In the first few minutes of "Masoandro Mitsoka," a soft wash of white noise becomes differentiated into piano, percussion, electronics and two trumpets as the acoustic instruments move from breath and friction sounds to identifiably instrumental ones. Next the ensemble reduces to the trumpets, and they move from parallel play to a clear conversation. When piano, percussion and electronics return, they function as a free jazz rhythm section, backing one trumpet, then both, then the other.
Instrumental identities and roles remain in play throughout this album, as is the degree of interaction: are the musicians juxtaposing independent sounds, conversing, taking soloist/accompanist roles or merging in a collective? Different members of the ensemble sometimes take different strategies simultaneously or are in transition from one mode to another.
The communication in this ensemble is so strong, listeners will not suspect that this music was created by trading files during the COVID-19 pandemic rather than playing together in person, a valuable piece of information provided in the press release sent to critics but not included in the liner notes accompanying the album. While only "Rolle Cake" has an audibly composed theme, played by the trumpets at its end, these are compositions; each piece is based on a timeline asking each musician to improvise in specific ways for set durations. Pianist Satoko Fujii, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and electronic musician Ikue Mori recorded their parts individually during lockdown, then trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins played along to the trio tracks during a live performance, giving themselves the extra challenge of making their contributions in a single take.
Crustal Movement adds Mori's laptop to the established Kaze quartet, who have four prior albums of their own and a previous collaboration with Mori: 2020's Sand Storm, all on Fujii and Tamura's Circum-Libra label. Mori began as the drummer of the No Wave band Dna, and her electronics are most often percussion samples or percussive synthesized sounds. She frequently pairs with the drums or piano, while the trumpeters twin. This album will be especially interesting to trumpet players and fans of Taylor Ho Bynum, Nate Wooley, Peter Evans, Dan Rosenboom and other brass players who approach unorthodox sounds as both experimental and part of a tradition as old as jazz.
Mori records relatively infrequently, especially in contrast to prolific collaborators such as Fujii and John Zorn. Along with her solo performance on Zorn's Bagatelles Vol. 4, this album is valuable as a clear document of her playing as of 2021-2, when she was named a MacArthur Fellow.
While the lineup has the potential to achieve great volume and noise, the music never becomes harsh or forbiddingly dense. Although definitely outside, it is lucid and articulate.
Masoandro Mitsoka; Motion Dynamics; Rolle Cake; Shifting Blocks; No Twist; Crustal Movement.
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