Out Of The Badlands

Mako Sica are a group from Chicago whose progress I haven’t been following diligently. As a trio they’ve been active since 2007 and seem to have created an exciting experimental rock thrash using just guitars and assorted percussion. A band whose earliest records are called Noise Attic Session can’t be all bad. Things may have evolved since then as core member Przemyslaw Drazek picked up a trumpet to blow echoplexed toots, and since 2018 they’ve released a few full-lengths for Feeding Tube, two of them featuring today’s guest player Hamid Drake. Drake is a veteran performer of free jazz and improv and has played with American and European giants, including Don Cherry and Peter Brötzmann; I can easily believe it when Discogs indicates he has played on over 300 releases, besides about 90 albums under his own name.

This brings us to today’s record Ourania (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR592), recorded in a Chicago studio; Mako Sica are now just a duo of Przemyslaw Krys Drazek and Brent Fuscaldo, the latter playing many types of exotic percussion. Bass player Tatsu Aoki was also at the sesh, adding shamisen as needed, and there’s the all-rounder Thymme Jones playing piano, organ, recorder…Jones is also credited with the vocals, so I assume that’s him adding this ghostly disembodied wail to the music, sounding like a demented religious from a forgotten part of the world issuing incomprehensible chants. Mako Sica were aiming to continue their fruitful collaborations with the great Hamid Drake, and also wanted to foster a free and spontaneous creative environment; apparently all the music here came out of a single two-hour recording session, an achievement which is astonishingly productive.

I was sent a download link which offers several very long tracks, but the LP version contains selected portions – the side-long ‘Rain’, ‘Gasping For Breath’, and an edited version of the title track. Some of the above screed may lead the reader to expect a form of free jazz or spontaneous improvisation, but Mako Sica occupy their own unique corner of the free music universe; mostly acoustic, and even when amplification is used it never results in noisy music, and they favour a very long-form exploration of unknown territories, where the boundaries are exceptionally diffuse and it’s not clear where we are when we arrive, if we ever do. The approach reminds me of mystical droning collectives such as Common Eider King Eider or Pocahaunted, both of whom aspire to a certain “ceremonial” ambience in their wispy music. However, there’s an enjoyable blend of unusual instrumentation here, far beyond any attempt to be self-consciously “ethnic”, and Aoki’s shamisen is particularly notable for the way it gently suggests a rhythmic pattern. I just wish I could detect more of Drake’s playing in the finished work – he is credited with drum set, frame drum, percussion, and water phone, but his contributions aren’t exactly foregrounded. From 21/06/2021.