Mat MANERI: “Pentagon” ******

Recorded 2004



New York-born, but Boston-raised violinist will forever be introduced as “the son of jazz sax player Joe Maneri”.  Classically-trained, he opted to explore multi-string variations of electric violin and electric viola.  His first recordings date from the mid-1990s and the plethora of labels that housed his early output – from ECM to Leo Records to Hat Hut – illustrate as much early-stage eclecticism as genuine artistic hesitation.


Jazz violin had been for years dominated by European musicians and American players, if they opted for the instrument at all, tended to pretend that nothing much had happened in music over the last 50 years.  Maneri’s formula proved revolutionary – his preference for low registers invited timbric juxtaposition of unusual tunings in non-traditional orchestral contexts. 


If some of his early recordings maneuvered somewhat languorously, by the time Maneri sat down to record “Pentagon”, his introspective style had transcended all stylistic limitations.  Often in duo with trombonist Ben Gerstein, a multi-faceted Maneri careers swiftly, surrounded by a plurality of contributions from triadic keyboards and punctiform percussion.





The record is enframed in two painful etudes for multitracked acoustic and electric violins.  Slowly expanding waves of glissandos wash romantically, subverted only by subcognitive laptop gurgling.  Without a shade of supercilious pathos, the track is undone with a quasi-Mahlerian finish.



Freeze frame and we are up against an ultra-modern combo progressing at a most slothful of paces.  The palette is impressive – an “electric Miles” piano, organ panels, unglazed trombone and skittery drumming.  Ben Gerstein on sullied trombone dominates here, keeping the ensemble in an unhurried, tepid mode.  This inviolable, insoluble order rewards with incredibly rich textures.  Keyboards and electric violin occupy parts that in other formations would be scored for guitar.  The track is perennially expansive – always broadening the spectrum and disappointing those who could expect a melodic or rhythmic conclusion.  It remains conceptual, rather than inferential, and advances amoebically, if it “advances” at all.  Jamie Saft’s organ interacts with muted cymbals and splices of other keyboards occasionally step into the fray.  Saft’s and Gerstein’s soloing achieve an unlikely intensity, oblivious to the free form structure nurtured by the rest of the band. 



A determined funky rhythm greets us with that ultra-modern, cybernotched derivative matrix familiar from Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden’s recordings (something about 5-angled forms here?).  Craig Taborn spews from his laptop a nice ‘vinyl’ crackle and a pre-recorded, Larry Young-ish organ is being continually reprocessed – slowed up and sped down throughout the solo exposé.  This unexpected impromptu is urbane and astute, but a tad too short.



Muted trombone explores various orifices in the multi-percussive, non-metric soundscape.  There are two drummers here – John McLellan and Tom Rainey, both engaged in highly chromatic, delicate, almost furtive research.  Electric piano parts are suggestive of a distant stylistic kinship with Miles’s cohort Cedric Lawson.  Meanwhile, Maneri’s bizarrely amplified electric viola swaddles nicely in a spaced-out dialogue with the trombone.  Astonishingly, the trombone is perched higher than the viola, which makes these dialogues so unique.  Gerstein’s lyrical tone quality would indicate that he plays an alto trombone here (?).  And throughout, very discrete harmonics is being masticated by Taborn’s laptop. 


Third Hand- the Fallen

T.K. Ramakrishnan’s mridangam awakens, contrasted here with a multi-violin passage as mournful as Terje Rypdal’s early orchestral works.  Nuances abound, as string processing slows things up like in Gavin Bryars’ classic “Sinking of the Titanic”.  Mridangam scuttles around and between channels like inebriated dragonfly.  The close proximity of the fatalistic, sorrowful string portamentos and the snakehipped, agitated Indian barrel drum is highly successful in its destruction of context sensitivity. 


Witches Woo

The two drummers appear here in a more directly rhythmic role, but their playing remains very lateral and textural, with more stress on cymbal work than on previous tracks.  Craig Taborn’s Fender Rhodes tilts towards solos, and so does the trombone.  John Herbert’s bass is pitched thunderously low but acts almost surreptitiously.  It does proffer a semblance of structure, though, for an attentive ear at least.  Otherwise, one can’t really tell where the overall coherence comes from as the frontloaded solos extend spectrally and fail to provide a reliable sense of direction.  Maneri’s role is more limited – short commentaries, purely polemic, as if triggered by the trombone. 



A circumspect, brooding forest of percussive substrates engulfs Joe Maneri’s acoustic piano.  Papa Joe brings here an aura of mystery, sometimes underpinned with the trombone in a quasi-harmonic mode.  Then Maneri’s violin injects some Seifert-an moments and Saft’s organ spews a barbarous hiss.  The drummers crowd in false interjections and we are plunged deeply into the mystic world of violinistic lament, fast drumstick hatching, and eerie, hiccupped bisbigliandos on the piano.  Somewhere far away another source of harmonics (pre-recorded violin?) resonates, magnifying the illusion of depth.  Surprisingly, just as we expect the formless mass to muddle through with an ease of Escherichia coli, there is a sudden, dramatic climax.  The violin weeps gently, comforted by a friendly trombone.  Joe Maneri’s piano is now reduced to an almost idiophonic role.  Feder Rhodes re-appears, in a knot with the continued percussive frottage and Mat Maneri returns on electric viola.  The production is extraordinarily mellifluous and well-defined.  The fluency of Jamie Saft’s engineering must be applauded. 


Howl in My Head / Motherless Child

Heavy avant-funk piece led by Joe Maneri’s saxophone, acid-leached with turntable scratches, woopy bass and superspeed Jon Rose-like violin squeaks.  All this stockpile of riches is suddenly abducted to serve a songform.  Although Sonja Maneri’s nasal vocal is firmly anchored in jazz tradition, it operates here against the atonal subtexts of prepared piano spurts, booming funk bass, sparse, dampened cymbals and regular hi-hats.  An excellent edition to your library of avant-songs. 


An Angel Passes By

Muted trombone, percussion and Feder Rhodes prepare the ground for the now familiar electric viola’s lowland soundscape, with Gerstein’s trombone usually more agile than the Maneri’s amplified instrument.  Between the two drummers, one is rooted in the tradition of impressionistic mosaics, the other epitomizes neo-harmolodic idiom.  The interspace between them is plastered with the organ and synthetic frizzle.  The whole construction generates an illusion of false indeterminacy.  One of the keyboards even re-creates a mellotron-like chorus.



Short intermezzo populated with an unlikely trio of old male vocal, sampled mellotron and mridangam.  The lisping voice is heavily argumentative and emotes in a tragicomical fashion.


The War Room

This is an organ-based symphony of altered chords and ornaments from the full orchestra of sampled mellotron, rich rhythm section, and distinctly guitar-sounding fuzz violin.  In other words, a bizarre heavy-metal jazz moment for avant-garde ears.  Craig Taborn’s electric piano sounds impulsive and gritty.  Soon enough, the impetus collapses into a mesmerizing inquadratura painted by the trombone, electric violin and skittish drums.  Intentionally or not, the ‘mellotron’ part begins to evoke King Crimson’s LP “Lizard”.  The full ensemble is now anti-melodic and recombined mayhem rules.  Self-styled fuzz violin makes a comeback, but the way Maneri sustains the notes makes you believe that the instrument is plucked and processed, rather than bowed. 



The record turns the full circle now, back to the romantic opening.  Despite the hissing keyboard, this is a romanticizing, tranquil violin soliloquy: temperate and affective, but also multi-form and undecidable.  Electronic sizzles intrude upon the lyrical bliss, but do not durably distract. 




I was charmed by “Pentagon”, but my knowledge of Mat Maneri’s other recordings is spotty at best, and I am aware that many other positions exist.  Should you be aware of anything remotely similar to the chef d’oeuvre described above, Sonic Asymmetry would follow-up with glee.


Mat MANERI: “Accident” (1998)

Mat MANERI: “Pentagon” (2004)


Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  
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MALACHY PAPERS: “Malachy Papers with Earl Harvin” ****

Recorded 2004



Some time in the mid-1990s, Kansas City-based saxophone player and horn sculptor Mark Southerland began to collaborate with percussionist extraordinaire Mike Dillon.  They shared taste for jazz and blues classics as well as contemporary groove revivalism.  Fascination with Art Ensemble of Chicago correlated with their predilection for striking costumes, masks and props. 


Several bass players performed and recorded with the band, notably Bill McKemy.  In more recent recordings, they were joined by Johnny Hamil. 


Southerland operates a whole storeroom of unique horns of his own making, generating highly original, idiosyncratic textures.  His Kirk-ian salvos are interspersed with lateral effects from Dillon’s extensive weaponry of idiophones.  Cognizant of half a century of American musical tradition, they lay out dense grids of largely representational and yet path-breaking ceremonials.  It is therefore not surprising that they forged an occasional collaboration with Eugene Chadbourne.


Their output is not easily available and it is unclear if Malachy Papers are currently in existence. 




What’s Wrong with Butt Fungus

A lattice of saxophones, magnetic samples and nonlocal drumming greets visitors with lunatic abandon.  The horns, endowed with heterotropic tone colors, fall into a dance mode before the vitriolic, repressive onslaught resumes.  Blown-out squeal, squawk, blare and peal crowd out other contributors with dogmatic precision.  A resolutely bewildering entrée.


Four Titted Puppet

True to its title, this track opens in a more playful manner.  Dillon’s vibraphone playing has this je ne sais quoi quality, as if lifted from a Jacques Tati movie.  The accents and theme progression are left to the horns, and they do smolder with nerve.  Hamil steps forward with a secular ‘modern jazz’ run on his acoustic bass.  Throughout the CD, Texan Earl Harvin will enrich the rhythmic palette of the band, showcasing a highly intuitive, yet thematic style.  His non-resonant cymbals engage here in an equiprimordial conversation with the vibraphone and tenor saxophone.  Harvin’s sense of space is impressive – his iterable rolls are carefully placed to allow for more pronounced vibraphone projection.  His non-metric accents are so complex that he abdicates the main tempo role, leaving Hamil’s bass to carve comfortable ostinato for Southerland’s fluent sax divagations. 


Brilliant Corners

A connotative take on Thelonious Monk’s immortal magnum opus from December 1956.  Harvin’s drumming appears here a lot tighter than the original, not because Max Roach was not fast and muscular (he was, both ballistic and virile).  Rather, Harvin’s playing is being underwritten by Dillon’s tabla, a very frontal presence once the initial theme has been laid out.  Hamil’s viscous, convex bass lines are to Oscar Pettiford’s walks what a modern treadmill is to rusty bicycle.  Southerland strays from the original, burrowing deeply in mid-size phrases.  The return of the main theme is surprisingly staccato, almost percussive, but Dillon’s tabla work is never excessive and reticulates perfectly.


Gimpy Ho

A downtempo opening with intrametric fill-ins from both Harvin and Dillon (on shakers) It leads to a stop-go dialogue between the two percussionists.  Southerland appears on discordant, plasmatic horn – or rather multistrata of horns.  The rotten, wrenching sound of his ‘bastard’ inventions is softened somewhat by Dillon’s marimba.  But soon the overdrive bass and drums go punk, with the horns frontloading a cavalry charge.  After a short lapse, Dillon does a little Ruth Underwood jig on marimba, but less for a colorful interjection that defined early- to mid-1970s Zappa sound, and more for prosaic beat-keeping.  The final cadence brings back the gnashing horns, muddling through with the illuminative accompaniment from the drums and overdrive bass. 


Solitude of Kim

Light percussion intro on dampened cymbals appears synchronous with left-hand tabla drum which abducts the entire low-end register of the percussive spectrum.  A quasi dub-bass grunts with low velocity and the ensemble is in full swing before Southerland’s horn zooms in.  The poetic theme will hinge on ambidextrous vibraphone, while the saxophone remains initially confined to surges and short repetitions.  With each sequence, its barks are becoming more articulate, cheerleading bolt-on swells.  It is as if the structure of the composition were to unveil the thematic component only gradually, until some final climax.  Throughout this iterative mobilization of sonic resources, the production remains very clear and the instrumental simultaneity easily legible.  The vibraphone returns, perfectly localized by Harvin’s selective, melodious drumming.  If Embryo were a jazz band, then this is probably how they could sound. 


Moon Germs

Joe Farrell’s 1972 classic is brought by sullied, overadjusted notes on vibes, followed by lavish percussive textures – metallic, brassy, scribbled, ombré.  Multi-tracked horns gulp and unleash a fury of pinched, shrill tones.  The vibraphone or glockenspiel cast long-lasting traces, leaving it up to the bass to maintain a thematic order.  But it is Dillon with his mallets who impersonates Hancock’s role on the original.  He sways perfectly between the improvised and scored sequences; his tremolos are purposeful and appropriately measured.  The bass-drums section is loquacious, but self-limiting.  The amazing horns are otherworldly – diverging into an unsightly asylum full of synthesized slates. 


Pagan Residue

This 9-minute composition penned by Hamil begins with a wooden-sounding sul tasto on G-string, setting off an eerie déjà entendu of an African drum call.  Harvin offers a radical re-reading of his skill on skins, initially eschewing any contact with metal.  Elsewhere, tubular bells, shakers, graters and sampled bleeps underscore the progression, distracting us from Southerland’s plaintive blowing.  When the bass engraves a pounding ostinato, the theme finally originates from the horns – like an industrial siren carried by the plodding, percussive engine.  Dillon extracts from his vibraphone muted reverb, almost swamped by the horn’s aggressive phrases.  Against the increasingly expansive, invasive drumming, the horn blowout calls for a final clean-up and the assembly line takes a breather.   Harvin’s drumsticks get more selective, and Hamil’s bass slumps into a monologue.  An electronically processed reed tone ends up skidding, rescued only by a clash with the percussive arsenal. 


Uncredited track

An unexpected ‘bonus’ offers a spectacle of environmental sounds, footsteps, and random clanging.  Nothing musical and even little non-musical material surfaces for about a minute.  Finally, a ‘lost in translation’ reed and vibraphone theme, interwoven by a delicate cymbal work reiterate a self-looping phrase.  The despairing bass is bowed and the melodic component seems to be based on a familiar theme, but I can’t recall what it is.  Context dependence?




The availability of Malachy Papers’ recordings is poor and I am yet to hear several of these:


MALACHY PAPERS: “Bone and Horn” (1998)

MALACHY PAPERS: “Adult xxx” (1999)

MALACHY PAPERS: “Demons” (2000)

MALACHY PAPERS: “Burning Parasols” (2001)

MALACHY PAPERS: “Blackbelly” (2002)

Eugene CHADBOURNE with MALACHY PAPERS: “And the Wind Cries Malachy” (2002)

MALACHY PAPERS: “Malachy Papers with Earl Harvin” (2004)


Mike Dillon has appeared in many other bands, notably Frog Brigade and Critters Buggin, but I have not heard any of them.


The band’s name is apparently a direct tribute to the bassist from Art Ensemble of Chicago.  Needless to add, Malachy Papers’ output should not be confounded with Malachi Favors Maghostus’ recordings.  Nor has the band anything to do with the acid raga folk act Malachi, which left one recording in 1966.

Alexander TUCKER: “Old Fog” ****

Recorded 2003-04


In another era, Alexander Tucker’s productions would have been thrown into the “singer-songwriter” category.  Luckily, he belongs to those who make such taxonomies obsolete and the associated glossary distinctively old-fashioned.  Tucker does play “songs”, but purposefully strays from the well-trodden structures onto divergent pathways of ruminative improvisation or libidinal freak-out.


Still, his writing can be elegant and memorable.  He excels in bucolic ballads delivered on string instruments (mostly guitar and banjo) subjected to idiosyncratic de-tunings and re-tunings. 


Tucker has been rubbing shoulders with some of the alternative music greats on both sides of the Atlantic – Jackie O’Motherfucker, Sunno)) and Guapo.  We will certainly hear more from him in future.




Hag Stones

The strophic song opens with two dancing guitars endowed with unconventional tunings.  They trace a self-replicating figure in major scale with bells nurturing the determined, ballabile beat.  Within this pendular structure, chords reiterate until a plaintive voice intones the tearful complaint “where are my friends and where do they live?”  A countertenor (rather than falsetto) lulls us deceptively in its tacit despair: “early to rise and early to fall”, we hear.  The humble (and hummable) tune invites the body and soul to sway with it.  Finally Tucker picks up his banjo and awakens us up from this intoxicating slumber by improvising respectfully within the meter. 


Old Fog

A ringing guitar picking is reminiscent of Only a Mother’s folksy side.  The banjo and guitar tunings convert these instruments into strident, shackled, strung up torques – something Steven Stapleton attempted many moons ago.  Here, the vocal placement forces the strings to slide along the scales after each stanza, before Tucker returns to the Anglo-Irish picking style.  An unstable harmonic stasis is conjured up by a melodica, organ or some other reed instrument capable of sustaining lengthy notes.  Tucker allows his electric guitar to reverberate, while pick-scraping the acoustic instrument.  The former lifts off into outer space, thus disambiguating the decision to name the record after this increasingly schizophrenic track.  And yet, the OAM-style picking soon returns to remind us that this is a “song”.  Joel Lewis guests here on vocal.


The Patron Saint of Troubled Men

A meeting between a banjo and a zither, bowed for color (synaesthesia would dictate Aspen gold).  The multi-vocal wailing nearly brings back the memories of Abbey Roadian harmonics circa 1967. 


Phantom Rings

Bowed string notes usher a drifting, analgesic guitar of “More” heritage.  The strings produce a high-pitched drone for the laminated, flabby electric guitar solo.  Then the droning swell becomes oppressive and tails off before acoustic guitar picking returns to its minimal setting.  Sobering harmonic visits from an accordion turn the instrumental exchange into a playful and well correlated exposé.  The falsetto soars and wanes in its subdued, cryptic, veiled manner.  No wonder that Tucker has been compared to Six Organs of Admittance. 


Alhadeff Music

In this abstract interlude, a pre-school acoustic piano co-operates with the ever nostalgic African thumb piano, bowed zither, melodica (or is it harmonium?), drums and cymbals.  Initially the vectors are divergent and occasional confluence seems rather unintended.  The playing is obviously multi-tracked, but lax and unshowy.  Tucker does not go as far as to use lapses of silence.  Instead, he appears interested in the accumulation of timbres and free-form search for functionality.  The piece remains essentially directionless, except in the accordion parts. 


Of Late

Another guitar and banjo hymn to early sunrise optimism.  The autotrophic step-ups are regular and homely.  Then the solo guitar picking takes over, devising more figurative vistas.  Tucker controls the instrument’s resonance perfectly and juxtaposes it (again) with detuned scraping on the second guitar.  His faint voice always appears slower than the guitar-measured tempo, but he never fails to fall into the bar.  There is a seductive parallelism in this treatment. 


Welsh Harp

Stealing toys from Pascal Comelade’s playroom, Tucker shows off here a small xylophone and a tired mechanical clock.  The idiophonic tremolo invites guitar and banjo for a plurality of strokes, grazes and accents.  Melodically it never goes anywhere.


Hand of Reign

This longer composition embodies the more experimental (and electric) rock side of Tucker’s.  It relies largely on a guitar drone and crested waves from a detuned acoustic guitar, evoking Bardo Pond’s most demented moments.  The droney overburden intensifies inexorably, carrying an echoed, psychotic vocalize and a feedback engine.  Then the drone coughs, leaving out vacuum spaces like a Cantor Set.  It allows for the acoustic guitar to tread to the fore, with the electronic whir now transformed into discretely distributed articulation.  With the rate of oscillation changing, the auditory illusion places the vocal in the center of attention, along with the drummer and his poetically muted metals (Paul May).  This excellent specimen of wordless psychodrama ebbs away slowly, but predictably.


Sung into Your Brightning Skull

After that impressive climax, it is not surprising that we are back in the good ole’ banjo territory all over again.  The track offers a gestaltic closure, scooping formulas from the first “Hag Stones”, heard 46 minutes before.  The song recapitulates the mood from the entire record – ethereal and tranquil, yet enigmatic and spellbinding. 





All of Tucker’s records are recommended, but I have not (yet) heard the most recent position.  “Old Fog” remains my personal favorite.


Alexander TUCKER: “Alexander Tucker” (2000)

Alexander TUCKER: “Old Fog” (2003-04)

Alexander TUCKER: “Furrowed Brow” (2006)

Alexander TUCKER: “Portal” (2008)

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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MAESTRO TRYTONY: “Heart of Gold” ****

Recorded 2004



Maestro Trytony are a Polish band led by Tomasz Gwicinski (guitar) and Tomasz Pawlicki (flute, keyboards).  The musicians grew up on mainstream rock music, but were subsequently exposed to the world of 20th century’s classic and jazz.  Indeed, the guitarist was considered one of the purveyors of the very local, neo-jazz phenomenon labeled as “yass” in the 1990s. 


Initially, the band appeared stylistically hesitant and some clumsiness accompanied their forays into over-generous orchestrations.  The initial ideas were highly engaging, but their eventual development suffered in longer compositions.  Fortunately, in their most recent incarnation they seem to have developed timbral sagacity, generating an undogmatic yet coherent idiom.  Where else could you find seeping interplay of baroque spinet, celestial flute and sharply edged jazz guitar?  On this hitherto unclaimed territory Maestro Trytony offer a refreshing dose of stylistic fence-sitting.





Pristine sound of conjectural spinet sets off, berthed by drum brushwork and cohesive bass figure.  The pre-classic keyboard drops lazy, dilatory notes like anonymous pearls.  Highly adaptive flute legato ushers us into splendid palaces whose gilded stucco should still remember Jean-Philippe Rameau’s premières.  Malgorzata Skotnicka’s spinet harmonics is endowed with quartz-like gloss and spangle-like utility.  Her part is too indeterminate to be classified as magisterial basso continuo.


Van Worden in Sierra Morena

An exercise in sequentially rewritten time signatures, the piece begins with a tone setting guitar and cinematic answer from emblematic flute and fuzz guitar.  A rapid progression of sub-thematic sections follows.  First comes a taut, jazzy run for acoustic bass, wire brush and a constantly busy flute.  This leads into a cul-de-sac, from which Abercrombie-style acoustic guitar fills spaces with ambiguous contours.  As if separated by a large, impervious screen, flute and electric guitar ascend, pairwise.  Thereupon, the two leaders adopt complementary roles.  Tomasz Gwicinski will entangle his chords in David Torn’s categorical manner.  Tomasz Pawlicki will crown the cadence.



The snail-like trail is first blazed by the acoustic guitar serving here as a cue for the fully rounded flute in the main melodic role.  Rafal Gorzycki’s drums splash briefly, failing to deliver on the promise.  The flute advances by leaps and starts, like a shy wallflower, only to recoil in its own introspection.  There are more harmonic opportunities for a portamento liberation.  The flute will digress, but stay trapped in its own image.  Finally, the stately spinet shows up, fuelled by a competent jazzy section of drums and bass (Patryk Weclawek).  Following a fourthfold phrase from the flute, the drummer taps into his repertory of multiplicative flailing.  Electric guitar bursts into spacious, but disciplined solo, audibly raising the tension.  In sharp contrast with the spinet’s graceful candelabra, Gwicinski’s topological exploration leaves behind ashy radio static.  It is as if the venerable keyboard instrument strayed into a damp gutter echoing with calls for help from a quashing guitar.  The pendular effect is further stressed by crashing cymbals.


Snowboarding Alechemysta

This piece flows like a flute hustle in search of speed control.  Pawlicki’s flutterings and tonguings excel particularly in high register.  But it’s only a matter of time before the galloping, jazzy bass/drum section bootstraps the electric guitar.  Against superb bass knotwork, the parabolic guitar hacks, arpeggiates and alternates between vibratos and pull-offs.  The impressive fluency that Gwicinski exhibits here is akin to Nels Cline’s approach.  Then the flute theme returns, menacingly piercing, yet fully flexible. 


Heart of Gold

The title track is a slow-evolving affair for flute and acoustic bass.  Mellow, descending line is oddly stuck in the Technicolor era of ethically dichotomous thrillers.  The phrasing, the tempos and the production make this a docile, relaxing moment.  The overprotective guitar’s noodling perilously approaches Metheny’s early style. 


Tax Collector

Prepared piano punctures an unusually tuned acoustic guitar, resurrecting the ghosts of Davey Williams’s groundbreaking inventions a quarter of century before.  Still, Maestro Trytony remain more potent rhythmically.  The dispersal of isolationist chords from the mistreated guitar and the injured piano appears more stochastic than combinatorial. 


Magic Tiara Part I

Magic Tiara Part II (Cherub. Wand.)

The two tracks are strung together and, at combined 14 minutes, dominate the record.  After an accessible flute intro, spinet tremolos lead us directly into a pseudo-Jamaican electric bass ostinato, bundled by a very modern-sounding percussion.  The beach guitar and melodious, but static flute are poles apart from the rather gymnastic, aerial rhythm.  A less diffuse, planar jazz guitar eventually soars, falling shy of replicating Rypadalian Nordic vistas.  A robotic countdown non-sequitur.  Outside, a discrete gamelan revels in sequined figure (Martin Franken).  Up front, the acoustic guitar stammers and stutters.  The flute is still there, but in a fairly neutral, refractive role.  Short violin scraps are almost inaudible (Lukasz Gorewicz).  By now, “Magic Tiara” could be totally free form, were it not for the bass that has kept the band in line all along.  Mechanical, unemotional female voice recites a text in English and the signals slowly dissipate. 



Dotted rhythms, short rolls, cascades, crosses and chokes vibrate from Jacek Majewski’s tenseless percussion.  His crystalline effects formulate a comfortable context for an ascending guitar crescendo.  The ensuing guitar improvisation unfolds with panache – voluble pitch control and heterodox speed control intersect in perfect timing as Gorzycki unleashes a veritable tornado on his drums.  The initial crescendo recurs, this time distracted by inroads into prepared piano’s intestines.  There is a welcome selectivity in the chosen variables.  While some strings are locked in by felt and strings, other keys remain tonal.  The equiprobable distribution of outcomes – some regular some jangly – is gradually decoded against the fast moving rhythm section.



More acoustic explorations for prepared piano, with a smoothing flute and a tentative guitar stuck in a groove. 




MAESTRO TRYTONY: “Enoptronia” (1996)

MAESTRO TRYTONY: “Heart of Gold” (2004)


European avant-garde jazz legend Andrzej Przybielski guests on the first CD.  The second CD is, however, superior.


Gwicinski had previously appeared in a formation Trytony, but I have not heard any of their recordings. 


Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 8:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” ***

Recorded 2004


Prp Group are (were?) a British trio of Ashley Clarke (drums), Richard Riz Errington (guitar, electronics) and Michael Clough (bass).  In the 1980s, all three were active in another formation known as Rancid Poultry. 


Prp Group’s sound is based on a smooth, interactive flow between the three, fully enfranchised musicians.  Often yielding to the lure of rock jamming, the band has been on a continuous quest for definitive sound.  Each recording seemed to tap into different deposits of experimental rock – from tropospheric space jams, through post-punk’s self-regulating ostinatos, to smelting guitar trio feedbacks. 


It is not clear if the band is still in existence.  Their output from earlier in this decade documents well various phases of their stylistic research.  At the same time, their intriguing CDRs carried a promise that they would eventually go beyond the rehearsal stage.




The track begins with a subterrestrial bass vibrato and rim shots from Ashley Clarke.  The succulent bass morphs into a regular ostinato, underlying the contrast with the dissicated drumstick work – in an (unintended?) resemblance to good old A Certain Ratio.  After about 20 turns, cymbals check in, cushioning a cleanly combed electric guitar which reverberates in the distance.  The guitar’s tickle and giggle iterations become brassy, gaining an almost timbales-like resonance, but the high-pitched notes’ call for the timbales answer will remain aperiodic.  A drum’n’bass dialogue walks in spryly, despite Jah Wobble-like bass tuning.  One just can’t dispel the memory of PIL’s “Fodderstompf” from 30 years ago (ouch !).  This is definitely not a space rock jam as we have known it from many talented US bands over the last decade.  Rather, Prp Group stays quite restrained and almost reluctant to engage in disorienting crotchets.  Although the extended, slow moving structure allows the guitar to improvise freely, Richard Errington appears surprisingly constrained, incorporating fairly minimal variance.  Finally, the drumming becomes more forceful and some additional treatments rear their buzzing heads.  This is when additional wooden percussive effects appear – sounding like angklung or a small bamboo xylophone. 


Shatner’s Bassoon

This piece starts with cyclonic electro-fluctuations and an extra-metric drumming hiccup – regular enough to sound like a sample.  The hi-hat is quite lonely in its chore, groping for understanding bass figure.  Some droning cylinders pivot incessantly – now you hear’em, now you don’t.  The repetition is slowly earning a loop-sounding, systemic character and the accent shifts offbeat.  Soon afterwards, it is reduced to pure, sputtering electronics.



Michael Clough’s relaxing bass exposes an obsessively simplistic, 9-note songlike phrase.  Languid drums and dry guitar clang do little to distract us from this self-defeating idea.  Echoing drum rims, acoustic guitar, purring electronic surge, crash cymbals and ratchet will all apportion some non-linearity, but the lack of convincing development is problematic.  Dub treatment selectively tackles drum reverb, but Adrian Sherwood this is not.  Some of the echoplex treatments are even a little childish, and those that do work are overfamiliar – a metallic pipe effect, alternatively extended reverb and damping of cymbals.  This amounts to little more than explorations into sustain and muting.  The listener’s attention is finally rewarded by “chopsticking” on a hard surface – light and multiplied many times over until smeared out into a buzz – a moment worthy of François Bayle or Bernard Parmegiani.  Unfortunately, a marching version of the elementary theme ruins the tail end.  A rocket lift-off noise will lead us directly into the next piece.


Dub Version of the Previous Track

This misleading title picks up where the “Cow” left off, but throws “dub” out of the window.  Yes, we do have reverb and even much of that, but it turns the aural environment into flywheels of electromagnetic buzz, fraught with sizzle, frizzle and feedback.  The pitch control is fairly slow; the amplitude control a little more varied.  The oscillations fingerpoint some blackbird tweets, panning between the right and left channel.  There is some intentional feedback from a speaker that sounds as if it had caught the waveforms from a fluorescent bulb nearby.  With the top range teeming with swarms of insects and the lower end hammering resoundingly, the days of contemporary studio luminaries (Milton Babbitt or Richard Maxfield) seem to be back.  Just the (very acoustic) drumming occasionally adds a non-academic twist to the concoction.  Again, this track will seamlessly sublimate into the next one. 


The Elephant Charmer

The carry-over drumming intensifies, increasingly emphatic and bruising.  Ashley Clarke pounds with abandon to the limit of our Faustian imagination.  It could almost segue into “it’s a rainy day, sunshine baby” as in the recent live recordings of the Diermeier-Peron version of the legendary kraut-band.  Prp Group will instead keep socking, with a riffless fuzz guitar sustaining its chords.




The discography of prpGroup is limited to relatively short CDRs.  Positions 1 and 2 were later collected on one CDR entitled “Penfruit/Babylard”.  Likewise, 3 and 4 can be found on one CDR.  Unfortunately, I have not heard position 5. 


1. PRP GROUP: “Penfruit” (2001)

2. PRP GROUP: “Babylard” (2002)

3. PRP GROUP: “Snib” (2003)

4. PRP GROUP: “Sun Pie in a Custard Pie” (2003)

5. PRP GROUP: “Soil Pipe” (?)

6. PRP GROUP: “Today Was the Happiest Day of Your Life” (2004)


Aside from Rancid Poultry, Clough had also played in duo with Errington (as Clothearz) and with Clarke (as AMA).  At the moment, Sonic Asymmetry is not aware of any other recordings by PrpGroup.  Are you?


Published in: on July 8, 2008 at 6:06 am  Comments (1)  
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