By Nick Metzger
Virginia Genta - Suono Non Buono (Troglosound/Townlathe, 2021) ****½
On this latest platter from Genta she builds on the material and techniques from her previous solo 7" Amplified Sopranino Saxophone and adds a heavy dose of distortion to the mix. The resulting melange is disorienting and intense as she scorches the aural domain with crackling interference and screaming, feedback-laden runs. For the most part the actual saxophone is obscured by the treatment, but I think that's the point here as she manipulates the feedback through the acoustics of her instrument, teleporting the listener to the surface of the sun. On Suono Non Buono Genta delves even deeper into the fertile chasm of noise, using feedback and distortion as an afterburner for her short horn. It's another intriguing statement from our fire breathing heroine that refracts the searing white light of her previous solo 7" through a No wave prism. It's well worth your time (you know who you are), and despite the title I think it sounds pretty damn good.
Melting Mind - Melted Mind (Lonktaar, 2021) ****½
Melting Mind combines the psychotomimetic powers of Jooklos Virginia Genta and David Vanzan with fellow psych-noise musicians Michele Mazzani and Mateo Poggi (who sometimes record together under the name Gelba). They've released several tapes together both on the Jooklo imprint Troglosound as well as Lonktaar, Swollen Avantgarde, and a recent lathe cut 7" from Oakland's Townlathe. This release in particular is a bit of a departure from their typical process in that much of the source material for the recording comes from tapes of a Genta solo session that Vanzan recorded in a large barn in the Italian countryside (Virginia discusses this in our recent interview). The material was then worked into its final form by Mazzani and Mateo who added electronics and post-processing as well as a track from an earlier group session to round out what has been one of the most played albums at my house this spring.
The digital release is split into two sides, each subdivided into several tracks. The material alternates anxious horror movie synths and psych electronics with cuts of Genta's solos in the barn (the istb tracks). I really like the contrast of alternating the sax vignettes with the tripped-out studio tracks, it gives the album a sense of progression and provides cuts of clarity to the murk. You'll miss the live track mixed right into the breadbox of Side B if you aren't paying attention. It's short and sweet, but blends in so well with the flow of the album that it doesn't really stand out as being different from the other material. Overall a really great construction that's held up well over multiple listens and left me wanting more. I definitely have this group on my radar now and hope to be exploring them some more in the near future.
Jooklo Duo & Lao Dan - ZE ZE THE MILKY WAY (Old Heaven Books, 2021) ****
Here we have the tasty combination of two blog favorites, finding China-native Lao Dan joining forces with the visiting Jooklo Duo for a set of cosmic vibrations (and a little bit of free funk) at Old Heaven Books during 2018's LOFT Festival. Here Vanzan takes up his usual percussion duties while Lao Dan and Genta load up on various reeds and flutes which Genta supplements with a generous sidecar of vintage keyboard. This rowdy little number has a little bit of everything and once the trio gets cooking it's truly potent stuff.
The first track Dragon Tongue begins with shifty percussion and warped keyboard before gradually morphing into a spacious and surprisingly gentle bamboo flute duet b/w Genta and Lao Dan. And if you haven't heard Lao Dan play the bamboo flute you're missing out my friend. On Bamboo Secret the listener is treated to more light percussion, psych keyboards, melodica, and bamboo flute in a similar low key vein. On the aptly titled Drunk Funk the trio throw a wrench in the ambient mood they had been setting and lay down a strange 4/4 funk groove for Lao Dan to shred alto over, but the next track Dalla Cina Con Furore is where it's at. After a slow wind-up Genta and Lao Dan work themselves into a frenzy of reed squall. Once Vanzan starts in you can hear the whoops from the crowd indicating that this is what they came for. And the trio delivers, twisting out explosive knots of intense dialogue and feeding off each other's energy on what is surely the set's centerpiece. The last track Tofu Blues winds the set back to ground with Lao Dan on the suona, playing tight strings of notes over hovering keyboards and accent percussion. A great, unexpected set of intriguing music from a trio I hope to hear more from.
Oiro Pena/Jooklo Sextet - Split 7" (Ultraääni, 2021) ****
This split 7" from the Finnish label Ultraääni combines a side from multi-instrumentalist Pentti Orionen aka Antti Vaukhon aka Oiro Pena with the Jooklo Sextet, here comprised of Genta and Vanzan on alto and percussion along with Teri Kemppainen on double bass, Sami Pekkola on Tenor, Tuuri Tammi on trumpet, and Topias Tiheäsalo on electric guitar. The big surprise for me here was the Oiro Pena side Jazzpelle, a tremendous track of spiritual jazz from what I gather to be a one man band. I'm going to enjoy exploring his other work. The Jooklo side LSD Mingus Post Blackout contrasts with a brutish big band sound that reminds me a little bit of Music for Han Bennink from Machine Gun. The title seems a feasible scenario for anyone who's read up on Mingus, who was a regular guest at Tim Leary's Millbrook estate. A really, really nice single overall, and a no-brainer add-on if you're going to buy any/all of the albums reviewed here anyway.