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CD Feature/ Chris Pugh & Jack Gold: "Penumbra/Heqat"; Ghidra: "The Sound of Speed"; D.B.H.: "Wave the Old Wave"

img  Tobias

Restraint is not exactly something most record companies excel in. Sol Disk is one of these odd exceptions, a label refusing to speak up until they really have something to say. For four years, the Seattle-based Jazz forge remained as taciturn as an Indian Guru on his final journey, shedding no information on the shadowplay going on behind the scenes and retreating to a state of potentially infinite hibernation. S

Suddenly, however, Sol-Disk mastermind Jack Gold is back with two new albums at the same time, one of them featuring himself on Drums. His brainchild seems as up-to-date as ever: Without reading the press release, these albums would surely be attributed to fresh and aspiring newcomers on the scene – and if they’d come packaged in cardboard digipacks with minimalistically abstract designs, they’d probably sell out in no time.

“Penumbra/Heqat”, especially, occupies a unique space between the experimental edge of the Jazz spectrum and spartanic free Improvisation, between the magic of the moment and contemporary composition. First, Gold joins forces with Guitarist Chris Pugh on two extended sessions around the twenty-minute mark. “Detritus” is a magnetic nocturnal maelstrom, with Gold’s cracking, cool and concentrated shuffles pulsating darkly and Pugh playing with feedback textures, droney passages and tone bending, always returning to an incisive rhythmic pattern, which serves as a sort of Leitmotif. The duo is unafraid of holes and gaps in their performance, allowing the music to all but drizzle out, before recomposing themselves for another energetic barrage of detrimental dialogues.

“Talus”, meanwhile, researches a quiet space of rustling and creaking metal, through which Pugh’s Guitar navigates with sharp scratchings, yet utmost care. Astoundingly, the track seems to be built on two long solos, with Gold ascending to the limelight in the latter stages of the piece after having cooled down to a whisper and servile accompanying functions in the early moments. The discreet nuances and richly creative work with very few means is an excellent preparation for concluding string trio “Heqat”, written by Pugh. Violin, Viola and Cello paint darkly glowing arches and ardent vibratos on the canvas of the nightsky in a piece which could potentially go on forever.

Compared to these complex tectonics, the introductory roaring explosion of screaming Saxophone, infernal Double Bass Drum rolls and aggressively howling Guitar noise, which precedes the pieces of “The Sound of Speed”, is enough to send your pulse soaring to decidedly unhealthy levels. Ghidra are a trio of Bill Horist, Mike Peterson and Wally Shoup and their latest effort is testimony to a genre-defying style which will have traditionally minded journalists in tatters and open-minded listeners in a frenzy.

Most of all, however, it is yet another glorious proof that the combination of three distinct individuals does not need to end in complete confusion: Mike Peterson is a Drummer with a penchant for smacking kick drum impulses and a poignant, yet expedient presence. Wally Shoup enjoys gauging the depths of a single line, until he has found its essence – and a Hornist with a inbuilt organ for detecting the subtlest of changes, listening to every utterance of his fellow band members with hawkish attention. Bill Horist, lastly, is the man with the message, setting the tone and propelling the interaction forwards at neckbreak-speed.

Horist also signs responsible for the eclectic stylistic scope of the trio. Regularly leaning towards Rock, Metal and even droning Doom chords, he reaches out towards Funk, Folk and more obvious Jazz-licks on other occasions, sometimes building his contributions from a timbral perspective and with the methods of a sound artist.

“Sound of Speed” has turned out a 41-minute roller coaster ride, which manages to  make drawn-out pieces fly by and concise miniatures seem epic. Their approach is probably best summed up by eleven-minute “Mississippi Sock Eater”. Opening with the most warm and sensually lyrical lines by Shoup on the entire disc and supported by Mike Peterson feeling his way forward with brushed cymbals, the piece flows seamlessly into a long meditation of pastoral broken Guitar chords, which flows unstoppably towards a delta of pure energy and unfettered grooves. A curvy improvisation, whose organic transitions reward its audience with passages of hallucinatory clarity – and the acme to an album of addictive qualities.

If you ever needed proof that not all Free Jazz releases sound the same, you could compare the abovementioned releases with “Wave the Old Wave” by Bloomington-based collective Dynamic Brown Hips”. Comprising two pieces, the 21-minute titletrack and two-part “All the Money is gone”, this is a roaring statement of defiance, ignoring listenability and anyone’s expectations. Displeasing Jazz purists, Dynamic Brown Hips are decidedly uninterested in instrumental virtuosity. And laughing in the shocked visages of sensible audiophiles, the low-fi nature of the music, recorded live to one-track tape-decks without any kind of overdubs or post-production, is more about noise and energy than about clear contours or finely tuned philosophies.

While the different timbres of the almost chambermusical setup of “Wave the old Wave” allow for some subdued moments of plucked strings or brass resonance, “All the Money is Gone” is almost exclusively dedicated to terrifying explosions and bursts of hollering cacophony, with the players savouring the tension leading up to these climaxes, navigating through passages of relative quietude, Keith Wright tenderly stirring his kettles and drums, while Justin Rhody’s Trumpet and Clare Hubbard’s Saxophone engage in prickly teasing and taunting, bouncing messages and screams back and forth between them.

Just like their record company, Public Eyesore Records, whose freely proliferating catalogue is beginning to constitute a second reality, Dynamic Brown tend to treat “restraint” as a four-letter word. Interestingly enough, it works in their case, as the over-the-top nature of this unpolished document lifts it above a mere joke, awarding it a bizarre attraction worthy of revisiting every once in a wondrous while.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Jack Gold
Homepage: Sol Disk
Homepage: Public Eyesore Records

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