Some very fine improvised livelitude from the London trio of Decoy, who arrive here with a studio album Vol. 1 Spirit (WEAVIL40CD) recorded by Anna Tjan and released on the Bo’Weavil Recordings label. Alexander Hawkins experiments wildly and confidently with his Hammond C3 organ, pouring out phrases that cross freely around the zones of Jimmy Smith-styled organ jazz, free improvisation, and progressive rock, with even some occasional episodes of uncertain atonal noise thrown in to boot. Drummer Steve Noble and bass player John Edwards have no problem at all following the lightning-change exploits of this updated Keith Emerson figure, resulting in a fine and entertaining album. Throwing himself at the keys with the gusto of a feral leopard, even allowing the very sound of his rotating Leslie speaker onto the record as a whirling distorted drone, Hawkins seems determined to find a new voice and a new context for this great vintage instrument. Just fab!
Acting on the suggestion of Matthew Bourne, New York jazz trumpeter Brian Groder got in touch (with a friendly hand-written note) to send us the album from his team-up with Burton Greene, the estimable veteran of free jazz piano. Groder & Greene (LATHAM RECORDS LATHAM 5409-2) was recorded in 2007, issued last year and is an exceptionally fine example of modern free jazz. The first thing I noticed was the vivid recording quality, allowing the contributions of the five players to shine like diamonds in crystal clear water. Invited in by that warm sound, you start to decode and untangle the ingenious compositions within, which have all the depth and complexity we could hope for from such clearly intelligent and well-informed players; at their best, the quintet manage to pull things in five or six different directions at once, giving the amazed listener a feast of elaborate free-thinking ideas to feed on. What’s most exciting, for example on ‘Separate Being’, is how the piano holds down a completely opposing argument which contradicts yet somehow complements the discussion being held between Groder and his partner Rob Brown on the alto. As I savour these ‘Cryptic Means’, I’m tempted to reinvestigate Greene’s work on the 1969 BYG LPs. He may have had more fire and bombast 40 years ago, but I like his more considered approach much better; there’s deep wisdom and experience engrained in these mystical, odd-fitting abstractolid chord shapes of his. Plus there’s even one track graced with a witty Mingus-inspired title, which wins extra points with this paid-up fan of Th’ Mingster. Fabulous work, totally recommended to fans of 1960s Dolph and early Ornette. Also from Groder, his Torque (LATHAM 5106-2) album from 2006, again boasting a superb sound quality and featuring the flute work of Sam Rivers.
Last year I was very pleased to discover the music of Locrian, a Chicago duo who seemed to be doing something exciting with their excessive amplified guitar and electronic sludge-drone, overlaid with Black Metal elements and wallowing in supernatural paranoiac slime. For Territories (AT WAR WITH FALSE NOISE ATWAR073 / BASSES FREQUENCES BF23/ BLOODLUST! B!147 / SMALL DOSES DOSE85), the duo of Foisy and Hannum have supplemented their power with players recruited from Nachtmystium, Yakuza, Velnias and Bloodyminded – all gloom and hate merchants to a man. The addition of vocals, synth, drums, sax and an extra guitar has certainly made the Locrian overall sound a lot thicker and, in places, more textured and detailed. I feel however that some of the relentless and obsessional qualities that they exhibited so convincingly as a two-man act have been slightly compromised by the need to co-operate with these other bloodthirsty musicians. ‘Procession of Ancestral Brutalism’ is one example of the new band dynamic, but in spite of its killer title it’s not much more than identikit Black Metal. However it would be churlish to deny that overall, this is an album of horrifying power, particularly on the slow and broody cuts like ‘Ring Road’ which over ten agonising minutes of painful squalor and heavy monotony soon convinces you of the presence of imminent disaster. Vinyl copy of this item known to exist, unless sold out by now.
Inclusion Principle is the team-up of Martin Archer and Hervé Perez, and on The Leaf Factory Fallback (DISCUS 38CD) we’ve another dazzling example of their rich and elaborate studio constructions made from saxophones, field recordings, software instruments and keyboards. Unlike so many who over-process their work in the relative calm of the digital world as they gaze serenely at the laptop screen and bleed all the passion out of their music with a million and one unnecessary tweaks, Archer and Perez never once lose sight of the live recordings that are the heart of this work. There’s gallons of aural pleasure to hear what they do with filters, edits and near-impossible twists of sonic taffy-pulling, but at the core of each astonishing track you’ll hear the puff of human lungs making saxophones howl and bellow like motorised dinosaurs. Another tremendous piece confirming Archer’s under-recognised skill for creating truly inventive and powerful electro-acoustic music. It baffles me why Chris Cutler hasn’t phoned him up for a duo date. This album was paid for by advance subscription (something Cutler used to do on his Recommended Records label to sell mail-order only vinyl goodies), and the names of Archer’s supporters are printed on the back cover.
Cleveland’s finest electronics trio Emeralds have their new album released on Editions Mego later this month, in both CD and double LP formats. Does It Look Like I’m Here? (EDITIONS MEGO eMEGO 101 and 101V) compiles new work with some A sides and B sides from very limited seven-inch vinyl releases on their own labels, Wagon and Gneiss Things, and many of the highly enjoyable pieces here last for three or four minutes, offering a refreshing shower of lush and dazzling mantra-music. These three synth-meisters are proud of their clean and sharp synth lines, eschewing distortion or the kind of evil embittered black grunts favoured by Nate Young, and rich and wondrous melodic impressions result from their simple repetitive approach. Unafraid of the Cluster / Eno / T Dream labels which writers fling at them like sticky toffees, Emeralds freely wallow in the soundworlds of prog-rock and Krautrock and bolster their work with quasi-futuristic titles like ‘Double Helix’ and ‘Science Center’. A very convincing follow-up to their great album for No Fun Productions, which we noted here.