Cactus Truck

Brand New for China!
Public Eyesore No. 119

Dikeman/Kugel/Van der Weide

Across the Sky

NotTwo MW Records 888-2

Wyoming and Nebraska may be known for many things, but being the birthplace and childhood home of an intense post-Aylerian saxophonist isn’t one of them. Now an Amsterdam resident, Western U.S.-born and raised John Dikeman spits, squeals, swallows and sputters timbres from every part of his horn(s) –soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones on Brand New for China; tenor on Across the Sky – working out his own interpretation of what could be called the fortissimo Energy Music canon. Recorded within eight months of one another the CDs are particularly intriguing, because even within the boundaries of his rough-hewn attack you can hear the saxophonist forging a distinct approach.

Across the Sky is by no means a conventional Jazz session. Yet the presence of German drummer Klaus Kugel, who has played with saxophonists such as Louie Belogenis and Charles Gayle, plus Netherlands-based Raoul van der Weide on bass, objects and crackle box, who gigged with pianist Burton Greene and multi-reedist Ab Baars, puts the CD firmly in the European Free Jazz continuum. Brand New for China on the other hand has Dikeman playing alongside younger Dutch musicians whose background is as much with Punk and Metal as Free Jazz. Although drummer Onno Govaert and guitarist/bassist Jasper Stadhouders have worked with some of same stylists as van der Weide and Kugel, Cactus Truck’s CD defaults more towards super-noisy Rock allusions.

Certainly with Govaert’s continuous door-smacking-like cross sticking and ruffs matched with Stadhouders’ brutal guitar down-strokes and staccato string scratching, the result is a rasping tonal assault. Here Dikeman’s reed output centres on expressive glossolalia and yelping split tones, only pausing to showcase more pronounced, pressurized and intense vibrato plus agitated timbral punctuation. Nonetheless, although Dikeman’s note choices and attack may appear consciously or not to intermittently reference R&B honkers like Big Jay McNeeley rather than the primitvist sophistication of New Thingers such as Albert Ayler, he pauses for sequences of reflective episodes among the sonic blitzkrieg. For instance the saxophonist puffs out chromatic runs alongside blunt bellicosity on “Coitiphobe”. That tune is also notable for the guitarist’s hand-tapping string distortion and crunching flanges that cascade against the drummer’s rattles, ruffs and ratamacues. Moreover, Dikeman’s strategy on “Sweet Movie” concerns itself as much with jiggling, stretching and mutation reed lines into unique patterns as it does with playing them. There are sequences reserved for altissimo screeching in fact, to counterbalance the guitarist’s harsh fuzz-tones.

Taking a different tack, reflective crackle box static and/or distant bell clinks pulled from the percussionist’s bag-of-tricks are the scene-setters on the other CD. The result is that mid-range exploratory angling and trilling characterize Dikeman’s reed tessitura before he turns to husky squeals and intense vibratos here.

Just as this less severe strategy is used by the saxophonist on tracks such as “A Screaming Comes” and the title tune, so Dikeman later responds in kind to an unexpected rhythm-section groove. As unpredictable as they can be elsewhere, at points van der Weide and Kugel are very capable of sourcing rhythmic bass thumps and shaded drum and cymbal beats to shape the performance. Maybe this is Free Jazz-Mainstream? Creating in counterpoint to one another, the bassist’s spectacular sul tasto slaps and flanged fills on the first track mean that Dikeman’s repeated gruff l slides become more shaded, grounded and cooperative. Furthermore Kugel’s conga drum-like pulses and slow rumbles shove the saxophonist’s strident vamps into a more connective context.

Abstraction and textural exploration animate each man’s playing, but overall it’s the renal honks, staccato whorls and irregular phrasing which arise and dissipate during the saxophonist’s solos, that spark excitingly, but never burn out the trio’s musical symmetry. Reed stridency lacks the nihilistic tendencies that the other player brings to Cactus Truck. Yet precisely because of Kugel’s and van der Weide’s studied technical prowess the comprehensive program doesn’t suffer.

Both of these powerful CDs offer up the sort of parallel yet creatively varied programs the saxophonist can continue to explore as his style ripens and is fully defined.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Brand: 1. Aporia 2. Search and Restore 3. Coitoiphobe 4. Sweet Movie 5. Plork 6. The Snotgreen Sea, the Scrotumtightening Sea 7. La la la la labia time!

Personnel: Brand: John Dikeman (soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones); Jasper Stadhouders (guitar and electric bass) and Onno Govaert (drums)

Track Listing: Across: 1. A Screaming Comes 2. Across the Sky 3. It Has Happened Before…

Personnel: Across: John Dikeman (tenor saxophone); Raoul van der Weide (bass, crackle box and sound object) and Klaus Kugel (drums)