2

WA: Cross The Center

Dave Wayne By

Sign in to view read count
WA: Cross The Center On its surface, Cross The Center may seem like a guitar/drums free jazz freakout. This perplexingly named group from the Pacific Northwest, like their homies Dylan Carlson, SUNN)))000, and The Melvins, proves convincingly that it is possible to freak out with great intelligence, wit and skill. Sure, the electric guitars of Simon Henneman and C. J. Stout are predominantly distorted, detuned, and otherwise abused in order to make those otherworldly sounds. Behind this phalanx of plugged-in madness, Gregg Keplinger thrashes away at his drums in a manner highly reminiscent of Elvin Jones. The sonic possibilities of bicycles were explored by none other than Frank Zappa, during a guest shot on the old Steve Allen Show back in the '60s. It's awfully hard to say exactly what Sean Lane's doing to produce the bicycle- related sounds throughout Cross The Center, but an educated guess would have to include sticks, mallets, contact microphones, and signal processing.

"Funfun" opens the CD with the requisite amount of sound, skronk, and bluster. The result is somewhere between Hound Dog Taylor — there's some sweetly quivery slide guitar going on—and that scorched-earth variety of plugged-in free jazz pioneered by drummer Tony Williams' Lifetime, and later by John Abercrombie on the first Gateway album (ECM, 1975). WA's take on Eden Ahbez's classic, "Nature Boy," is an entirely different matter; this is a beautiful version of the tune. Henneman positively revels in the melody, as the drums and plugged-in percussion rattle and tangle in the background. Stout's accompaniment here is quite delicate, while still being stylistically spot-on.

"Liuzza's" continues along similar lines. Keplinger rolls out an undeniably swinging polyrhythmic backdrop as the guitars and electronics chatter and squeal in the foreground. The lyrical flow of "Adagio and Babel" is undercut by Lane's buzzing, droning electronics—is he bowing the bicycle here?—which subside and ultimately join Henneman in 6-string/32-spoke nirvana. The overall effect is eerie and atmospheric, though the piece fades just as it's entering more turbulent air. "Carcassi" is even sparer. Here, Henneman's bold soloing owes a bit to some of guitarist Terje Rypdal's early ECM recordings, such as What Comes After (1974). The brief, furious coda that ends the piece is nothing short of tantalizing.

As with much improvised music, the success of Cross The Center lies mostly in the highly developed sensitivity and listening ability of its participants, which WA has in spades. Lots of chops on display here as well, though never gratuitously. This is an engrossing CD, beautifully paced, with a variety of textures that meld to into a veritable forest of sonic micro-environments.


Track Listing: Funfun; Nature Boy; Liuzza’s; Adagio and Babel; Carcassi.

Personnel: Gregg Keplinger: drums; Simon Henneman: guitar; C.J. Stout: guitar; Sean Lane: bicycle and electronics.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Tables & Chairs


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Sanguinaria (Hopeful Songs)" CD/LP/Track Review Sanguinaria (Hopeful Songs)
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Reliquia" CD/LP/Track Review Reliquia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 30, 2016
Read "Groove Legacy" CD/LP/Track Review Groove Legacy
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 8, 2016
Read "Flow" CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "Prick of the Litter" CD/LP/Track Review Prick of the Litter
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 28, 2017
Read "Argonautica" CD/LP/Track Review Argonautica
by Troy Collins
Published: November 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!