Click here to [close]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Darren Johnston, Fred Frith, Larry Ochs, Devin Hoff, Ches Smith - Reasons For Moving (Not Two, 2007) ****

There are CDs which you start listening to and you think "this is great, this is it!", and sometimes that's a disappointing thought when the rest of the album does not meet the initial expectation, but that is definitely not the case with "Reasons For Moving", recently published on the Polish Not Two label, with Darren Johnston on trumpet, Fred Frith on guitar, Larry Ochs on sax, Devin Hoff on bass and Ches Smith on drums. It starts gently, hesitantly with trumpet and some guitar strumming, with a bass adding some basic rhythm, yet it doesn't take long before all hell breaks loose, when with raw intensity gut-wrenching sounds are produced by the whole band, yet in a controlled way, impactful, effectful, but coherent. The second track moves us back to calmer regions with trumpet and bass sweetly opening the piece, and while the horns remain on the soft and sweet side, the guitar and drums build up aggression, like dogs wanting to bite the softly bleating lambs on the other side of the fence, barking and jumping and running back and forth in full rage, but then it tones down again, ending in a nice sax improv. Fred Frith's guitar is without a doubt one of the most important determinants of the overall sound, and he uses all the tricks of the trade to create effects, but not for their own sake, but rather to create depth, to drive the other musicians on, as in "Biocarbon Man", on which his rock-guitar pushes Ochs into some screaming sax, and Smith into percussive pyrotechnics, while Hoff plays arco, precisely and smoothly at first to offer some contrast, but he's soon enough swept up by the overall mayhem. But the music is not about chaos or violence, rather it seems to explore the subtle area where emotions of pleasure and pain seem to meet. There are gentle explorations into new musical forms, as on "Deep North", and sonic explosions as on "Speed Trap", and the great thing about it all is that the focus is never lost, all tracks speak the same musical language, with lots of variations, but with raw emotions always on the surface, varying between sad melancholic moments to agonizing angst. It may explain the title "Reasons for Moving", you leave a place, you loose a place, you look hopeful to the new destination, but with fear for the unknown as well. Whether or not that's been the intention, at least these contrasting emotional fields are well brought up by this stimulating, creative, entertaining, and boundary-shifting music. Highly recommended for listeners with open ears (and warm hearts).

Listen to and download from