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Monday, August 13, 2012

Daren Burns - Fear Is Not The Natural State Of Civilized People (UrbanNerds Records, 2012) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

Bassist Daren Burns describes his album Fear Is Not The Natural State Of Civilized People as 'post-fusion recording for the new world' and it is recording that is at once a comment on the world post-9/11 and fusion done freely and fiercely well.

The hard hitting passages on the opener, 'Gothalay' start off with a furious flood of sound from which Burns emerges with single electric bass note runs and distorted chords that eventually becomes interlocked with Craig Bunch's percussion. Burns' bass never settles into a steady groove but rather one that pulsates and pummels. Soon, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith joins and proceeds to spit out melodic projectiles while pianist Sarah Phillips lends accompanying tonal clusters. Following the two, guitarist Scott Collins appears with a blast of distortion and begins shadowing Smith's lines until the two trade places and he delivers some scorching agile runs.  

The next song, 'Gandhi', opens with Phillips delivering exploratory lines on the piano, over an undercurrent of droning tension. By the time the trumpet joins in, the song has become a slow burning fuse. It smolders and sizzles, and like watching the fuse progress, it's a study in anticipation. 

The track 'Aung San Suu Kyi', begins with an extended slow build of percussive sounds and chant like droning, with sprinklings of melodic improvisations by the trumpet and piano. It's a melancholic and evocative soundscape. The album was recorded in 2009, before Aung San Suu Kyi's 2010 release from imprisonment and recent rise as a major political figure in Burma.

Of the albums theme of the struggle for freedom and equality, and its flip side, the fear and paranoia that causes people to willingly give it up, Burns writes:

This recording is dedicated to Goyathlay (Geronimo) the great Apache leader, Gandhi the Indian revolutionary, Aung San Suu Kyi the Burmese political prisoner, Fela Kuti the Nigerian fighter of governmental corruption, and anyone else who believes that life based on fear is not an option. Music Is the Weapon.

It's interesting to note that Burns is currently working in the beautiful chaparral and red rock splendor  of Sedona, Arizona. While Sedona itself seemingly projects its own peaceful aura, the state of Arizona is currently a hot bed for the contentious immigration issues rippling across the US. Whether there is truly a connection is beyond my knowledge but the tension between natural beauty and freedom versus human suffering and struggle seems to frame this oft biting and deeply felt music.

© stef