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El-P: High Water (Mark)

Rex  Butters By

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Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series continues to break new ground with its latest jazz/DJ fusion project, High Water (Mark). This record was released under the DJ/producer’s name, El-P, but the musicians manipulated are the Blue Series All Stars, including series curator Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Roy Campbell, Jr. on trumpet, Daniel Carter on reeds, and Guillermo E. Brown on drums, and Steve Swell on trombone.

The collection opens with a rehearsal tape of Shipp and Campbell playing the old chestnut “Yesterday When I Was Young.” Shipp’s big chords create the tune’s drama. Echoing trumpet and alto improv start “Sunrise Over Brooklyn,” and the band plays without Brown, led by Shipp poking single notes, sounding like a chamber group until Brown’s splash entry. El-P’s mutations and effects are minimal, occasional color and ornamentation, rumbles and odd echoes, while the band roils through.

The funk gets stronger on “Get Your Hand Off My Shoulder,” Parker laying a low yo-yo bass while the horn trio keeps cool with a descending arrangement. Phase sifted electronics shadow Shipp's easy going right hand. That changes into quick clipped chords over the electro beats and samples. The rigid drum track drops out and Brown’s loose take opens the rhythm, only to have El-P’s beats back. From tease tickling the high notes to working jagged melody lines, Shipp sounds comfortable. Parker’s rousing bass finds Shipp stealing a line from “Where is the Love?” on “Get Modal.” Sampled shouts, and electric guitar lines weave into music, Campbell adding high flying trumpet.

An electro ping pong rhythm track gives Shipp a framework for an angular melody on “Intrigue in the House of India.” Brown plays lightly polyrhythmic and Campbell offers muted opinions. After a brief hesitation, Brown disappears under thick beats, a Shipp loop, and possibly Parker bowing. Campbell continues blowing, left alone with the robots. Electro strings and sounds fade in on Shipp’s broken piano riff on “Something Is Wrong.” Swell plays in the sparks, as Parker follows Shipp.

El-P has eerie fun altering a Harry Keys vocal track on “When the Moon Was Blue,” Keys singing ”Yesterday, When I Was Young.” Shipp drops square block chords, Campbell muted and filtered plays through the rising sounds and samples. The disc ends with Campbell and Shipp back rehearsing “Yesterday,” with Parker coming together in a straight interpretation.

El-P utilizes dub techniques with taste and restraint, mixing the players without distracting from what they’re saying. Once again, the Blue Series All Star audionauts play music that is inventive and startling in its own right, powerful enough to remain intact through treatment by a 21st Century mix master.


Track Listing: Please Stay (Yesterday), Sunrise Over BKLYN; Get Your Hand Off My Shoulder, Pig; Get Modal; Intrigue in the House of India; Something is Wrong; When the Moon Was Blue (featuring Harry Keys); Please Leave (Yesterday).

Personnel: El-P, mixing, samples, electronics; Guillermo E. Brown, drums, Roy Campbell, trumpet; Daniel Carter, reeds; William Parker, bass; Matthew Shipp, piano; Steve Swell, trombone.

Title: High Water (Mark) | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

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