7K Oaks

7000 oaks
Die Schactel Zeit 08

Despite the cravings of those who appreciate many musical genres and the occasional opportunistic announcements, the bruited mixture of noise music’s power and improvised music’s flexibility remains elusive. Technical fluency, extended solos and amplification aren’t signs of mutuality any more than 1970s Fusion was the future of either Rock or Jazz. Hope remains for sounds that could draw on the powerful attributes of both styles though, and Rome-based 7000 Oaks takes another step in that long journey.

Not unlike other players who without condescension or awe are working out a rapprochement between notated and improvised music, musicians comfortable in many genres make up the shock troops of this experimental band. Italian bassist Massimo Pupillo, for instance, plays in rock-oriented bands such as Zu and Original Silence, but also has extensive experience with free improvisers such as saxophonists Peter Brötzmann and Mats Gustafsson. Italian drummer Fabrizio Spera also has those sorts of credentials with Blast and Ossatura, yet has also backed more cerebral types like pianist Alberto Braida and saxophonist John Butcher. Pianist and accordionist Luca Venitucci, also affiliated with Ossatura, not only is a sometime member of avant-classical ensemble Zeitkratzer, but also partners Berlin minimalists, guitarist Annette Krebs and percussionist Burkhard Beins.

Alfred 23 Harth, the oldest Oak, may also be the most versatile. In a career that stretches back to the mid-1960s, the Frankfurt-born, Seoul based saxophonist and clarinetist has been involved with New music, heavy rock, theatre scoring and Energy sounds, dabbled in electro-acoustic interface with Swiss-based Günter Müller, Free Jazz with percussionist Kevin Norton and bassist Wilber Morris and creates his own CDs and DVDs using electronic extensions, Korean visuals and found sounds.

Here, “Strategy of Tension” offers the most fluent demonstration of this admixture. Beginning with almost complete silence, cymbal friction, string plinks, oscillated buzzes, unaffiliated crackles and clipping make up the exposition. Soon the signal-processed interface expands with synthesized reed trills distilled from distant whistles plus chunky abrasions sounding against unyielding surfaces. Following a protracted pause, another variant accelerates so that buzzing bagpipe chanter-like split tones and squeezed calliope-like accordion timbres move to the forefront with sonic shape maintained by a continuously pulses. Typewriter-like clanks, irregular drum rolls, and suction-extruded blows finally pull back to reveal triple-tongued squeals and stops that could as easily arise from rubs on the bass guitar neck as the saxophone’s irregular vibrato. Wrapping up, the finale patches stop-and-start audio distortion and jittery cries into a harsh reverberating cry.

Proving 7KOak’s varied allegiance, the unrestrained phantoms of Heavy Metal inhabit the disc alongside the spirits of Free Jazz and the ghosts of Minimalism.. “The Invisible Tower” for instance, features an introduction that downshifts from unrelieved feedback to simple, melodica-like tones. Rasping beats and portamento jabs from the accordion are further surmounted by altissimo saxophone squawks, as tripled drum rolls are brusquely segmented by metallic stabs from the highest pitched bass strings and elongated, reed bites. Electronic shimmies distort the final variant so that it’s as close to lyrical as can be in this genre. Most notably, Harth plays a tough but melodic chromatic variant on the theme, while Spera’s drum beats bounce steadily.

As an advanced language student’s acquiring context eventually turns him into a seasoned linguist, this CD demonstrates that the quartet members are fluent in many musical languages – and practically word-perfect in several. As 7KOak evolves, 7000 oaks should be seen as an important – and pleasing – signpost on the difficult journey to create a unique, sophisticated new musical language.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Church of Neutral 2. Foxp2 3. Strategy of Tension 4. Pi Too 5. The Invisible Tower

Personnel: Alfred 23 Harth (tenor saxophone, clarinet and electronics); Luca Venitucci (piano, accordion and objects); Massimo Pupillo (bass) and Fabrizio Spera (drums)