Eddie Gale’s 'Black Rhythm Happening' now becomes a big beat club stomper in McCraven’s version, which even enhances the late 1960s party mood of the original. Bobby Hutcherson’s extremely relaxed vibraphone on 'Tranquility' from his 1966 Components album joins Greg Ward’s whacked sax serpentines and Jeff Parker’s distorted guitar in a slightly surreal sonic space that can be a doorway to discovering the originals.

It’s interesting that McCraven chose recordings on which the later heroes were still on their way up. He said that he had wanted to focus on the older catalog and a particular era and that he had been inspired from the beginning by the idea of these young musicians going through bands, almost like a rite of passage. Focusing on this, McCraven also digs deeper in the concept of sampling within the context of traditional jazz - a method that has generally been a core aspect of his work.

The icing on the cake is the fact that the album has been so cleverly orchestrated that it feels like attending a concert at New York’s original Birdland jazz club. The trick is that McCraven uses announcements from the iconic Birdland MC “Pee Wee“ Marquette. McCraven says that he wanted to create a narrative that would give the listener the feeling of being transported back to that time or cultural movement. Thus, the album goes far beyond a simple stringing together of tracks. For all the love of sound tinkering, however, it's never too artificial or mechanical, as every pore of the album is imbued with a love of playing, collaboration and improvisation. In this way, McCraven also manages to seamlessly link the past of jazz with the present of this music.

Deciphering The Message is available as a download, on CD and on vinyl.

Listen to “Sunset“ here:

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Ryan Carniaux, Ra Kalam Bob Moses, Mike Roelofs - Joyous Freedom (Jazzwerkstatt, 2021) ****

By Flavio Zanuttini

This record was recorded in the middle of a tour in the summer of 2019. The three personalities fit really well together, they are able to create magic moments as well as spiritual atmospheres and a jazz feeling.

The clear sound of Ryan Carniaux's trumpet and flugelhorn is perfect for the beautiful melodies written by Ra Kalam Bob Moses like 'A Pure and Simple Being,' his approach to improvisation switches easily from modern jazz to more radical.

Percussionist Ra Kalam Bob Moses delivers a decisive job choosing the color of sound that better fit right in the moment, this takes the music on a new level highlighting its most important characteristics.

Mike Roelofs is comfortable in every situation from prepared piano to effected rhodes.

There’s a natural way of playing, a spiritual “something” that keeps strictly together these three musicians in this record. Everyone has his space where he can freely move, everyone is playing for the others, a wonderful interplay.

You can feel a connection between the musicians and you while listening to the music, something ancestral that makes you feel good.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Roy Campbell, John Dikeman Raoul van der Weide, Peter Jacquemyn & Klaus Kugel - When The Time Is Right (577 Records, 2021) ***½

By Stef Gijssels

The music on this album is raw, intense, energetic, agitated, somewhat uncontrolled and at moments chaotic, and with less than ideal recording quality, but we like it. 

We like it because of the presence of the late Roy Campbell Jr. on trumpet, flugelhorn and flute, and even if not everything he's ever recorded is memorable, it is great to have new releases on which he performs. 

He is in the company of John Dikeman on sax, Raoul van der Weide on cello and percussion, Peter Jacquemyn on bass and voice, and Klaus Kugel on drums. The five musicians met at the Doek Festival at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and they improvised this piece on stage. I do not think this American/Dutch/Belgian/German ensemble ever performed together before, yet they interact quite strongly. The only track lasts around 37 minutes. It is too short and we wish there was more, yet we're happy to hear it. 

There are moments when Campbell is up there in the sky, while Dikeman's sax is down on the ground with deep earthly sounds. Van der Weide's cello and Jacquemyn's bowed bass - and throat singing -occasionaly engage in fierce dialogues. Variation is guaranteed. 

The music is also relentless, with many things happening at the same time, and Kugel is driving things forward with power and rhythmic dynamics. There is a long quiet part with bowed strings and with Campbell on flute when the atmosphere becomes more gentle. 

But this is one of the rare moments to breathe, and when they arise they are usually short-lived because one of the other musician feels the need to pick up the pace and infuse the band again with the energy that characterises its 'raison d'être'. 

I'm happy this music exists. I wish the quality could have been better. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Friday, November 26, 2021

Ava Mendoza - New Spells (Relative Pitch/Astral Spirits, 2021) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

Guitarist Ava Mendoza is depicted with prickly pear cacti infront of a barbed-wire fence on the cover of her new recording New Spells. It's a fine visualization of the sounds that crackle forth from her electric guitar. 

This is her sound. Some recent group settings featuring Mendoza, like Mayan Space Station with William Parker and Gerald Cleaver, and Nate Wooley's Columbia Icefield project, are elevated by her bristling energy (and in terms of the latter, a neat contrast of energies with pedal steel player Susan Alcorn). On New Spells, Mendoza is not only front and center, but alone in carrying the whole recording, which she does artfully.

The recording begins with 'Sun Gun.' Gummy chords wobble in the background, steeped in reverb, while melodic notes are plucked out. Then, the song opens into a passage that recalls an unexpected Nirvana-like chord progression mixed with the wispy thin guitar lines a la Television. 'New Ghosts' goes down a different path, the beginning is sludgier, but not too heavy, the deeper tones bend and ooze, and eventually are extruded into long, stretchy tendrils. A bit of unresolved tension remains in the air throughout, especially when the echo effects are turned up and the atmosphere gets crunchy and dense. 

The last three songs are composed by her contemporaries, saxophonist John Dikeman, and bassists Trevor Dunn and Devin Hoff. Dunn's 'Ampulex Compressa' begins with a spikiness that fits Mendoza's style well, and then unfolds with fractal like wonder. Hoff's 'Apart From' has a haunting folkiness that Mendoza delivers with an enveloping approach. Finally, Dikemans 'Don't Look' vascillates between delicate arpeggiated melodies, trembling chord tones, and delightfully guitaristic textures.

Overall, New Spells is a bit grunge, a bit Hendrix, and all very much a unique creation. There is a completeness to each track, a collection of not just sonic exploration but rather songs with distinct narratives and personalities.  

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The News (ECM, 2021) ****

By Stephen Griffith

It's hard to overstate the number of seminal free jazz recordings drummer Andrew Cyrille has been part of, although the Cecil Taylor Unit’s 1966 Blue Note Unit Structures and Conquistador come quickly to most people's minds. But the 2019 octogenarian has been constantly active since then as a leader or sideman with a who’s who of major players. In 2016 he began a relationship with ECM with this quartet recording, followed by this trio date. The current quartet followed the sad demise of keyboard pioneer Richard Teitelbaum, leading to David Virelles assuming piano and synth duties that blend seamlessly with Bill Frisell’s guitar and Ben Street’s bass. Lee Rice Epstein perceptively pointed out that The Declaration of Musical Independence is a “spacious album...filled with longing and reflection” and the addition of Virelles augments that sound. Plus David is familiar with playing with Andrew and Street on his Continuum release from 2012.

On the topic of reflection, many of the songs apply new facets to previously recorded gems. The title cut was from a long out of print 1978 record on Ictus, The Loop, a solo drum album featuring sheets of newsprint covering the drum heads for “The News” and ending, in both versions with the leader simply stating “North East West South: The News" with his distinctive voice. Needless to say, even with the melodic nature of Andrew's drumming, the song sounds very different with the larger instrumentation, very disjointed sounds from all instruments perhaps reflective of the rapid-fire input from all directions to try to make sense of. But the underlying drumming has a similar skittering nature. An Adegoke Steve Colson composition, “Leaving East of Java” was previously recorded on Encounter by Trio 3, an early pre Intakt recording, now with Frisell and Virelles initially playing in unison to replicate Oliver Lake’s soprano sax lines before going their interlocking ways before a brief restatement of the opening theme. “With You In Mind” was performed by Cyrille, Henry Grimes and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, performing as Us Free, on Fish Stories. The original was structured after a love poem recited by Andrew over a cinema noirish tenor melody until Andrew’s brushwork and the bass join in at the vocal conclusion. The current version places the poem alone at the beginning followed by the full group joining in providing a lusher and more intricate sound than the lone tenor.

Frisell contributes three compositions, none of which I can find on prior recordings. “Go Happy Lucky” starts with a spritely guitar riff the title implies, under which dark brooding piano chords, similar to the start of Herbie Nichols’ “House Party Starting”, create dissonance before the two gradually resolve their differences in a fascinating way behind Street and Andrew’s solid foundation. Cyrille’s drumming has rarely been about ostentatiously dominating the group sound, even on his tribute to Art Blakey, as much as subtly enhancing it. This finely crafted release is no exception.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Tim Dahl - Solo (1584 Productions, 2021) ****

By Nick Metzger

Here we have the debut solo long player from NYC bass ace Tim Dahl, who we last heard on GRID’s excellent 2020 meltdown Decomposing Force with Matt Nelson and Nick Podgurski. You might also recognize him from one of his many other ventures like the Flying Luttenbachers, Pulverize the Sound, Unnatural Ways, CP Unit, the Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, and assorted Weasel Walter assemblages. That sounds like a lot but it doesn’t really scratch the surface of the number of projects Dahl has lent his talents to. It goes without saying that he isn’t your prototypical improvising musician, mainly due to the breadth of sounds he’s conjured over the years and his willingness to play across styles and genres. That said no such stylistic breaches here, Dahl very much has his own thing going on. I’d also add that if you (like me) are a sucker for wild, driving, fuzzy electric bass we get it in spades on this long player. On Solo Dahl delivers us from the mundane with a blast of grimy, coagulated otherness that is as musically inventive and entertaining as it is visceral.

There are several short interludes featuring the studio banter from Dahl and producer Nandor Nevai which breaks up the listening experience and keeps you from taking any of this too terribly serious. That said I’ll leave the listener to explore these on their own. The first instrumental is the second track Crushed Globus, which finds Dahl chanting in alien tongues via vocoder, hovering in a maelstrom so dense it may have it’s own gravity field. On Tamu Massif the fuzz abates somewhat and we’re treated to a plunky, off-balance swill that maintains the strangeness of the previous track by transforming Dahl’s vocals into what I’d describe as some insectoid buzzing around the stereo field. Le_Anse aux Meadows is another heavy, hairy knuckled trans-dimensional trip through the pedal board, this time with a metallic cutting edge. Conversely, the song Essential Toxins sounds wide open, almost ambient, but not quite. Global Exit finds Dahl tinkering with a clean, clanging yet rhythmic pattern over some looped feedback. It meanders just a bit before the fuzz blooms and the frenzied currents start to eat at the eardrums. RBCNW sounds like a small space containing a tiny, malfunctioning Tim Dahl robot while Matsushita Electric has the sonic texture of electrified jagged rocks.

Schenectady doubles down on the jagged texture and Dahl’s mumbled, half sung, half spoken dialogue plays back through the haze. SAG almost gets into Merzbow territory but in a particularly pleasant way. Dahl’s bass hits like brass knuckles in a velvet glove while you have to deal with what sounds like screaming sonic fireworks ripping past your head. The track sputters and glitches out before swelling briefly and ultimately submerging. The Low Country is an unsettling echo chamber of stasis. F for Conduct reprises the dense texture study of Crushed Globus while cranking up the menace and intensity. The last track is the fantastically named Quantum Creep which concludes the album in a concise hunk of funky and satisfying energy. I’m a bit at a loss for touchstones on this one as I have been with most of Dahl’s projects, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s awesome and weird and out there and if you like any of the aforementioned projects it’s likely you’ll get a kick out of this too. All in all it’s intriguing mix of free improvisation, sludge, and Jerky Boys banter is sure to please the discerning fan.