174

Boxhead Ensemble: Nocturnes

By

Sign in to view read count
Boxhead Ensemble: Nocturnes Derek Bailey, the doyen of free improvisation, took note of the surprising survival tactics of the younger generation of improvisers—"the kind of manoeuvers sometimes found necessary to safely negotiate the mire thrown up in culturally inclement times, sometimes compromise, sometimes regression. Much has changed since Bailey wrote Improvisation (Da Capo, 1980), from which the foregoing quote was plucked; the improvised music landscape has long since cycled past those initial rounds of creative exhaustion, and the palette of the improviser has even further expanded—although, perhaps, not evolved.

The sound of the Boxhead Ensemble—a revolving door project, appearing here on its fourth full-length studio album, in its umpteenth incarnation—is nothing if not expansive, encompassing but also failing to surpass a history that pits innovation and tradition against each other. Nocturnes, in all its ephemeral, circuitous beauty, isn't above, below, ahead of or behind anything: it's just "with" everything, and curiously, if engagingly, so.

The Boxhead Ensemble bypasses the more impressive touchstones in modern improvisation in favor of the less ambitious, if more ecumenical task of consolidation. Nocturnes draws from everything and takes everything nowhere, internalizing its sources (Bill Frisell's resonant, pastoral soundscaping; lonely, epic Ennio Morricone in full spaghetti western mode; the tools, if not the sensibility of electroacoustic improvisation; the harmonic mores of contemporary alternative rock; Can, circa Tago Mago—and probably some Stockhausen, if you squint) and ruminating on them.

Nocturnes sounds like a snapshot of infinite decay—vast and almost sluggish, but not probing; the ensemble is content with the wide view. The album spins like a panorama picture, skipping from elegiac, free jazz-esque rubato passages to grainy country twang—but never losing the fundamental sound of a landscape, vast and forbidding as it is.

It often seems as if the music is operating on a phantom loop, cycling the same scratchy, string-driven motifs through a fixed set of textures, anonymous and viscid, only now and again appearing to shift into something else. No single voice directs the proceedings—and, at times, the players all blend into one. This is, in its finest, most seamless moments, a documentary music, enthralled with the whole of a most beautiful history.

What results is something strangely divorced from the activity of change, precedented in every way. The refreshing element is just how unengaged the ensemble is with the duty of revolution; perhaps, as Bailey suggested, it is enough for some folks to just play in the sandbox.


Track Listing: Nocturne 1; Nocturne 5; Nocturne3; Nocturne 8; Nocturne 4; Nocturne 7; Nocturne 2; Nocturne 10.

Personnel: Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello, harmonica; Michael Krassner: guitar, organ, manipulations; Jacob Kollar: prepared piano; Frank Rosaly: percussion.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide | Style: Beyond Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Parrhésie" CD/LP/Track Review Parrhésie
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 17, 2016
Read "Funk 'n' Feathers" CD/LP/Track Review Funk 'n' Feathers
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 7, 2016
Read "Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics" CD/LP/Track Review Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics
by Paul Naser
Published: May 2, 2016
Read "Music Box Music" CD/LP/Track Review Music Box Music
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Seven Storey Mountain V" CD/LP/Track Review Seven Storey Mountain V
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 28, 2016
Read "Accortet" CD/LP/Track Review Accortet
by John Sharpe
Published: May 25, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!