By Keith Prosk
Brandon Lopez continues to be one of the busiest contrabassists in NYC and has released No Es La Playa with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and drummer Tom Rainey, Dura with pianist and synthesizer player Jim Baker and drummer Bill Harris, the cleanly violence of many with drummer Gerald Cleaver, and chanchullo with saxophonist Steve Baczkowski just this year beyond the records here. These two trios feature frequently recurring collaborators in Cleaver and synthesizer player Cecilia Lopez, deep relationships that might complement these first-time recordings with poet Fred Moten and trumpeter Forbes Graham.
Moten/Lopez/Cleaver - Moten/Lopez/Cleaver (Reading Group/Relative Pitch, 2022)
Fred Moten, Brandon Lopez, and Gerald Cleaver play nine sound poems for voice, bass, and percussion on their 76’ eponymous record.
Hard-hitting grooves from a rhythm section in dynamic equilibrium restlessly shift for the duration of tracks, often through explosive stresses of intensifying insistence. Rim hits begin to tick like bombs. Circular sawing mounts pressure like leaning into the grindstone. Lopez’ vocalizations of exertion convey a physicality that makes the stakes feel higher with a body on the line. Among them blends Moten, whose words spring from the Black radical tradition. Glimpses of boom bap attitudes from the kit and the machachara of chain percussion might resonate with the thrust of words’ meanings but even without an understanding of them their intonation and cadence communicate the message. Through these qualities they become a musical unit, rhythmic insistences instrumental intonations and vocal cadences rhythmic counterpoint, techniques of language and sound all integrated. And beyond meaning and rhythm, moments of profound harmony out of throbbing arco overtones, whole kit resonance from kick drum bumps, and the earnest formants of the poet. An accord of every corner.
Forbes Graham - Another Day, Another Vector (Relative Pitch, 2022)
Forbes Graham (trumpet, drum machine, laptop), Brandon Lopez (contrabass), and Cecilia Lopez (synthesizer) play five environments on the 54’ Another Day, Another Vector.
A restrained dynamic range and careful speeds for spacious pacing accentuates color, of which there are many here. Just as the group can converge towards similar textures - the breathier timbres of bowed bass, white noise between radio broadcasts, or the shearing tones of raspberried trumpet - they differentiate themselves by the same for bolder interactions. Electronics emit amplifier purrs and powered-on hums, extrude biomorphic forms from bleep bloop melodies. Dextrous dances down the neck in labyrinthian lines and big bass body percussion, tapping, massaging, knocking. Saliva sounds, kettle whistles, plastic wrap and squeegee from the horn. Like Graham’s cover painting, a vibrant canvas from noise.
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