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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Blasting across the Alkali Flats with Evil Clown

By Nick Ostrum

…In quiet solitude or blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkey-navigated...... and it goes on like this.” – Rev. Timothy Lovejoy, The Simpsons

In the above quote, Rev. Lovejoy was reading the wedding vows of one Homer J. Simpson. With just a little imagination and minus the “quiet solitude” part, however, he could very well have been describing the two releases reviewed here. Each is from one of PEK’s newer ensembles, which are based more around electronic environments than the acoustics of the sax-cello core of Leap of Faith, or the drum-propulsion of the Metal Chaos Ensemble. In that, however, they lose none of the sonic probing one has come to expect, and none of the tendency toward excess and entropy.

Simulacrum – Shadows (Evil Clown, 2023) 

Simulacrum is something apart from other Leap of Faith projects. It is missing what seemed to be PEK’s preferred cores until recently: that between him and cellist Glynis Limon and with a variety of percussionists. Instead, Simulacrum is a vortex of shifting soundworlds that ultimately blast across the alkali flats in a jet-powered…or rather fueled by the addition of Joel Simches on live processing and electronicists Eric Woods, Robin Amos and Bob Moores, who focuses more on his synths and drones than his usual frontage of trumpet and guitar. 

 Naturally, PEK, reedist+ Michael Caglianone and, when focused on such tools, Moores literally add the gusts to the electrified sandstorm of crackles, shimmers and all out sonic strangeness. Shadows is heavy, and heavy on the Arkestra-infused space gaze. However, the missing dedicated percussion replaced by a variety of electro-acoustic techniques help this one float to different corners of the cosmos, clunkily walking the thin line between order and inevitable decay along the way.

And, as a bonus to the hour-plus first track Shadows comes Chiaroscuro, a six-minute excursion into a more linear, but still gnarled and knotty kosmische Musik.

Shadows is available as a download and CD from Bandcamp.

Perturbations – That’s Where the Unknown Is (Evil Clown, 2023) 

Perturbations is another beast. It shares members PEK, Caglianone and Simches, here with a bigger footprint, with Simulacrum. Albey OnBass rounds out the quartet with his bass and box of percussion and electronics. Recorded in November 2023, That’s Where the Unknown Is begins with acoustic clangor and electronic “perturbations”, which blend into a quiet cacophony that mirrors an insect-ridden night in the woods. (One imagines the unknown could reside here, in the space between civilization and the wild, between the physical and metaphysical, as much as anywhere.) 

An accordion and layered tones of unknown provenance break the spell, transporting the listener from a simulated forest to a port city, creaking docks, lonely saxophone and all. The picture, however, never truly becomes clear. Swooshes of interference intervene. A second, deeper horn engages with the first. A busy swarming background persists, and, in the whirl of elements, it can be difficult for the listener to find footing. Albey OnBass introduces a staggered bass line, and his subsequent duet with a lone sax pose the jazzier moments of this piece. 

But these moments are fleeting, as was the forest and the dock. It seems like the moment the piece settles, it detours or rather leaps to different aesthetic realms. In that sense, That’s Where the Unknown Is is clunkier (though deftly and intentionally) than the ebb-and-flow characteristic of so many extended collective improvisations. This zigs and zags rather than builds and releases. And, well, it goes on like that, zigging, zagging and always finding new corners of the alkali flats to agitate.

That’s Where The Unknown Is is available as a CD and download from Bandcamp


amroz said...

Interesting and underrated music - I will definitely buy it.