Plymouth: Plymouth (2014)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Jamie Saft, Joe Morris, Chris Lightcap, Gerald Cleaver, and Mary Halvorson. The simple mention of these five names is probably enough to frighten some people away from this album and make others rush toward it with open ears. Each one of the aforementioned musicians has a reputation for being a musical provocateur, pushing buttons, pushing the limits and challenging minds and ears with intelligent abandon. The music they make together under the banner of Plymouth could be dubbed free jazz, noise art, collective creation, or any number of similarly vague but telling things. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter what category this gets filed under. What matters is the musical mettle that this band demonstrates during the three lengthy improvised numbers that make up its eponymous debut.
While this marks the first release from this quintet, various long-term connections have been made between its members over the years, and guitarist Joe Morris stands as the central figure in the mix. Morris and keyboardist Jamie Saft go back twenty years and collaborated on Slobber Pup (RareNoise, 2013), drummer Gerald Cleaver and bassist Chris Lightcap have worked together in Morris' quartet and various other scenarios for quite some time, and guitarist Mary Halvorson studied with Morris once upon a time. Saft notes that "this group was actually conceived as a way to bring together Joe Morris and Mary Halvorson with a rhythm section of long standing friends and colleagues." This means nobody really needed to get acquainted with anybody else here, but that doesn't mean things sound comfortable and relaxed; actually, it's quite the opposite.
The album opens on the twenty-minute "Manomet," which starts out with B movie extra-terrestrial sounds that hint at the danger ahead. From there, things build, as a massive sonic cloud slowly mushrooms out, destroying everything in its path. The tension and terror recede, but not before some serious damage is done. The thirteen-minute "Plimouth" starts soft, but hits harder in some ways. Some rhythmic stakes are put into the ground on this one, with Cleaver scaffolding around the sound and the fury. The final numberthe twenty-nine minute "Standish"is both trippy and terrifying. Ambient paranoia hangs in the cloudy atmosphere and uncertainty lurks around every corner. A barrage of sound does its damage at one point, but the interest really comes with the blips and static that follow the storm. Saft's organ-ic anarchy, and the chaos that comes with it as the end nears, is also a gas. Plymouth really knows how to rile in style.
Track Listing: Manomet; Plimouth; Standish.
Personnel: Jamie Saft: organ, echoplex piano, Fender Rhodes; Joe Morris: electric guitar; Chris
Lightcap: electric bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Mary Halvorson: electric guitar.
Record Label: RareNoiseRecords
Style: Modern Jazz