Kyle Bruckmann: Purposeful Discontent

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Things are shifting in unpredictable ways. I suspect that more than ever the fringe, sub-cultural, niche markets have a heck of a lot more visibility and power than they ever did.
Kyle BruckmannWhen I spoke with oboist Kyle Bruckmann earlier this month, he was in the midst of a recording session with experimental metal act Oxbow (Hydrahead Records). Yeah... haven't heard of them, huh? Punknews.org called Oxbow's 2006 release Love That's Last "free-form psychedelia and an "infusion of jazz, rock and noise. So it should come as no surprise then that the eclectic Bruckmann would be recording oboe overdubs for Oxbow's latest record.

Bruckmann's budding career as a creative musician began just over ten years ago at Rice University where, as an undergrad in the early '90s, he formed and fronted the noisy industrial hardcore band Lozenge. The group would reconvene years later in Chicago, where Bruckmann was beginning to get a foothold in that city's experimental music scene.

A variety of recordings would follow—Entymology (Barley Auditable, 2000), a solo improvisation album, And (Musica Genera, 2001), duets with, amongst others, Chicago scenesters, trombonist/guitarist Jeb Bishop and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm—and different ensembles, including more with Lozenge, electroacoustic duets with Ernst Karel as EKG and Bruckmann's chamber jazz ensemble Wrack. Follow all that up with the oddest of records, Gasps and Fissures (482 Music, 2004) an album's worth of odd sounds, clicks, whistles and a few actual notes that is shocking intriguing, enthralling ...and just damn interesting.

Fast forward to 2006 and Bruckmann is now living and working as an orchestral musician in the Bay Area. His latest release, Intents and Purposes (482 Music, 2006), sees him working with Wrack again and getting as close to jazz as Bruckmann can get. With light and open compositions, Bruckmann conjures a wealth of sounds from his instrument, using silent space as the informal sixth member of the ensemble. Call it minimalism if you will, but Bruckmann's compositions show undeniable promise and his exciting and almost careless approach to recording and performance are, well, frightening.

All About Jazz: Oxbow is a good place to start. Let's jump right in to some of your earliest work. You did stuff with Lozenge, starting in 1992. How did that all come about?

Kyle Bruckmann: We were all at Rice University once upon a time and we were together as a band from '92 to '94. And then we all went separate ways—I went to University of Michigan for grad school. After a couple years we decided to get back together and we chose Chicago as a base. We stuck it out there for about seven years.

AAJ: So even as you were in college and studying in that sort of academic setting, you must have always had an interest in punk and metal and that aspect of music.

KB: Oh yeah, definitely. It's been a sort of twisted path for me. Ever since high school I've been playing in various versions of industrial and hardcore bands.

AAJ: Beyond Miles Davis bringing three guitars into his band for extensive jamming, what Lozenge does, or did, is completely different from that and totally left field, yet still incorporates jazz in a sense, definitely improvisation. Other bands, like Yakuza and, obviously, Oxbow, do this also. Do you think that musicians today are exposed to so much music and with relatively easy access—do you think it is almost natural for creative people who are involved in classical and jazz to also expand and bring in elements of punk and metal and hardcore in ways that, twenty years ago, might not have happened?

KB: I would like to hope so. I feel that this is such a bizarre time in the music industry that I can't even begin to understand what's going on. But it really does feel like things are shifting in unpredictable ways. I suspect that more than ever the fringe, sub-cultural, niche markets have a heck of a lot more visibility and power than they ever did. The dominant pop culture is so completely bankrupt that people are seeking out stranger and stranger little eddies and crosscurrents and they're easier to find.

Now [eclecticism] feels like the default for bored adolescents. Rather starting a hardcore band, they're all getting a suitcase full of broken pedals and trying to be Wolf Eyes. That that's happening on such a wide level I think is really exciting. Nobodies going to really sell any CDs and break even anymore but, so what—I've never done that anyway.

AAJ: That shift—to where there almost seems to be an understanding now amongst young, creative artists that it's not going to be a lucrative endeavor, where you feel like you have to do this, you have to create and you're not going to make money off of it—do you think that gives you as an artist the opportunity to say "Fuck it—I'm going to record Gasp and Fissures because I want to?

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