The Abstractions: Ars Vivende (2003)
The Abstractions present a form of noise jazz coupled with narrative recitations, voice and vocal outbursts, and electrified intensity of gigantic proportions. These California improvisers and deviators from the norm take the mind on a psychedelic trip on Ars Vivende where reality is utterly buried within the surrealistic scene painted by these anti-war rule-breakers. There is turmoil boiling on most cuts, particularly when Jesse Quattro initiates his shouting matches overflowing with verbal abusiveness and agonized cries of despondency.
Ernesto Diaz-Infante, who plays a multiplicity of string and other instruments, offsets this confusion with droning recitations in a false, monotone voice. Musical history probably has never encountered anything approaching his reading of Gershwin’s “But Not for Me.” It appears that everyone gets into the act by injecting a flood of verbal/non-verbal utterances over the din of electrified noise and static. Strangely, even though it would appear that the end of the earth were near and Armageddon had begun, there exists a contradictory sense of calm amidst these abrasive and discordant projectiles.
The recording offers 22 selections where the artists rotate in and out of the cacophonous melee. Multi-reed player Rent Romus appears on 15 of the cuts, playing a hodgepodge of unusual noisemakers. His woodwind sequences are tangible handles to unstructured jazz, but his other devices become noise supplements to the chaos that dominates much of the session.
Several of the selections project despair and hopelessness, such as the politically charged “After the War,” where Quattro’s message could conceivably have the same suicidal impact on unstable minds as allegedly did Billie Holiday’s singing of “Gloomy Sunday.”
Toy talk, laptop manipulation, field recordings, turntable squeaks, and a wide assortment of other sound producers flood the senses and confuse the mind. Processed reiterations of droning rhythms and tormented voices meet head-on with the output of conventional instruments to color the landscape in irregular colors.
The Abstractions see life through darkly clouded glasses. Their deviate perceptions polarize expectations and form sides of lovers and haters of their product. If one simply allows the work to flow unabated over the senses, an opportunity exists for opening minds to alternative concepts of art, and possibly understanding, if not relating to the message.
Track Listing: The Biter Undiscovered Alienated (Male) Genius Club (3:29) / The Tower (1:14) / Cultivate the Voices in the Wilderness (3:15) / Your Eyes Taste Like Steel (2:52) / Lurch (7:00) / The Thread (3:28) / Amerika Not Beautiful (0:34) / A Furiously Fatal Future (6:40) / Companions on a Journey Through a Lost Amerika (2:05) / After the War (2:15) / Caress of the Claw (2:16) / Demon Down (3:33) / Rain of Bullets (8:16) / That Hideous Beauty (0:39) / Armageddon Under Glass (1:01) / Psychotronix Melodramatix (0:33) / But Not for Me (3:01) / Universal Flaw (0:33) / No More Loans (2:30) / Peeling Back the Layers of a Dead Foot (7:56) / Flow Between my Past and My Future (5:03) / Heart of Midnight (7:53).
Personnel: Ernesto Diaz-Infante-vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fretless guitar, violin, 4-track, guitaint, turntable, ebow drone, field recordings; Dina Emerson-voice, words, bells; Phillip Everett-drums, autoharp, percussion; Sandor Finta-voice; Lance Grabmiller-laptop, processing; Bob Marsh-cello, voice, accordion; Jesse Quattro, vocals, words, bells; Alwyn Quebido, electric guitar; Rent Romus, alto & soprano saxophone, flute, voice, percussion, toys, CD player, Mr. Bunny, zitherod, scream dolls; Marjorie Sturm, lyrics; Stephen Ruiz, turntable sounds . Recorded: December 16, 2002, February 12, 2003, February 19, 2003, Richmond, CA.