National Parks
Monotype Records Mono 075

Occupying the sonic netherworld where improvised music brushes up against electronics and New music inferences share space with extended techniques, National Parks consists of 10 mini tone poems meant to reflect iconic mid 20th century poster representations of American national parks. While the program music linkages may appear moderately ambiguous in this context, the CD’s strength lies in accepting the contrasts implicit in attempting such a project.

Oddly enough as well, despite the U.S. orientation, only one of the participants is an American. That’s Chicago-based pianist D Bayne, whose day job is with Rock band Cheer Accident. Berlin-based tenor and baritone saxophonist Boris Hauf has lived in Chicago, but most of his affiliations are with Viennese reductionist ensembles such as efzeg. Lending his talents as sound mixer and electronics insinuator to Postmarks on this CD is guitarist Martin Siewert, a member of other bands such as Trapist. Because of this admixture each of the tracks here usually pulsates atop or alongside an intermittent electronic ostinato set up by Siewert, with Hauf’s breathy reed multiphonics and Bayne’s more formalized, bordering-on-so-called classical piano chording setting up the contrasts that finally meld satisfactorily.

Most noteworthy are those lengthier tracks which deviate enough from normative strictures to establish individualism. Instructively they’re usually tunes where Hauf’s reed timbres snort, honk and slur with near mainstream expansions. For instance “Bryce Canyon at Dawn” comes across as if someone had captured on tape Hard Bop baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams jamming with Cagean pianist David Tudor. Here especially snapping electronic ratchets and drones deepen rather than distract from the central duet. Meantime the dyspeptic “Hubbell Trading Post at Dusk” could be set in a night club in a Blade Runner-styled universe, as honky-tonk tenor sax smears and pounding R&B-like piano lines are intercut with the whirling pulses of what could be a flying saucer launch. Granular synthesis of wave forms thump and judder alongside cascading keyboard lines and smeary sax vibrations on the related “Hubbell Trading Post at Dawn”, with straightforward pianism maintaining the swaying beat.

By the CD’s conclusion, the push-and-pull among the different acoustic and processed timbres has reached a point of congruence. As sequences of metronomic piano lines, altissimo reed emphasis and guitar-like licks deconstruct into atoms and then are regrouped into logical narratives, a telling aural picture is revealed. Adventurous travellers with sonic space experience will likely want to camp out for a time within these National Parks.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Bandelier National 2. Big Thicket 3. Bryce Canyon at Dawn 4. Hubbell Trading Post at Dusk 5. Fossil Butte 6. Gila Cliff Dwellings 7. Hubbell Trading Post at Dawn 8. Capitol Reef at Dusk 9. Bryce Canyon at Dusk 10. Capitol Reef at Dawn

Personnel: Boris Hauf (baritone and tenor saxophones); D Bayne (piano) and Martin Siewert (guitar and electronics)