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Kyle Bruckmann: Grand Mal (2003)

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Kyle Bruckmann: Grand Mal No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

A branch of improvising artists with roots on the USA's West Coast flourishes on not being satisfied with the status quo. These Bay Area renegades continue to push the envelope in search of that which is truly new. Their unique experimental environment has beckoned woodwind player Kyle Bruckmann from his Midwest abode on several occasions. On this trek, he unites with Ernesto Diaz- Infante, John Shiurba, and Karen Stackpole to form a union of sound processors submerged into one bubbling caldron of atonality.

Bruckmann plays an unusual assortment of double reeds, including the oboe; its larger sized but lower pitched cousin, the English horn; and the Chinese suona, whose conical bell generates penetrating nasality. With the staccato string outbursts from Diaz-Infante and Shiurba gurgling around him, and delicately placed percussive punctuation marks from Stackpole surfacing through the cracks, Bruckmann takes eerie, calculated steps toward a world of unconventional sound production. He squeezes a tonal spectrum of high-pitched nuances out of his horns, while an irregular form of discordant cadence marks the rout-step procession into areas rhythm makers fear to tread.

Ernesto Diaz-Infante is a charter member of the California alliance. He may be classified as a guitarist, but there is no avenue of sound he will not explore in his search for the purity residing along its corridors. Using any method available to eek stark messages from his acoustic instrument, Diaz-Infante turns the guitar into a form of primitive percussion device complete with frame raps and palm massages to counter-balance the sensitive string songs he very cautiously allows to escape from his magical bottle.

Shiurba takes the electric avenue in seeking the source of truth. From blunted notes to high- volume cascades of amplification, he coexists in this strange sound world. His instrument at times emulates a motorized vehicle rushing over the highway hitting speed bumps that jar the output to form a tangled olio of music/noise/static. Stackpole weighs her input thoughtfully using gongs, bells, and miniature forms of percussion. She splatters the canvas with intuitively placed strokes to ensure the ride will not veer toward conventionality.

When all these ethereal forces forge together, a strange new world of dawning knowledge emerges. The program gains momentum and descends in cloudbursts of multi-phonic signals to announce the collective meeting of four minds. It is music without any preconceived dictate on direction, yet the musicians arrive at their destination as though it were a planned route. The journey affords numerous challenges to the open mind, which in turn cleanses the soul through its chaste and fully unpredictable nature.


Track Listing: Catatonic Posturing I; Nervous Tic; Gray Matter; Spatial Agnosia; The Final "d" in "Grand" Is Not Pronounced; Big, Bad; Retrograde Amnesia; Shaking Palsy; Tonic Clonic; Catatonic Posturing II.

Personnel: Kyle Bruckmann: oboe, English horn, suona; Ernesto Diaz-Infante: acoustic guitar; John Shiurba: electric guitar; Karen Stackpole: percussion.

Record Label: Barely Auditable Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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