Taking stock, a year half over

Mark Corroto By

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From the Walter Sobchak files entitled: "Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?" comes a limited edition cassette only (and thankfully as a download) by Will Graefe and Jeremy Gustin. Known as Star Rover, the pairs' commitment to the recondite may fail as they deliver an original vision of folk, rock, blues, and a sort of James Blood Ulmer American jazz. Taking a nod from early Black Keys sessions, the pair favor the raw over the refined. The title track brays with equal parts distortion and propulsion. Graefe, who can be heard on Jeremy Udden's Plainville disc If the Past Seems So Bright (sunnyside, 2011), has a knack for blues/folk guitar that sounds both backwoods and urban wise. He takes the folky ballad "Rye" from a porch ditty to a cosmic anthem. Likewise, the blues rollick of "Revolt Of The Dyke Brigade," with the pounding drums of Gustin, could have been penned by Kurt Cobain for an unplugged Nirvana (that is, if he'd been born in the Appalachians instead of the Pacific Northwest). They deliver a low-fi (and brilliant) scrubby blues on "My Station Will Be Changed After While." The highlight of the release is the multi-part "America" with its repeated patterns as a lyrical poem. Maybe they will re-release this someday as a 78 RPM. I'm just sayin.'

exclusiveOr Archaea Carrier Records 2013

In 1978 a small band pop from Akron, Ohio asked the question, "Are we not men?" The answer was, of course, "We are Devo!" The inside joke was that their version of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," performed as if the band were robots, was more humanoid than the cartoons that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had become by that time. But then, humans have been making machine music since the Italian futurists predicted machines would take over that chore in 1910. Enter Sam Pluta and Jeff Snyder, the duo known as exclusiveOr. Their machine music, delivered via Pluta's laptop (and custom built software) and Snyder's analog modular synthesizer build upon the futurist tradition of mechanized music. Pluta has collaborated with trumpeter Peter Evans on Ghosts (More Is More, 2011) and Sum And Difference (Carrier, 2011), and he performs with Rocket Science made up of Evan Parker, Craig Taborn, and Evans. Snyder can be heard with Federico Ughi's Quartet, the noise trio The Mizries, and laptop ensemble Sideband. Their collaboration, although it renounces anthropomorphic tendencies, bounces along by switch-via-switch and electronic bleep-and-spurt, cannot eschew its humanity. It does try. The pair deliver as much noise as a Merzbow recording, but without the Hurricane force distortion. The music is at once old school computer low-fi and modern de-evolution.

Franco D'Andrea Today El Gallo Rojo Records 2013

My Italian-immigrant grandfather born 1902 was always fascinated by my earliest computer. He never could quite grasp the concept of the internet, asking "how do you put those things in there?" He did, though, delight in the sounds and images on the screen. I surmised that he resigned himself to believe in the magic of the unexplained. The same can be said for Today pianist Franco DAndrea. The maestro of Italian jazz follows up his award winning ensemble recording Traditions And Clusters (El Gallo Rojo, 2012) with a solo session of standards and imaginative improvisations that pulls together pieces and parts of familiar sounds. With seemingly the entire history of the jazz piano stored in his hard drive (brain), he samples bits and pieces of the familiar to pull together his "Rituals" and "Cluster" of sound. These, like "Ritual N. 1," may quote "Caravan" and "Love Supreme" while dangling piano convention over quixotic improvisations. He can make, and essentially remake, a standard like John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" to sound like a semi-stride piano piece that could have been played by Duke Ellington. Or he can mix Ed Ory's "Muskrat Ramble" and Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From The Apple" to reconfigure it to his tastes. His insouciant style and the ease in which he approaches the tunes belies all that jazz history that is packed in his playing. There is no need to draw the curtain back on his magic, one just needs to believe.

Tim Daisy / Jason Stein Bascule Vincent Peirani 2013


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