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Monday, November 8, 2021

Two from dx/dy recordings

By Stuart Broomer

I first heard N.O. Moore on Darkened, Yet Shone, a CD with John Edwards and Eddie Prévost that I reviewed here a couple of years ago. In keeping with the CD title, I remarked, “Mindstreaming for metaphors for the way Moore approaches the guitar, I had a sudden flash…it’s as if John Milton or William Blake returned to earth and, finding language exhausted and bereft of sense, turned instead to the electric guitar.” The burden of a Milton or a Blake, just the vast theological ballast carried by either, is an awe-inspiring notion, nothing to be dumped on an improvising musician already carrying a plethora of pedals, but Moore has a concentrated focus that’s worthy of special attention. He has recently launched a new label, dx/dy. It already has a visual identity, thanks to artist Mirei Yazawa; a rare level of text, with liner notes by Steve Beresford and Eddie Prévost; and a special quality of “naturalness”, a quality that is probably always illusory, but a word which might convey a certain combination of liberty, attentiveness and aptness. Moore appears on the first two releases.

Sue Lynch, N.O. Moore, Crystabel Riley - Secant/Tangent (dx/dy, 2020) ****½

Secant/Tangent presents Moore playing guitar in a trio format with Sue Lynch on saxes, flute and clarinet and Crystabel Riley on drums.

The first segment is both loose and open, a dialogue that runs to 30 minutes, a kind of get-acquainted, in this the band’s first meeting. Riley’s drumming is sparse, speech-like and gestural. From the opening moments, Lynch seems to be growling at the edges of meaning, all with substantial intensity. Moore often dovetails perfectly with Lynch’s lines, whether elaborating or echoing. It’s in these exchanges within a field that the group’s distinctive interplay begins to grow, the shape of Moore’s utterances belonging as much to the woodwinds as they might to his own guitar in remarkable acts of empathy and mimesis that extend to Riley who is always providing momentum, always inside the music. As the more intense dialogue of the second piece picks up, Lynch’s saxophone sound stretches to a wail and Moore’s guitar become intense and more electronic, the three musicians initially uniting around intense and rapid flurries of sound. As the music develops, they consistently find congenial collective territories, making music that’s both warm and surprising.

Improvisers Inside Electronics - The Birds of Four Mirrors (dx/dy, 2020) ****½

The quartet 'Improvisers inside Electronics' derives its name from David Tudor’s 'Composers inside Electronics,' and it’s a name Moore applies to different ad hoc ensembles. It shares the quality of thoughtful attentiveness heard in the previous trio, and much of the distinctiveness comes from the fact that sounds aren’t synthesized or processed to electronic anonymity. Antonio Acunzo plays electric bass and objects; Tony Hardie-Bick plays acoustic guitar and modified tape echo; Tom Mills plays theremin and ring modulator, while Moore, most mysteriously, plays stereo field and dark energy. This isn’t to suggest that individual parts are readily identifiable ‒ other than the theremin they often aren’t ‒ but there’s the actual feel of a band about the music in the way the four go about constructing and developing fields of sound, the space between them itself a vital component in the creation and embellishment of the music. This spatial sense assumes an almost compositional role in the way that sounds are heard and responded to, rather than seemingly processed, presumably through the mixing component suggested in Moore’s “stereo field”. There are five segments here, each a sonic image perhaps of The Birds of Four Mirrors, that title an insistence on the natural, the physical and the reflective felt throughout.

If there’s a certain vagueness about this review, a certain lack of precision, it might reflect that initial self-quotation about “language exhausted and bereft of sense.” There’s a certain feeling of “walking around” in these musics, no invitation to a fixed point of view, but a walk in the city or countryside. They’re collective without being insistent. I’ve listened to them both multiple times and enjoyed being in both of them without feeling a need to respond verbally, something that might be a special virtue, indicative of musics behaving like the natural world, forests in the mind.



Great albums, both of them. The Secant/Tangent cd is one of the best recordings for 2021 i believe//