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Friday, April 12, 2024

Science Friction - No Tamales on Wednesday (Screwgun, 2024)

By Gary Chapin

I feel shallow sometimes about how strongly I react to the timbre of things. Like, forget the ideas or the improvisation or the composition, sometimes just the sound gets me. The first notes on No Tamales on Wednesday are from Craig Taborn’s electric piano and those sounds brought a smile to my face and wave of associations. “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “We’re going to get some of that!”

No Tamales on Wednesday is an archival concert recording coming from one of my absolute favorite periods of Berne’s work. Science Friction features Berne, Tom Rainey on drums, Marc Ducret on guitar, and Craig Taborn on keys. It was recorded somewhere by someone in 2008, and is a very counterpointy set of pieces. It’s not technically counterpoint, of course, but you can definitely see sunlight between all the pieces. There is space.

Rainey plays as melodically as I’ve ever heard. Berne is an unending font of song. And Ducret does Ducret. He’s always been an utterly unique specimen, playing not in washes or broad strokes, but in particulate, jangle-i-fied abandon. Again, the melodies he comes up with! And then Craig Taborn. Kind of a magician. He opens the record and then infuses the whole proceedings with levitation throughout.

The tunes are expansive Berne works, many heard in other settings. At a listening party on Bandcamp, Berne pointed out that most of this material showed up later played by his Snakeoil team, and the tune “Adobe Probe,” has been heard before on the album of the same name. It’s all knotty composition that doesn’t end where it starts, and sometimes you don’t even know how you got there from here. A wonderful mystery solved by improvisation.

Available on Bandcamp: