(Balance Point Acoustics)
This collection of difficult-to-fathom improvisations is subtitled “Dedicated to Joseph Beuys” for a reason. Nearing the end of this session, bassist Damon Smith recalled a performance that Beuys made in 1972 in Karl-Marx-Platz, Berlin, consisting in sweeping the square and depositing the materials in a vitrine, a recording of the sonic content of the action reproduced through a nearby speaker. As a homage to this artistic gesture, the last recorded track “Broom with red bristles” finds Smith playing (standing, with two bows) two prepared double basses lying on their backs, guitarist Aspelin approaching his instrument with a shop broom in the meantime. The whole CD features the same kind of introvert interplay and five listens haven’t been sufficient for me to sketch something akin to a vague idea of the non-idiom around which these carvers move. Besides Smith and Aspelin’s tools, also soprano and tenor sax (Hartsaw) and percussion (Bryerton) are featured, the latter players coming from Chicago while the previously mentioned ones hail from the Bay Area. The artists’ curricula include a who’s who of the major improvisers from various decades of free expression, such as Kyle Bruckmann, Joe Morris, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Cecil Taylor, Peter Brötzmann to name just a few; moreover, the bassist has collaborated with film director Werner Herzog and the Merce Cunningham dance company (talk about polyhedral visual angles). Does this give you the necessary clues to understand what we’re referring to? Nope of course. These elements will help, though: scraping virtuosity, instrumental photodisintegration, four-dimensional anarchy, systematic refusal of snugness. Figures are revealed for a handful of seconds, then they disappear into themselves like timid creatures whose back is full of spikes. Phrases are repeated then dismembered in dirty crystals of speculation, significance outweighing handy-dandy guessing games in a counter-textualism worthy of this caliber of instrumentalists. Still no definition, and it will probably remain so – another excuse for returning. A substantial work under any point of view, deserving hours of dedicated concentration only to scratch its surface.