If you thought the Hang Mike Pence and Three Percenters crowd are just a phenomenon of the 21st century, let me introduce you to the Convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard, an 18th century Christian sect with the hysterical practices of coprophagia (yes, eating feces), spontaneous milk-vomiting and levitation. After the established religious authorities cracked down on the Convulsionnaires, many were sent to mental asylums, but others continued with less public séances or 'sessions.'
Composer and bassist Trevor Dunn unearths this heretical movement for his third Trio-Convulsant recording Séances. The two previous releases Debutantes & Centipedes (Buzz Records, 1998) and Sister Phantom Owl Fish (Ipecac Recordings, 2004) were trio outings with first Adam Levy and Kenny Wollesen, then Ches Smith and Mary Halvorson. Here he expands his trio of Smith and Halvorson with the Folie À Quatre, a string/winds quartet comprised of cellist Mariel Roberts, the violin/viola of Carla Kihlstedt, flutist Anna Webber and Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet and clarinet.
Dunn certainly has experience with hysteria and frenzy as a member of the rock band Mr. Bungle, Mike Patton's Fantômas and Tomahawk, various stints with the Melvins, Dan Weiss' Starebaby, and multiple John Zorn projects. Here, the music ricochets between chamber music, metal, country blues, and disembodied jazz, all in service of this underground mass hysteria. Dunn's compositions for the most part begin simply enough, but in due course split apart like the overture "Secours Meurtriers" with different time signatures and a logic seemingly only available to the mystics. The heavy metal references from the chamber ensemble inform "1733" as the music chases its serpent tail, expressing an orchestrated pandemonium. Dunn as choreographer, like the elders of this 18th Century sect, is the mastermind behind the frenzy. None of which, remarkably, is random or haphazardly presented. It is not until the final track "Thaumaturge" that we are able to catch our collective breath. Dunn's bass solo opens, delivering a comforting line followed by the musicians applying a soothing salve to mend our feces-eating, milk-vomiting, and levitating trauma.
Secours Meurtriers; Saint-Médard; Restore All Things; 1733; The Asylum’s Guilt; Eschatology; Thaumaturge.
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