232

Ergo: Multitude, Solitude

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Ergo: Multitude, Solitude As jazz leans away from characteristics that so defined its earliest days, groups are emerging with unorthodox instrumental combinations, fleshed out by the vast potential of technological soundscaping. Ergo, at its core, seems as unconventional as they get—trombone, keyboards, drums—creating music that wouldn't have been possible before relatively recent innovations in sound processing and sampling/looping. Its 2005 indie debut, Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005, received significant critical acclaim, making its follow-up on the better-distributed Cuneiform label a sure bet for similar attention. For fans of the improvised, electronics-centric music heralded by the Norwegian musicians in the extended Punkt family, Multitude, Solitude is a seamlessly organic album of quietude that commands attention from its very first moments.



The group dates back to 2003, when trombonist Brett Sroka—whose Hearsay (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2002) was a far more conventional outing—formed Ergo to formalize time spent, since the beginning of the decade, listening to and experimenting with electronic music. Drummer Shawn Baltazor is the relative newcomer to the trio, but on Multitude, Solitude Sroka continues his working relationship with keyboardist Carl Maguire, whose Floriculture group has released two fine discs including Sided Silver Solid (2009)—released on Taylor Ho Bynum's Firehouse 12 label and bearing no small affiliation to the trumpeter's musical space, an outgrowth of reedman Anthony Braxton's decades-long experimentation.



But the music of Ergo bears little, if any, relationship to any of the above. This is music that evolves slowly, almost imperceptibly; yet for all its freedom, there's no shortage of structure. Closer in ambience to classical chamber music, the album's two longest pieces are particularly compelling. "Endlessly (multitude, solitude)," with its layers of trombone—in Sroka's hands, truly a vocal instrument—possesses the same paradoxical stasis-meets-forward-motion of Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim's outstanding Sangam (ECM, 2005). Laconic, serpentine trombone lines unfold, supported by Maguire's chime-like Fender Rhodes, Baltazor largely providing more color than pulse.

The episodic "Vessel" is another story entirely. Spare trombone lines lead to low, in-the-gut electronics and more turbulent passages, where Maguire's oblique Rhodes lines and Baltazor's tumultuous playing build to a mini-climax, only to dissolve and build again—even more gradually—to a second peak, pushed forward by a persistent, minimalist piano pulse that shapes an entirely different context for Sroka's singable theme.



Shorter pieces like "She Haunts Me" rely on processing to allow Sroka to build up layers of trombone. Some are clearly overdubbed, but Sroka truly blurs the line between what's possible in the studio and what can be done in a live context. Hints of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley imbue Sroka's writing, but never come to the forefront.



And there's no doubt that Ergo is both a performing and improvising group. Like Norwegian artists like Arve Henriksen, however, Sroka takes a different approach to composition, one where improvisation and structure work hand-in-hand, each feeding the other. Multitude, Solitude's 50 tranquil minutes ebb and flow with stunning realism in a landscape of otherworldly textures.


Track Listing: Rana Sylvatica; Vessel; She Haunts Me; Little Shadow; Endlessly (multitude, solitude); Actuator.

Personnel: Brett Sroka: trombone, computer; Carl Maguire: Rhodes electric piano, Prophet synthesizer, electronic effects; Shawn Baltazor: drums.

Title: Multitude, Solitude | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Screen Sounds CD/LP/Track Review Screen Sounds
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Bug CD/LP/Track Review The Bug
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Sing Me Some Cry CD/LP/Track Review Sing Me Some Cry
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Masters In Bordeaux CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read On Parade In Parede CD/LP/Track Review On Parade In Parede
by John Sharpe
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Seven Secrets" CD/LP/Track Review Seven Secrets
by John Kelman
Published: May 26, 2017
Read "The Sun Though the Rain" CD/LP/Track Review The Sun Though the Rain
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 31, 2017
Read "TITOK" CD/LP/Track Review TITOK
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Coalesce" CD/LP/Track Review Coalesce
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "Jazz Jukebox" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Jukebox
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 24, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.