David Aaron's Short Memory: Cynical Rat Bastard (2006)
David Aaron presents Cynical Rat Bastard as "a heavy dose of aural voyeurism [which] invites the listener to press an ear to the keyhole for this insomniac's foray through an all-night carnival." The pose of a quirky, gen-X, ultra-cynical slacker is reinforced by the CD notes crediting someone for "missing the point" and dedicating the release to "my dear cynical rat bastard, martha," plus placing craigslist among the thank yous.
This would all just be funny (in a cynical way) but for the high quality of the writing by Aaron and the musicianship of his band. The thirteen tracks are meant to be listened to from beginning to end and can easily be thought of as a score to a (black and white?) movie, a dream sequence or a stream-of-consciousness collection of impressions.
The score-like feel is reinforced by the presence of a number of very short tracks that almost serve as intermissions, a clearing of the aural palette or connective tissue to the ongoing mental movie. "Landshark" (of SNL fame?) acts as an introduction and swings hard. "Nobbylocks," with Aaron playing unaccompanied, is all about night and runs right into "Ila's Furnace," which adds guitar, and together they create the mood for the next track. "City Eyes" acts as a link from the introspective "Sophia's Diary" to the MSG-induced craziness of (left-over) "Soy Sauce Chicken On Rice," while "Dutch Courage" starts to sound familiar as the themes and their variations begin to merge together, as would happen to the thoughts of an insomniac at 4 am.
The more substantial pieces are arranged between these short tracks. Aaron's tone can range from tough and hard-edged ("Cynical Rat Bastard") to very sexy and full of breath, with a nice vibrato ("Sophia's Diary"). The main tracks share no common style, except for the loose arrangements that provide an exciting feeling of unpredictability. While each piece has a theme or motive, the whole record feels tied together and everything begins to sound related to everything else. The "tunes" end up becoming more like vignettes, little stories about some person or reactions to an earlier incident that is being replayed.
While the instrumentation is like the familiar saxophone quartet, with the guitar playing the chordal/solo part as a piano would, there is just nothing normal about this highly personal, totally idiosyncratic music. Short Memory is a highly reactive and interactive band with a group personality, admittedly led by the tongue-in-cheek Aaron.
Welcome to David Aaron's musical and possibly sleep-deprived world which, while remaining edgy and dark, is nevertheless extremely seductive and fun in an in-joke way. This very cool release is already on my best of 2006 list.
Track Listing: Landshark; For Ever Green; Cynical Rat Bastard; Schnerdle; Nobbylocks; Ila's Furnace; Sophia's Diary; City Eyes; Soy Sauce Chicken on Rice; When I'm Alone, Chicks Go Wild!; Dutch Courage; Corn Dog Hamper; Sydney.
Personnel: David Aaron: tenor saxophone; Rob Ritchie: guitar, vocals; Greg Ritchie: drums, vocals; Matt Wigton: bass, vocals.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz