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One of the unwritten idiomatic tenets of a lot of electro-acoustic improv is the sublimation of the individual for the collective cause. In the process, the sounds of itemized and identifiable instruments are often replaced with more implicit textures and shapes. Bassist Christian Weber is adept at this strategy having worked with some of the leading luminaries of amplification-inclusive abstract improvisation like Günter Müller and Norbert Möslang. He's also versed in more jazz-grounded improvisation as evidenced by recent projects with pianist Chris Wiesendanger and the ensemble Day & Taxi. Here, however, colors and intimations hold sway more often than explicit linear structures. Drones and semi-tonal oscillations are the regular currencies of the realm.
Weber's colleagues are similarly concerned with more conceptual and less tethered methods of sound production. A catholic jazz listener might be tempted to judge the music by what is largely absent. Weber's pieces might lack audible melody and harmony, but they are far from vacuous in terms of content or weight. Hans Koch has a reputation for register extremes, preferring reed choices that mine pitches at either end of the audible spectrum. He and guitarist Martin Siewert also employ a small but prevalent assortment of electronics that plays a direct roll in blurring the music's sharper angles as well as the boundaries between instruments. Christian Wolfarth rarely attends to his kit in a conventional sense, contributing scrapes and whispers rather than discrete beats. Cellist Michael Moser completes the quintet, his brittle plucking and bowing shadowing the lower pitched sequences of the leader.
The titles attached to the improvisations reflect the breadth of Weber's creative basin, bringing imagery of astronauts and Americana into an amalgam as singular as the music. "Pony Music unfolds in a disorienting wash of crackles and vibrations generated by bows on strings, breath through reed, and friction on drumheads. Weber sets up a pulsating pattern in the piece's final third flanked by insect percussion and fluttering reed chatter. "Sun Perspectives starts with nary a pause before another murmuring barrage of disparate, but somehow convergent, drones. Weber and Moser, bounce bows off their strings, joining Wolfarth's finger patter and Siewert's opaque ghost tones. "Camping Light Night and "Lone Star suggest the strongest semblances of individualism, the strings synchronizing with Koch's rippling bass clarinet as Siewert sets up spectral plectral signposts along the way. The disc's nebulous centerpiece, "Frogmouth stretches to just short of sixteen minutes, spooling out like an alien suite of whistling pitch clusters and Doppler drones, a fever dream with an oddly balladic mien. Weber's music isn't easy, but it's also not soon forgotten.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...