Vector Trio: Nomina (2009)
Improvised music tends to be divisive, alienating those who need the life belt of recognizable tunes and attracting those who see drama in the leap into the void. The challenge with improvised music is in creating the right doses of tension and release. There is certainly plenty of tension in this trio's language, and science- fiction horror permeates their music as much as the influence of the more experimental bands who spliced jazz, rock, world rhythms and electronics in the late '60s and first half of the '70s. The presence of King Crimson and '70s Miles Davis is here, at least in spirit, but that's only half of the story.
Scott Forey's trumpet and Gary Rouzer's bass cello are given all kinds of twists with the employment of loops and effects, creating other worldly and at times animal-like sounds. Percussion is ever present; Marshall Hughey's kit and found objects bubbling below the grooves or sounding bold and animated.
The opener, "Synocus"employs a lot of effects, and with its eerie vibe it could be the soundtrack for a science fiction film. Four minutes in, drums and plucked bass cello return the tune to the earth's orbit and distorted trumpet, sounding synthesized, carves out short and punchy phrases, climaxing in high-pitched exclamations reminiscent of electric period Miles.
Repeated refrains run through most of the tunes, acting as a pulse and starting point for the improvisations which ensue. On "Aphorva," distorted trumpet cuts a sinister sound through the background noise and rolling drums. "Echexia" follows a similar pattern, though less intense and with the drums more to the fore. It is the percussion more than anything, powerful, probing and tense, which evokes Crimson circa Jamie Muir and Bill Bruford.
There's an edgy power in these performances, the feeling that the pressure will blow the lid at any moment. The electronic wall of sound of "Asthemic State," hailing from Rouser's cello, is pierced by a plaintive trumpet and chimes. The piece contains a certain foreboding, but a delightfully simple riff and sharp percussion earths the tune. This trio is not adverse to springing unsettling sounds, deriving drone and roaring feedback from the cello. At times, either cello or trumpet sounds like an electric guitar. Tabla and triangle provide a different point of departure on "Pyrexia," but the sound effects and synthesized trumpet conjure the same nervy edge as the other compositions.
Everything comes together on the final number, "Epistaxis," as talking drums and gently crashing cymbals lay the foundations for wildly distorted trumpet to soar above a droning bass cello. Trumpet and drums duel together, both becoming insistent, and the wall of sound builds in intensity as cymbals crash like angry waves. Then, in the blink of an eye, the tremendous sound has abated, a hum lingering a while, before disappearing.
Nomina is provocative and slightly unsettling; yet for all its density and out-there sound effects it's also an absorbing and fascinating musical experience.
Track Listing: Synochus; Aphoria; Echexia; Asthenic state; Ictarus; Phrenitis; Pyrexia; Dysphoria; Epistaxis.
Personnel: Scott Forrey: trumpets, loops, effects, percussion; Marshall Hughey: drums, roland handsonic, landscape percussion; Gary Rouzer: NS bass cello, loops, effects, found objects.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde