Mike Pride: From Cradle to Grave
Birthing Days is the sophomore follow-up to 2010's Betweenwhile, the acclaimed AUM Fidelity debut of Pride's quartet From Bacteria To Boys. Written just two months after the release of the former album in a fit of inspiration following the birth of his first child, this lyrical, swinging session palpably demonstrates Pride's joyful embrace of fatherhood.
As Pride's flagship ensemble, From Bacteria To Boys boasted a steady lineup until just last year, when ubiquitous saxophone phenomenon Jon Irabagon joined charter members pianist Alexis Marcelo and bassist Peter Bitenc as a replacement for rising alto saxophonist Darius Jones. The relative stability of the band's personnel has not precluded experimentation however. Marcelo plays synthesizer instead of piano on the assertive opener "79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, the" and the tuneful title track that follows; the fuzzed-out distortion of the former number and warbling oscillations of the latter subtly evoke '80s-era nostalgia, offering notable contrast to the timeless acoustic purity of the group's first release.
The remainder of the date expands upon the ensemble's previous work, alternating angular swing ("Brestwerp") and punchy hard bop ("Fuller Place") with atmospheric tone poems ("Marcel's Hat") and sensitive balladry ("Motiaon"). Marcelo's florid runs through the tender "Lullaby For Charlie" and the cacophonous collective improvisation at the heart of "CLAP" further highlight the session's tonal extremes. Although less cohesive than Betweenwhile, Birthing Days contains a number of strong performances by Pride's crew, including an expansive trap set tour-de-force on "Occupied Man" that firmly demonstrates the leader's creative virtuosity.
Spurred into existence by a very different turn of events, the titular suite that dominates Drummer's Corpse was conceived in 2005, following a devastating apartment fire that consumed most of Pride's belongings. In Pride's own words, "This piece has taken on many meanings to me ... It is a scream against violence and war. A scream against greed and envy. A howl of strength, power and self-reliance."
Featuring a multi-generational roster of talent, "Drummer's Corpse" is a conceptual work for multiple drummers underpinned by organ drones and electric guitar feedback, accented by primal vocal exhortations. Quickly swelling from pointillist ruminations to fervent expressionism, the single-minded composition maintains a high level of intensity throughout its 33 minute duration, although the repetitive drum patterns, glacially paced chord changes and recurrent vocal cries lack sonic variety, eventually nullifying the work's cathartic intentions in a din of white noise.
Rounding out the program, "Some Will Die Animals" was written in the wake of the suicide of drummer Gen Makino, a friend of Pride's and a key figure in the Tokyo and Osaka noise scene. The lengthy piece is based on a serialized tone row for double bass and a graphic score for guitar, bass drums and tom-toms that is twice interrupted by the simultaneous reading of a news broadcast by two men and two women, as an abstracted round. Intriguing, but equally formulaic, this 26 minute opus falls victim to the same conceptual limitations that hinder the title track.
Though admirably focused, the record lacks the vast dynamic range that makes the contemporaneous efforts of vanguard artists like Acid Mothers Temple, Sunn 0))) and Swans so compelling. Nonetheless, Drummer's Corpse, clearly influenced by concept albums like John Zorn's Leng Tch'e (Toys Factory, 1992) and New Traditions in East Asian Bar Bands (Tzadik, 1997), will appeal to dedicated fans of extreme music.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: 79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, the; Birthing Days; Marcel's Hat; Brestwerp; Lullaby For Charlie; CLAP; Fuller Place; Pass The Zone; Occupied Man; Motiaon.
Personnel: Mike Pride: drums, percussion and glockenspiel; Jon Irabagon: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone (1, 9); Alexis Marcelo: piano, synthesizer (1, 2); Peter Bitenc: double bass; Jonathan Moritz: tenor saxophone (6, 7); Jason Stein: bass clarinet (2, 6).
Tracks: Drummer's Corpse; Some Will Die Animals.
Personnel: Mike Pride: drums, organ, vocal, percussion, gongs and nose flute (1), bass drums, tom-toms and recitation (2); Oran Canfield: drums and gongs (1); Russell Greenberg: drums and gongs (1); John McLellan: drums and gongs (1); Bobby Previte: drums and gongs (1); Ches Smith: drums and gongs (1); Tyshawn Sorey: drums and gongs (1); Marissa Perel: vocals and percussion (1), recitation (2); Fritz Welch: vocals and percussion (1), recitation (2); Chris Welcome: guitar; Eivind Opsvik: double bass (2); Yuko Tonohira: recitation (2).