RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Brains: Gristle and Skins

img  Tobias Fischer

Brains is the duo project of San Francisco Bay Area musicians Drew Ceccato (saxophone) and Chris Golinski (drums/percussion). Drawing as much from John Cage and George Crumb as it does from late-era Coltrane and The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Brains’ latest EP, Gristle and Skins, is an aggressive and abstract album that illustrates the best attributes of free jazz—telepathic interplay and attention to textural detail outside the constraints of traditional song form and harmony.

The album opens with “Ungulate,” a 13-minute pointillistic duet between tenor sax and drums. This is free improvisation, but where many within that genre aim for the extremes of density and intensity, the dialogue of “Ungulate” is restrained and highly melodic. At certain moments, the saxophone is left naked to twist motifs through seemingly endless periods of development. Scraping cymbals and horn multiphonics fade gently out of long periods of silence, gathering momentum into anxiety-ridden fits of claustrophobic belches and drum rolls.

“Spilth” starts more aggressively.  Ceccato blazes through atonal saxophone whines and Golinski’s primal tom-heavy drum patterns. Even here, however, there’s a refreshing sense of space. Golinski colors Ceccato’s dense multiphonics with ricocheting rim shots and deadened cymbal spasms. In “Periscii,” Ceccato constrains his range to quiet, extreme altissimo wavers, making for a strangely intriguing 8 minutes sonically reminiscent to the sound of one wiping down a piece of glass with a wet paper towel.

“Snag,” Gristle And Skin’s final and longest improvisation, touches on classic free jazz—think Coltrane’s Ascension with less voices or Eric Dolphy’s throaty atonal freakouts—cut with avant classical call-and-response figures. 21 minutes later, the track has disintegrated into quiet drum hits around start-stop sax motifs, but the duo’s endlessly inventive improvisation and telepathic connection has left you with the unthinkable after most albums of free-jazz: wanting more.

Throughout, Gristle and Skins is marked with a punkish quality that keeps the music from veering too close to the sterile over-intellectualization of so much modern aleatoric music. Sure this is intelligent music from schooled musicians, but the recording captures the thrill of Brain’s interplay, the wonderment of ending up in unknown places and relying on intuition, invention, and psychological charge to find a path to something genuinely musical and emotional.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Edgetone Records

Related articles

Giuseppe Ieleasi: "(another) Stunt"
Energy and humour: The aspects ...
CD Feature/ Bruno RÃ¥berg: "Lifelines"
All about melody and rhythm: ...
CD Feature/ Terminal Sound System: "Constructing Towers"
Man-machine-made music: Breathtaking demonstrations of ...
Musical Cities of the World: Beijing
The Rock age may just ...
Anthony Braxton: Ghost Trance Music explained
Anthony Braxton is doing his ...
CD Feature/ Tom Heasley & Toss Panos: "Passages"
Moody, erotic and astral: Drums ...

Partner sites