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The Northwoods Improvisers are basically the same troupe as the Remote Viewing Ensemble (see May 99 AAJ review). Lightning Darkness features a similar approach to RVE; however, some of these pieces are constructed against firm rhythmic structures; although, the main thrust and conceptual approach is that of, improvisation.
The opener, “Lightning Darkness” is at times eerie and tense. Vibes and various percussion instruments steer the way into dark, mysterious places featuring rich yet varied tonal colors, which emit a sense of unsettlement or nervousness. “Rainbow” features a discernible backbeat and a quaint melody thanks to Mike Johnston’s appealing utilization of the Bone Guitar. “Black Ice” is pure improv, highlighted by an assortment of percussion instruments, Cello and Mike Johnston’s linear attack on Acoustic Bass which functions as the group’s traffic cop. On (Sun Ra’s) “God is More Than Love Could Ever Be” Mike Gilmore’s fluid and adept vibes approach helps work this Sun Ra original into an ethereal and laid back jazz motif. This piece eventually develops into a full-fledged improvisation led by Nick Ashton’s creative and purposeful drumming which adds a significant amount of drama to the composition. “Tariquah” is built around Eastern motifs featuring the Cheng, Bowed Banjo and Wood Flute.
The Northwoods Improvisers and Remote Viewing Ensemble are bands that deserve some widespread recognition and get high marks for originality via diverse concepts and skillful execution. The intellectual aspects of these compositions do not mar or circumvent the entertainment factor as Northwoods offer the best of both worlds. ****
Mike Gilmore; Vibes, Cheng, Bone Guitar & Percussion: Mike Johnston; Bass, Wood Flutes & Percussion: Nick Ashton; Drums, Percussion: Ben Bracken; Tamboura, Percussion: Kirk Lucas; Cello, Tambourine, Bowed Banjo.