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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sabir Mateen & William Simone – JOYS! (577 Records, 2016) ****

By Tom Burris

This room recording of reed master Sabir Mateen & percussionist (and electronics knob-twiddler) William Simone is edited from a live performance that took place in Bologna, Italy at an unspecified time and location. It's a lo-fi document, but as the music itself often sounds like early John Gilmore recordings with Sun Ra's Arkestra (when it works) or Arthur Doyle jamming with Throbbing Gristle (when it works even better), the thin audio quality augments the sci-fi-on-your-grandma's-black-&-white feel of Simone's electronics, which sometimes sound like a ping-pong tournament in outer space. His drums often sound like cardboard boxes and buckets – and they may very well be! And even that works here too, as on “Sant' Isaia Stroll,” where the flatness of the drums is matched with the cheap drum machine from the first Royal Trux album to accompany Mateen's Dolphy-esque clarinet clatter. This track alone manages to sound like a Nepalese snake-charmer scene in an Afrofuturistic No-Wave film. (Who doesn't want that to exist?)

There are two centerpieces to this disc. The first, “The World of W & S,” is a showcase for the duo, displaying nearly everything they can do in a relaxed manner. During the long buildup, Mateen moves from tenor sax to flute (which is uncredited in the liner notes for some reason) and Simone moves gradually from his Space Invaders game toward the drums. Mateen's flights here run from ethereal to downright manic, as Simone seems to delight in attempting to throw Mateen off his game by switching up the beatbox rhythms. The second centerpiece is the title track, on which there is a dense wall of electronic sound standing behind a constantly moving minimalist foreground. The track seems to inhabit the same headspace – but not necessarily the sound of – modern heroes of Afrofuturism such as Black Spirituals and Moor Mother. Mateen's Jackie-does-Bird runs on soprano sax really heat up Simone whose clave-and-cardboard beats run through a succession of infectious grooves.

Mateen also manages to get in some piano work, on which he aggressively prods and pokes the keys in futile attempts to push Simone into a meaningful conversation on the album's weakest track, “Cosmic Dance.” “A Call For All Angels” finds Mateen again on flute, but switching over to sax on the last couple of minutes. This track absolutely confirms that Mateen and Simone are children of Ra (if there were any doubts). If the angels don't respond to the low-rent “Rated X” groove served up here, they aren't goddamn angels anyway.

Note – 577 Records is hosting the Forward Festival this weekend in Brooklyn. If you are in NYC, this appears to be the place to be. Link: