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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Brandon Lopez, Chris Corsano, Sam Yulsman – The Mess - Alive at Issue (Eshu) (Self-Released, 2020)

By Matty Bannond

Empty space punctuates this album. Recorded live at the ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn during 2020, it’s a free improvisation divided into two tracks that are split again into segments. Sounds rise up, recede, reset and return. Tempers change and meteorological systems pass. It’s music to put listeners on the edge of their seats, sure. But it also feels like music that pulls the players closer to their instruments, straining to catch the sound before it flies out into the room and gone.

Sam Yulsman operates the piano via keyboard and hands reaching in beneath the lid. Brandon Lopez plays the double bass, via plucking and bowing (at least). They are joined by Chris Corsano on drums, who uses every micron of the kit to deliver a startling range of sounds and ideas. Across its many moods, the album is always marked by sensitive and generous interplay.

Track one, “Alive”, makes a tentative start. Spookiness dissolves into silence. It’s a pulsing performance with shapes and shades jumping in and out of view. Fingertips shiver on skins and cymbals. The temperature rises and there are fidgety sections, but the group finds drone-driven moments too. And always, empty spaces pop up to wipe the slate clean before the next sketch.

“ESHU” is another slow burner. The bass is chattering and the percussion adds a clicky, bird-beakish sound. Piano puts new energy in the room after four minutes and the velocity rises. Listeners get a wider assortment of extended techniques here, nestled between those breaks in the weather. The record’s only truly hectic passage arrives close to the end of the track.

This trio brings together rising figures in the experimental scene—and the young improvisers don’t rush in. Corsano, Lopez and Yulsman permit the music to emerge and re-emerge organically. Their imaginations combine, re-combine and re-re-combine with mesmerizing variations. Let this music pull you closer to your speakers before it flies out into the room. And gone.

The album is available on vinyl and as a digital download here.