Record Reviews: Week of 08.09 - Spires that in the Sunset Rise, Sapropelic Pycnic, Staraya Derevnya, Rodeo

Spires That in the Sunset Rise with Michael Zerang - Kata Physin (No Index Recordings, 2016)

Acclaimed Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang joins Kathleen Baird and Taralie Peterson to form a formidable trio of unpredictably synced improvisers in order to debut Kata Physin, the inaugural tape on Baird's new No Index Recordings label. I've long been a fan of STITSR's shape-shifting output, the recent distillation of Baird and Peterson's explorations of shared sonic space - most notably through intense discoveries in vocal interplay - has sounded the most vital. On Kata Physin the two multi-instrumentalists wrap their spiky, mostly string-based conversations around Zerang's dynamic percussion - often as a textural component to the looser moments of tension-filled passages of forming and organizing to fully-realized moments of ascendency where Zerang's hand-percussive passages form the compositional backbone in which Peterson and Baird's string and vocal tendrils stem from and then loop back to in various shapes and sizes. These are moments of sheer ascendancy and joy that come with increasing frequency with repeated listenings. An auspicious debut for suuure. 

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Sapropelic Pycnic - A Love Supreme (No Index Recordings, 2016)

It's been 50 years since John Coletrane released A Love Supreme. About 15 from when I first heard it as a high schooler and found myself weeping alone in my room for a much different reason than I had ever before. My initial emotional response to A Love Supreme was so intense that I haven't listened to it properly for a few years. I've returned to the piece by the way of Kathleen Baird's (Spires That in the Sunset Rise) tribute to the album through her Sapropelic Pycnic project. A Love Supreme starts with Baird reciting and then riffing on a poem Coletrane wrote in the liner notes to A Love Supreme with Baird's musical partner Taralie Peterson's deft and doubled alto-saxophone welcoming the recitation with gracious arms. "And then He Wrote the Meditations" is Baird's exploration of Gil Scott-Heron's poem about Coletrane in a composition performed completely by Baird - her characteristic flute playfully darting in and out of her rolling piano lines as her pitch-shifted voice growls, lilts and yelps Scott-Heron's dedicatory prayer to Coletrane. Baird ends the album on a meditation on A Love Supreme that is distinctly Baird's: a boring into the main modes and emotional fabric of the piece using her voice and flute, Peterson's Alto Sax and Andy Ortmann's deep drones and funeral slow percussion, Baird's voice sending out Coletrane's leading melody into the void. A ritual not to call back the dead in imitation but to feel and recreate the essence of something timeless.

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Staraya Derevnya - Kadita Sessions (Weakie Discs, 2016)

To give you some scope, the last time we wrote about Staraya Derevnya's last record - From Inside the Log, Crawf was double posting from Foxy Digitialis (R.I.P.)....Heady days. The good news is the intensity and initial weirdness of that 2010 release haven't changed but instead been refined and given a new ecstatic voice in this 2016 release by UK-based/Israeli-originated musician. Kadita Sessions starts with straight-out-of-the-gate intensity encapsulated in a throaty caterwaul let loose by vocalist/composer Gosha Hniu. The track then unfolds into fully propulsive electro-acoustic rager that channels early-00's percussive noise-jams. The rest of the album is a bit more restrained moving from severely wrecked takes on lounge, trip-hop, traditional folk, harsh noise and broken electronic compositions that meld 70's kraut percussive heaviness into loose-limbed electronics all while Gosha's deftly versatile croons, growls and bellows through these compositions that balance bookshelf-crashing noise and tightly composed pieces on top of a deep precipice prone to strong drafts of wind. The album retains an inherent listenability, compositionally dynamic - a blending traditional Israeli melodies with kitchen-sink electro-acoustic whimsy -  and filled with enough novel sounds strangled out of various broken toys, instruments and esophagus that the album stands up in gale-force winds. A lovely, unexpected find.

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Rodeo - Dust Bowl (Already Dead, 2016)

Dust Bowl is a tape full of stately melodies and flourishes that pursue a reverence for rather than a recreation of a fabled American West. Content to let these pensive acoustic lines linger on the line like wisps of cotton on a barbed wire fence under a sky of foreboding drones, this trio from Denmark (which contains Rene Gonzalez Schelbeck aka Western Skies Motel) produce forlorn and melancholic Western music often romanticized by Spaghetti Westerns' ornate compositional structures. While the subject matter itself is romantic (rodeos, dust bowls, ghost towns and tumbleweeds) the overall tone of this tape is pretty bleak. Even the jaunty, classical guitar and melodica led tracks are done in a minor key that indicates you don't want to stay in this town past sundown. Other, solo-guitar and drone tracks dwell on the West as it exists now, forlorn, desolate, a promise delivered and quickly extinguished through finite resources and unconquerable distances. Dust Bowl is a fine record to get lost in. The recording is lush and exquisite, the subject matter a favorite of mine and the playing here is technically mastered and proficient. A surprising ,but perfectly apt 201st record for the diverse Already Dead roster.

August 9th, 2016