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Friday, January 31, 2014

Round-Up: Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis, Arson and Graceless

A set of new releases on OutNow showcases adventurous musicianship and diverse styles...

By Paul Acquaro

Alex Weiss - Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis (OutNow, 2013) ****

Saxophonist Alex Weiss' Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis is a peculiar mix. Layered post-rock, ambient and melodic horn arrangements, and at times hard-core vocals and pounding rhythms, all come together to create an odd and beautiful creature.

For example, the hefty '$ Mrdan' is a feedback drenched, atonal tour de force. Ches Smith's arhythmic percussion and Eyol Maoz' guitaristic mayhem is balanced by the lyrical calm of Rick Parker's trombone and the exotic sounds of Mark Hodos' birimbau. Another piece in this style, 'Glacier', as the name suggests, moves slowly but scours all in its path.

Taking a different tact, the tune 'Filler' has intense hardcore vocals. Not a genre that I'm versed in, all I can say is that the vocals and the lyrics certainly strike a defiant pose. "Get Carter Theme" is a fun number that Dmitry Ishenko holds it together on acoustic bass. It's much more hard-bop than hard-core, and is a fun reprieve before the eviscerating title track. The album wraps up with Weiss playing guitar and singing a dark spiritual tune, 'Angel of Death', which, as you may guess, is about final judgement. What a closer!

Denman Maroney & Hans Tammen - Arson (OutNow, 2013) ***½

Arson is a collections of improvisations between the hyperpiano and endangered guitar, and one that continues the long lasting musical relationship of  Denman Maroney and Hans Tammen. The instruments, as indicated by their names, extend the possibilities of the duo's sound and make for some really interesting electro-acoustic combinations. Be sure to check out the links above to find out a bit more about the instruments themselves.

The first track 'Dynamo Meat' advances along with a groove akimbo, Tammen's guitar collides with Maroney's piano in unusual Harry Partch like interactions. The follow up 'Harmony Dame' is more atmospheric, with neither instrument playing a traditional role. The sound collage and off-kilter grooves return on 'Demon Stream', a very strong track that features tinkling in the extreme registers of the piano, while the middle register acts as percussion and Tammen's modified sounds swirl about.

Arson is an intoxicating concoction of ideas and approaches, from the strong opening to the noisy closing track and textural pieces like 'Amnesty Dharma' and 'Ornamenta' in between. The recording is a challenging but rewarding journey.

Yoni Kretzmer / 66 Boxes - Graceless (OutNow, 2013) ****½

Yoni Kretzmer's sax playing covers a wide spectrum, from the traditional to the territory mapped out by Coltrane and Ayler. Capturing this range, his compositions are inventive sketches that his group fleshes out with some sublime improvisation.

The group, 66 Boxes, is a quartet comprised of cellist Daniel Levin, guitarist Eyal Maoz and drummer Andrew Drury. The instrumental range, especially between Levin's cello and Maoz's wild assortment of sounds, gives Kretschmer a wide palette to choose from, and he does so with aplomb.

Graceless is an great collection of songs that kicks off energetically with the rapidly building 'Basement Song'. The saxophonist spins elliptical lines and eventually ramps up to some gut wrenching blasts of energy. Maoz's guitar is an explosion of effects and sounds, and following the tunes climax, Levin follows up with a plaintive melody. The following track, 'New Dilemma', begins as a set of fragmented interactions between the players before coalescing around Kretzmer's free form melody. 'Leaving It To The End ' sports a solid riff that the group holds down while Maoz stretches out with his utterly unique sonic smears and textures. Atmosphere and extended techniques take over in 'One One', a 20 minute piece that delicately, and at times aggressively, exemplifies the diversity of the recording.

Check them out:


FreeJazzJeff said...

Hi Paul, just a wee proofreader's note. 'Tammen' is misspelt as 'Tenneman' in not only the title but in the body of the review as well. Hans himself may be quite put out. ; > @ Keep up your rewarding commentary.

joesh said...

As you've probably noticed, Paul already changed it...I guess he must have noticed it earlier than your comment.

Thanks for the update, nice to the think we're keeping everybody on their toes...;-)