Grutronic: Essex Foam Party (2009)
Grutronic is a free improvising collective, featuring musicians spanning progressive jazz, free jazz and experimental persuasions. On Essex Foam Party, the core electronics-based quartet aligns with special guests, vibraphonist Orphy Robinson and sampler Paul Obermayer. With liquefying, trickling and ping ponging effects, the musicians implement analog and digital equipment to play with tricks with the psyche, offering some curiously intriguing propositions along the way.
At times the band draws similarities to the minimalistic and edgy facets witnessed within British free jazz propensities such as the late drummer John Stevens' fabled Spontaneous Music Ensemble, but with electronics substituting for the acoustic instruments. The artists delve deeper into other sonicscapes by emulating a disoriented outlook via daunting fabrics of multilayered sounds, occasionally embedded with zigzagging crosscurrents and asymmetrical patterns. It's a bizarre study of polytonal contrasts and subliminal background treatments.
On "Concussion Vibes," Robinson adds a light touch to the dark and grumbling electronics maneuvering to summon notions of an informal question and answer session. Otherwise, the musicians generate streaming dissections of sound amid semblances of a fractured prism, awash with oscillating countercurrents and themes that break down then reform. The humorously titled closer, "Foam Sweet Foam," serves as a brief yet fitting epilogue to the overall program, which is engineered upon distortion, scratchy highs and lows, and a happenstance-like vibe. The unit sheds a nouveau perspective on the extended capabilities of electronics implementations. There's a lot to digest, but it's all in good fun as they triumphantly align the technical aspects with a significant entertainment factor.
Track Listing: Plonk; Essex Foam Party; Concussion Vibes; Nose-Up; Ball Pool Blues; Madness and Civilization; Foam Sweet Foam.
Personnel: Stephen Grew: keyboard, processing; Richard Scott: buchla lightning, analogue synthesizer, sampler, processing; Nick Grew: transduction, processing; David Ross: drosscillator. Special guests - Orphy Robinson: vibraphone; Paul Obermayer: sampler.