The collective trio Stirrup is a salient example of the genre-defying cooperative spirit that defines Chicago's creative improvised music scene. Accustomed to collaborating with a wide variety of artists, these three musicians seamlessly incorporate an array of influences and approaches on Sewn, their debut recording as a trio.
Drawing upon the folksy lyricism that underpins their ensemble work as the rhythm section of the Horse's Ha (a band that also features vocalist Janet Bean of Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day), cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Nick Macri and drummer Charles Rumback employ sinuous grooves, hypnotic ostinatos and evocative harmonies to explore extended structures that transcend stylistic limitations, owing as much to post-rock as they do avant-garde jazz.
Inspired by diverse experiences performing with everyone from American Music Club's Mark Eitzel and Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier to Wanees Zarour's Middle East Music Ensemble and French composer Hector Zazou, Macri's pliant bass lines and Rumback's shuffling downbeats provide able-bodied support for the unfettered flights of Lonberg-Holm, who takes the lead as the trio's primary soloist, although each member contributes compositions and arrangements to the group.
Augmented by electronics, Lonberg-Holm's cello elicits a vivid array of tone colors, ranging from the sinewy resonances of "Convulsive" to the coruscating peals of distortion that buoy "The Profit of Field Stripping." His probing variations on the infectious opener, "In Zenith I," seamlessly alternate between acoustic and electric timbres, offering a sublime demonstration of his interpretive prowess. But it is his bold excursions on tenor guitar that are the most intriguing. Revealing a unique approach, his insectoid fretwork summons a kaleidoscopic mosaic of phantasmagoric detail, exemplified by the sun-dappled arpeggios that ripple throughout "Floating Melody" and the gnarled, tendril-like motifs that underscore "Super Seeded."
Although the album encompasses a range of styles, characterized by the divergent moods explored in the aggressively electric "Song for Salim" and the austere Eastern meditation "Insen for Yonsei," Sewn is an aesthetically cohesive affair confirming the communal nature of the Windy City's vibrant new music scene.
In Zenith I; Floating Melody; The Profit of Field Stripping; Super Seeded; Song for Salim; Insen
for Yonsei; Convulsive; In Zenith II.
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello, tenor guitar; Nick Macri: bass; Charles Rumback: drums.
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