Hybrid Vigor
Accretions ALP-027 CD

Sound Art at its most elastic, with its ever-shifting cast of characters and usual sounds, HYBRID VIGOR could be a piece of cinema waiting to be shot. But considering Hollywood’s obsession with blow-‘em-up blockbusters, this narrative of mixed improvisations put together by percussionist/tape manipulator Marcos Fernandes is probably truer to the artist’s eye on CD than anything would be on film stock.

One of the founders of San Diego’s Trummerflora Collective, Fernandes was born in Yokohama, Japan of Portuguese/Japanese heritage, and raised Catholic in a Buddhist country. Thus this disc includes hybrid elements of out-rock, so-called trance music, ethnic sounds and pure sonic manipulation.

Despite the addition of synthesized sounds, for instance, a couple of pieces are mostly percussion explosions, analogous to field recordings of ostensibly primitive natives working their polyrhythmic magic on sound-makers that appear to be snare drums, cymbals, kettle drums, triangles, cow bells, xylophones, steel drums, sound trees and sheets of metal. Another track is a mix-and-match compendium of ambient recordings taped in San Diego, Kona, Hawaii and Asakusa, Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan. There’s even an instrumental with the New Economy title of “Convergence” that, despite the name, ends up being a muted elaboration of tone-melding, featuring Lisle Ellis’ bass, Philip Gelb’s shakuhachi and what sounds like Fernandes working out on sticks, hand drums, basket shaker and small objects resonating on a drum head.

But the key elements in his vision appear to be those tracks with extended personnel. Built around a shifting organ continuo and a metronomic drum beat “Bullets For Ballots”, highlighted male and female voices discussing in Spanish what’s probably a South or Central American election, with “soldiers” one of the few words that comes through clearly. Soon the ghostly bamboo flute and constant piano vamp are succeeded by an extended screechy alto saxophone solo in counterpoint with racing piano chords and what could be described as No Wave peal point percussion.

Repetitive in an AMM or fusion-era-Miles-Davis sort of way, “Undercurrents” highlights a radio broadcast where mentions of Osama Bin Lade vie for attention with reports on petty crimes and traffic accidents plus weather reports and season’s greetings. Later, Michael Dessen’s plunger trombone chorus jockeys for auditory space with Jason Robinson’s squeaky alto sax, as well as facing a constant barrage of what sound like processed electronic sounds, sampled keyboard echoes, mechanized swooshes and static.

Dessen playing extended cadenzas, that neatly sidestep mainstream jazz trombone, is accounted for on “The Orange Line”, at nearly 15 minutes, the CD’s most lengthy number. On the same tune, guitarist Scott Homan’s contribution range from mere plinks to protracted amp buzzes to a whole section of chicken-scratch rhythm guitar beats. Moving between overt jazz-like allusions, which include a walking bass solo from Joscha Oetz and a standard percussion turnaround, non-generic tones make their appearance as well. There’s what appear to be calliope music, sampler swirls and an unvarying percussion cadence arising from a combination of Robert Montoya, Nathan Hubbard and Fernandes himself. Finally, the funk-influenced number ends with voices speaking Spanish. A five-minute concerto of short-wave static, surf sounds and an actuality featuring Fernandes’ late uncle Chris playing a Hawaiian ditty, the final track reifies the mixtures of electronic modernism and ethnic universality that characterizes the rest of the session.

Overall, this CD is a fine achievement, and one that piques interest in the composer’s future creations.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Port of Call+ 2. Science Boy# 3. Undercurrents&@ 4. Convergence* 5. Bullets For Ballots+% 6. Manifested/Manifesting!# 7. The Orange Line&+@ 8. Scintillation (Don’t Sing Aloha When I Go)^+=

Personnel: Michael Dessen (trombone) &; Philip Gelb (shakuhachi*); Jason Robinson (bass flute; alto saxophone [tracks 5, 7]); Scott Homan (guitar)&; Damon Holzborn (guitar and electronics [tracks 2]); Lisle Ellis (bass)*; Joscha Oetz (bass)&; Marcos Fernandes (percussion [except tracks 1, 8], shortwave^, tapes+, sampler%); Kristy Cheadle (percussion, handclaps [track 2]); Nathan Hubbard (percussion, handclaps#, percussion and electronics&); Hans Fjellestad (synthesizer [track 2] piano[track 5]); Robert Montoya (sampler)@ percussion! ; David Gould (percussion [track 6]); Marcello Radulovich (guitar, radio [track 3], bamboo flute [track 5]); Chris Fernandes (ukulele)=