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Monday, March 3, 2008

Mark O'Leary/Dylan Van Der Schyff/Wayne Horvitz - Flux (FMR, 2007) ****½

The title "Flux" gives a good idea what the music sounds like : fluid, forward motion. And that's how the music is, almost ethereal, with low density, floating, flowing. The Irish guitarist continues on this album with the concept he started with Mat Maneri and Matthew Shipp on "Chamber Trio", only now the guitar comes often close to the sound of Maneri's viola. Using his foot switch, the attack on the strings is muted, giving the low-toned sustained guitar sounds an ebb and flow feel. O'Leary is accompanied by Dylan Van der Schyff and Wayne Horvitz. Horvitz certainly is hard to compare to Matthew Shipp, yet his bluesy and less cerebral playing gives the music a rich feel, and Van der Schyff's precise and accentuating drumming is a great asset in giving this flowing music some depth. The music itself is highly unusual, impressionistic, panoramic, mostly without discernible melody or rhythm, without soloing even : the three musicians play as one entity, interweaving sounds to create a light texture, full of possibilities, full of emotional span, often very much in the same vein as ECM music from the eighties, yet without the cold remoteness. The most "traditional" tune, if that word can be used, is "Contextual", in which a typical Horvitz approach in his Sweeter-Than-The-Day-style can be heard, bluesy and rich. This is intimate, elegant and soft meditative music. Mark O'Leary is a true artist : his artistic project appears to be his main concern, not the demonstration of his skills. I saw him perform recently on a more fusion-inspired gig, and he can play as fast as the so-called guitar heroes, making the restraint he demonstrates here, in this calculated sound pointillism, even the more attractive and worthy of respect. Through their improvisations, the three musicians create something unique, quite coherent, reacting fast to each other while moving on in the same direction, like waves forming a stream. As the CD moves on, the music gets a more eery, abstract quality, with some uncanny sounds, yet very intimate as well, and it's unclear whether it's sad, calm, anxious or all together, as the flow of life itself ...