Tom Abbs: Lost & Found (2009)
It is possible to respond to Tom Abbs & Frequency Response's Lost & Found with eyes wide shut, ears completely unlocked and a body ready to leap up and dance to some of its eighteen randomly arranged musical fragments. There is a cerebral angle here, most likely deliberate on the part of the artist. It has to do with the arrangement of the fragmentsthe songs, that is. Some are inspired by visual images and intended to sound like aural depictions of those imagined images. Abbs refers to these as video graphic scorespresumably graphics generated to provoke musical interpretationso that "Suspect" is suitably sinister, as Abbs' bass growls, while Brian Settles' tenor saxophone speaks in squeaks, Jean Cook's violin howls and Chad Taylor's drums rumble incessantly. "Consolation," "Box" and "Missing"also musical interpretations from graphicsare no less inspiring.
And then there is the primary set of musical fragments. These are narrative structures and indeed they are like short vignettes; all fully formed song structures, each with a beginning and an end. Again, it would appear as though they were randomly arranged, but there clear evidence suggests the contrary. The opening "Lost," for example, is bracketed with the penultimate "Found," followed only by "Reflection," which appears to summarize the disc's entire musical expedition.
The entire minimalist exercise is reminiscent of an Edgard Varese journey. "Ionizations" jumps to mind, but to liken these to that path-breaking, memorable composition may be a tad presumptuous; then again, it may not be so, although Lost and Found is a musical journey similar to Varese's legendary piece. Each of the fragments is linked and exquisitely explores the edge of melodic invention, the elasticity of harmony and the maniacal polyrhythmic possibilities when each of the musical elements collides with the other. So, in the end, this is far from a desultory assortment of compositions strung together by the randomness of their interconnectivity. Rather this record works as an ambitious suite where the elemental tones and textures of musical notes and rhythmic invention intersect minimally to bring forth a work that can also make for a crazy "drunken body" dance.
It will be interesting, indeed, to see where Tom Abbs takes his imagination next.
Track Listing: Lost; Static; Torn; Suspect; Lock; Tidal; Parse; Consolation; Bars; Box: Cross; Pin Top; Pedestrian; Strung; Tightrope; Missing; Found; Reflection.
Personnel: Tom Abbs: bass, cello, tuba; Brian Settles: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Jean Cook: violin; Chad Taylor: drums.