Peter Hammill once described working with Van Der Graaf Generator as "serious fun," and anyone familiar with that band's music will have an idea also of the ambiguity of his description. VDGG specialised in a strain of the gothic as set down in literary terms by Edgar Allan Poe, and for all the idiomatic differences between their dark progressive rock and what's on offer here, there is an aesthetic of anxiety which bridges the divide between two disparate concerns.
On one level there's some serious fun pervading this music, and it arises largely from the tension between the seemingly deep anxiety pervading Bruckmann's compositions and the zeal with which these musicians go about performing them. This is abundantly clear on "Inasmuch As, where Bruckmann's oboe peels off sinuous lines before joining in with Jason Stein's bass clarinet in a dancing but closely voiced duo that evokes in some ways the partnership between Sonny Simmons and Prince Lasha. Here, however, any relationship with the jazz continuum as such is only passing at best.
Without a doubt, the deepest musical waters to be plumbed here are to be found on "Intents & Purposes itself, where the notion of tension and release is subverted in the grandest manner through the adroit use of the next best thing to silence. The use of this slow-build technique has often resulted in some kind of resolution through the use of nothing subtler than increasing volume or some kind of breakdown, if indeed that can be viewed as resolution. Here, however, there is no such comfort, and the listener has to reach some kind of accommodation with music that is resolutely uncompromising. It's worth the effort.
On "Despite All Evidence To The Contrary, Jen Clare Paulson's viola plays the kind of lines that would have any admirer of technique as an end in itself in tears, and again the fundamental issue of resolution is one which both the group and Bruckmann's composition seem intent on reaching no accommodation with, and again this makes for music that at least flirts with some as yet uncharted dynamic.
The whole makes for stimulating but unsettling listening, and whilst many assaults on the musical rule book is might end in failed experiments, this one offers an alternative blueprint at the same time as it upholds the value of personal expression.
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Personnel: Kyle Bruckmann: oboe, English horn; suona; Tim Daisy: percussion; Anton Hatwich: bass; Jen
Clare Paulson: viola; Jason Stein: bass clarinet.