Carter / Chen / Wooley / Yeh
POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS monolp016 LP
Vast, cosmogonic explosions jump-start another galaxy thanks to this crew of hardy improvisers who ceremoniously ‘blur the line between electronic and acoustic music’ (it still exists?). Consisting of the ubiquitous C. Spencer Yeh, saxophonist Nate Wooley, cellist Audrey Chen and audio engineer Todd Carter, the string-centric sessions were recorded by Yeh, Chen and Wooley during a residency in Amsterdam then shipped to Carter for extensive editing in NY. While those recording sessions appear to have been a galactic free-for-all: all amplified, scraped strings, thrumming electronics, groaning drones and fathomless feedback (a prohibitively pricey proposition were it the analogue tape days), there’s ample evidence of the musicians applying the best of their respective crafts to ensuring the listener endures nothing too exhausting or tedious.
In this respect, Carter is clearly our hero of the hour: he spent a week sifting through the recordings (whether alongside his other work I know not), startling the trio soon afterwards with this taut and tidy electroacoustic suite. Considerate are his track times, ranging from two to fourteen minutes (depending on the content), which effectively render side A into a sound collage, somewhere between Tony Conrad and early Faust. Accompanying and accentuating the studio antics are fleets of distant sirens alongside all manner of mysterious sounds and transformations Carter saw fit to add, resulting in a dripping tunnel vision of a mechanised dystopia, in which electricity is the inhabitants’ lifeblood.
FRANCE DOUBTFUL SOUNDS DOUBT10 LP (2013)
Seven servings of industrial-lunged, post-Ayler/Kaoru Abe screeches and bellows from Malaysian sax warrior Yong Yandsen, who is one quarter of doom jazz unit, Klangmutationen, and one of a putative handful of new music exponents comprising the ‘Experimental Musicians & Artists Co-operative Malaysia’, situated ‘on the fringes’ of Kuala Lumpur.
It would certainly seem that he’s the first of them to issue a solo recording, and quite a debut it is: nearly three quarters of an attack-happy hour with the tenor sax, which find Yandsen indefatigably wrestling new sounds out of the thing. Of course, comparisons to Ayler and Abe are now de rigueur, though in this case they belong more appropriately to the latter, as Yandsen lacks the audacious melodic deconstructions that were Ayler’s bread and butter during those glory years. It’s abstraction all the way, and delightfully so, even if the style is one burningly familiar to free jazz fans. It does feel authentic to me though: I get the sense that every audible emission here represents the cathartic erasure of yet another hint of melody from Yandsen’s being, in a public exhibition of musical therapy.
The sessions on side A consist of shorter, sharper attacks, with lots of pauses in between as he gets his bearings. Side B revels in more masochistic breath stretches, which flow into gliding scale runs and through a punishing range of dynamic extremes. You know the deal. Over forty-five minutes, it is the listener who is ultimately put to the test, and I’m glad to say I’ve made it through in the rudest of health, spirit rejoicing.