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Drip, Drip, Drip: A Celebration of Drip Audio

John Eyles By

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Violinist Jesse Zubot's record label Drip Audio released its first CD, Zubotta, in March 2005. As it reaches its sixth anniversary, the latest releases on the Vancouver-based label show it continuing to display the strengths that have made it unpredictable and distinctive throughout its existence. Alongside releases featuring Jesse Zubot and his violinist brother Joshua, standout discs in the label's catalogue include The Ultimate Frog by LA guitarist Jim McAuley and Way Out Northwest by English saxophonist John Butcher with Vancouver's Torsten Müller on bass and Dylan van der Schyff on drums. Excellent as those releases are, one of the label's more appealing characteristics is that it has not released music by players from across the globe, preferring to focus on music produced by the Vancouver community of musicians. In this respect, the three contrasting trio discs below are typical of Drip Audio's output, which is refreshingly different from that of comparable independent labels.

Subtle Lip Can

Subtle Lip Can

Drip Audio

2010

From Montreal rather than Vancouver, Subtle Lip Can is a trio that brings together Joshua Zubot, guitarist Bernard Falaise and Isaiah Ceccarelli on percussion and piano. On the opener, "Chickle That Bottom," all three employ extended techniques to produce a highly distinctive soundscape consisting of overlapping fragments of sound, some attributable to an instrument, others of less certain provenance; included in the latter category is a low frequency lowing sound that is most likely the product of Falaise's guitar. More importantly, the contributions of all three players combine into a sonic tapestry in which they are equals.

On "Inside Look," that bass rumble is there again, effectively underpinning the whole piece; above it Zubot's violin steals the limelight with a solo full of dramatic flourishes. That sets a pattern for the album; time and again it is the violin that commands attention. But Falaise and Caccarelli deserve their fair share of attention too, generating rich, detailed patterns, with percussion frequently bubbling to the surface. Across the eight tracks, the overall effect is of a constantly-shifting landscape, rich in detail, which pays particular attention to the bottom end. The result is satisfying music that contains enough variation to handsomely repay repeated listening.

Aeroplane Trio

Naranja Ha

Drip Audio

2010

Although Aeroplane Trio was formed in 2001, Naranja Ha is their first commercial release. As well as a studio-recorded CD dating from July 2009, the release also includes a DVD featuring the 45 minute "Live at Ironworks" recorded in January 2008 plus an interview with the players entitled "Getting to Naranja Ha."

Compared to the democratic Subtle Lip Can, Aeroplane Trio functions far more as a conventional trumpet trio, with trumpeter JP Carter well to the fore. Carter is a versatile player who plays fluently in a range of styles from the conventional mainstream jazz of "Lucky Loonie"—complete with its quotes from familiar tunes—through to the freer, more experimental sounds of "They Came and Took Away Our Kittens." While such eclecticism is commendable, it hints that the three have yet to find their own voice as a group. Based on their showing here, the free route would seem to be a fruitful avenue for them to explore further.

Bassist Russell Scholberg and drummer Skye Brooks are an efficient and supportive rhythm section for Carter, injecting enough of themselves to leave their stamp on the music. As a threesome, Aeroplane Trio sound compatible and comfortable in each other's company. Having taken the plunge and released one album, it is to be hoped that they follow it up rapidly, to build on the promise shown here.

Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson

Barrel Fire

Drip Audio

2010

Despite Drip Audio's focus on local bands, the addition of a musician from further afield does add spice—particularly when that addition is saxophonist Mats Gustafsson. In fact, this is Gustafsson's second appearance on the label, after he was guest on one track on Continent $ Western by avant-rock septet Fond of Tigers. (Incidentally, Jesse Zubot is a member of Fond of Tigers. So are Carter and Brooks from Aeroplane Trio, but they are also in the quartet Inhabitants, too. Brooks is also in the band of Tommy Babin, bassist in the Gord Grdina Trio. All a bit incestuous, eh? If it seems confusing, try drawing a Venn diagram).

Gustaffson's hell-for-leather approach to improvising is as unmistakeable here as ever, guaranteed to set the pulse racing and get the adrenalin pumping. Rather than the saxophonist seeming like a guest soloist who has been grafted onto the trio, the playing and attitude are perfectly suited to Gustafsson's. Gord Grdina's compositions have drive and energy in abundance, making them ideal vehicles to display the Swede to best advantage. Grdina's guitar and oud playing acts as a good foil to Gustafsson, with Babin and drummer Kenton Loewen supplying just the high-octane rhythm section required. Thrilling stuff. In a close run contest, this is the best of these three releases by a nose.

Tracks and Personnel

Subtle Lip Can

Tracks: Chickle That Bottom; Crumple, Power Down; Inside Look; Tid Lac Boam; Suddle Lip Can; Runst From Thag; Crumpled Up Seed; Polloer.

Personnel: Isaiah Ceccarelli: percussion, piano; Bernard Falaise: guitar; Joshua Zubot: violin, low octave violin.

Naranja Ha

Tracks: Pre Rumble; Lucky Loonie; Rock Paper; Whitehorse; Plastic Farm Animals; Callejuela; They Came And Took Away Our Kittens; Subtle Shock; Whatever Happened To The Sand People; Crow's Nest; Lagoon; Live At Ironworks; Getting To Naranja Ha.

Personnel: JP Carter: trumpet; Russell Sholberg: bass; Skye Brooks: drums.

Barrel Fire

Tracks: F. W. R; Burning bright; 229; Enshakoota: Barrel Fire.

Personnel: Gord Grdina: guitar, oud; Tommy Babbin: bass; Kenton Loewen: drums; Mats Gustafsson: saxophone.

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