Sondheim nov2015081

Alan Sondheim / Azure Carter / Luke Damrosch
Threnody: Shorter Discourses of The Buddha

Alan Sondheim: restless polymath, N.W.W. listee, meta-musician and general sage about town. The last time he came under close scrutiny, I chose to blather on about a gap strewn career joining the dots from one label to the next with a certain disdain for standard earth time.

Well, just to jam a spanner in the works, we find Threnody coming hot on the heels of the Avatar Woman c.d., a matter of a year or so later. Jeez… the peversity of the outsider artist! Playing the comparison game against the previous release reveals a few marked differences within the internal workings. Alan’s manual dexterity/speed of thought appears to be a vital component to this collection. And with the tracks having now doubled in number since then, more sound information seems to have been shoehorned into a much reduced space. “Violaguzheng” and “Qinguzheng” for example, accelerating wildly over a now blurred musical score with even more exotic plucked and bowed instrumentation at his disposal. The two-stringed Erhu, the zither-like Guzheng and the seven-stringed Qin, all of Chinese origin, being rare visitors to western shores. Though as principal erhu-spotter for these shires, I have found one that was played by Margo Brown on Fuzzhead’s El Saturn l.p. A part of the ‘Ass Run’ series c/o Ecstatic Yod, circa 1995.

There’s also the involvement of new collaborator/co-producer/instrumentalist Luke Damrosch. Apart from warping the time/space continuum, his manipulation of Supercollider Reverse Reverb software gives a distinctive Mr. Hyde persona to the usually inoffensive-sounding chromatic harmonica. At least vocalist Azure Carter maintains some kind of connection between the present and the near past. With its frantic, old-timey scrabblings, her “Comeforme” is surely the most arresting of her five avant chansons. Though the ever-so-slightly possessed sprechsang of “Sarahbernhardt” runs it a very close second.

“I try to reach the limits of my ability, breaking new ground when I can…” quoth Mr. S in the accompanying cribsheet. A mission statement that certainly holds true here.

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