April 21, 2012
Idol Benkelman/Daniel Davidovsky/Ofer Bymel
OutNow Records ONR 003
Steve Beresford/Stephen Flinn/Dave Tucker
Creative Sources CS 193 CD
Electronics, electric instruments and percussion can be a difficult mixture when it comes to improvised music. Juggle the components in the wrong manner and the freshness and freedom resulting from adding dial-twisting textures to performances can be lost.
That’s why Ink Room, while ultimately still far from perfect, presents more of a memorable program than EFT. The two Americans and one Brit collaborating on the seven-track CD use electronics’ properties to create something unique. Unfortunately the three Israelis who make up ETF don’t do the same on their six-track CD. Whether by personality or skill, the techniques of electric guitarist Ido Bukelman overwhelm the contributions of drummer Ofer Bymel and especially electronics manipulator Daniel Davidovsky. What results is near jazz-rock fusion disc, where the processed impulses merely make it appear as if the output from Bukelman’s six-string is more expressive than it actually is.
To deal with the London-record session first: Although expatriate American electric guitarist Dave Tucker has a Rock background, most notably with The Fall, he has been part of the British capital’s improv scene for years, most notably as part of the London Improvisers’' Orchestra (LIO). Thus on Ink Room, except for one guitar showcase, his pointillist, atonal and quivering style tries to overcome the outright “guitar-ess” of his instrument. Similarly, drummer Flinn is neither a heavy hitter nor a backbeat specialist. Instead the Los Angeles-based percussionist, who has recorded with New York guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil and Berlin-based multi-reedist Chris Heenan, dedicates himself to insinuating textures and suggesting rhythmic motion. London’s Steve Beresford, behind the electronics set-up here, is a polymath. Usually a pianist, he’s another LIO member. During his career he’s played everything from Pop music dates to improv sessions, with among others, saxophonist Evan Parker, and on everything from trumpet to toys.
Luckily his more Dadaist tendencies are kept in check here as he occupies himself with intermittent extrusions and excursions from the electronic interface with signal-processed buzzes and quivers, prominently flanking whistles, cracks and crackles. In other instances he advances organ-like slurs, what could be flanged tapes running backwards, toy train-like intonation, outlined shudders and curved jittering. At the same time Flinn is concerned with muffled slaps, cymbal slithers and popping knocks.
Only on pieces such as “One Girl Alone” and “Fragments” does Tucker subvert the group sound to step forward. Even so, while the first may be a guitar showcase, backed by waves of buzzing electrodes, clapping cymbals and a modified shuffle beat from the percussionist, no one would mistake Tucker’s strategy for that of an arena Rock guitar hero. For a start guitar licks are doubled and echoed – or is it mocked – by Beresford’s processing; while at points Tucker’s chording and long-lined pluses, sound more like a bassoon output than anything created on strings.
On the latter tune his runs are as pensive as they are agitated, with the guitarist’s staccato rubs and upwards slides again matched by Beresford’s electronics snapping and straining. Throughout Tucker emphasizes slurred fingering. Plus, notably as well, Flinn’s rim shots, rolls, pops and drags showcase and confirm his facility with pacing. Overall Ink Room could be characterized as a suite of low-key, broken-octave cooperation.
If only the members of EFT or Electro Free Trio were able to rein in their impulses to a comparable degree. Each Tel Aviv-based trio member is a representative of the newest stirrings of Israeli Jazz. Drummer Bymel for example has worked with locals such as saxophonist Ariel Shibolet as well as German trumpeter Birgit Ulher. Davidovsky, who is also a saxophonist, has experience playing with veteran Israeli saxophonist Albert Berger and Argentinean performance artist Diego Chamy. Guitarist Bukelman, who frequently performs solo gigs, also regularly plays with stylists such as saxophonist Yoni Kretzmer.
Someone whose stated ambition is to incorporate musical influences range from Ornette Coleman to Jimi Hendrix with elements of Noise, Free Jazz, Rock and contemporary electronic music, Bukelman has given himself a tough job. With EFT the aim is almost attained on tracks such as the adjoining “You Could Be” and “Teething, but loses its focus when Rock licks start to predominate, most gratuitously on the obviously titled “Crunch”.
Even in those episodes most closely attuned to free-form improvisation the whiff of references to “Paint it Black” and “Star Spangled Banner” (via Hendrix) sneak into the interface. Still Bukelman’s ringing guitar tones, slurred fingering and powerful rasgueado confirm his originality; besides these gestures are mated with the others’ playing strategies. Bymel’s judicious mallet pops, cymbal shimmies, ruffs and paradiddles modify not mash the affiliated group chromatics. Meanwhile Davidovsky’s electronics fill in a three-dimensional sonic backdrop with near-melodic pulses and droning flanges plus on-and-off, almost inaudible interjections from static-ridden broadcast sources. Juddering, pulsing and quivering, the tremolo drones and crackles are liquid enough to dissipate tension for connections.
Sadly but deliberately, the equilibrium becomes unbalanced with “Crunch” and on some shorter tracks. Exploding with prototypical blistering runs and distorted echoes, the guitarist’s solos are closer to Heavy Metal and further away from Hendrix. Agitato, fortissimo and staccatissimo seem to be his touchstones. Bymel’s rolls, ruffs and blunt backbeat likewise expose his inner Neil Peart, the better to intersect with tremolo knob twisting and fuzzy feedback. Davidovsky’s electronic patterning, which elsewhere provides a measured ostinto, is evidently MIA. Alternately some of the agitated, staccato guitar-like textures could be his, adding second lead-guitar-like licks to phrases already a bit over the top.
No similar explosive sound pyrotechnics exist on the Ink Room CD, which makes it superficially less exciting but more attuned to group improv. On the other hand if the members of EFT could turn away from their excesses – maybe with more study of Ornette Coleman’s take on electronic instruments – they obviously have the chops and talents to create an equally satisfying disc.
Track Listing: Ink: 1. At Night 2. Investigations 3. The Torn Couple 4. The New Advocate 5.
One Girl Alone 6. Mud Club 7. Fragments
Personnel: Ink: Dave Tucker (electric guitar); Stephen Flinn (drums and percussion) and Steve Beresford (electronics)
Track Listing: EFT: 1. You Could Be 2. Teething 3. Crunch 4. Soul Cramp 5. Step Your Mind 6. Tender Phobic Home
Personnel: EFT: Ido Bukelman (electric and acoustic guitars); Ofer Bymel (drums) and Daniel Davidovsky (electronics)