Michael Evans/David Grollman/Andy Haas

Ghosts of the Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood
Resonant Music 011

By Ken Waxman

Furrowing the rarely upturned soil where industrial sounds meet musique concrète, Orierntalized court music meets rural field hollers, and free jazz brushes up against electronic impulses is this trio of sound explorers. With the loam sometimes unyielding, the Ghosts of the Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood – also the CD title – use a collection of excavating tools that include familiar and Korean-sourced reed instruments, percussion, balloons, processing plug-ins and so-called objects. The resulting dozen tracks sometimes infuriate as much as they intrigue, since the band goes out-of-its way to scramble its influences and identity. Titling each track with an individual typographical signs is another way to sow confusion, but adventurous listeners who preserve will be rewarded.

No tyro noise-makers, saxophonist Andy Haas plus snare drummers Michael Evans and David Grollman have been involved in creating usual sounds for almost three decades, alongside players ranging from Fred Frith and Martha & the Muffins to William Parker and LaDonna Smith. For jazz purpose probably the most representative track is “;”, an almost straight-ahead line where Haas’ vibrating alto saxophone is backed by drum-top scratches as Grollman’s stroked rubber-latex echoes like organ or guitar chords. Other pieces such as “/”, which match ring-modulator clangs, bell tree shakes and irregular reed bites suggests what could happen if roots jazzers like Milford Graves and Yusef Lateef had access to the equipment in a futuristic computer lab. Still other narratives meander through curlicue themes without ever needing a full-fledged percussive backbeat.

But the pinnacles of the trio’s creativity are tracks which mulch so many textures together that patterns can barely be isolated. For example “X” matches ululating timbres from the piri or Korean double reed with wild-animal-like digging sounds, washboard-like scrapes, what could be cash register ringing and processed oscillating tones. Simultaneously referencing past and future, the result is both ineffable and uplifting.

Not the easiest listen, Ghosts of the Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood is fascinating in its audacity and ultimately illustrative of one somewhat muddy path committed improvisers are following to sonic fruitarian

Tracks: (); …;?; %; :; /;X’+; “”;;;%÷; #

Personnel: Andy Haas: alto saxophone, flute, hojok, piri, electronics; Michael Evans: snare drum, objects, electronics; David Grollman: snare drum, objects, balloons

—For The New York City Jazz Record September 2013