June 26, 2015
The Evil Art Contest
Rat Records RAT 024
Everest Records er cd 069
Establishing the textures of trumpet, guitar, drums and dedicated electronics next to one another for performance has become commonplace enough in improv to suggest its own subgenre. But the key to such interface is to scope out a sonic journey as well as well as exhibiting novel textures. Each of these European ensembles makes the effort, but overall the result (s) appear to be spend more time exposing unforeseen timbral connections than forging a coherent narrative.
Briefer and more international, The Evil Art Contest’s eight selections moves among timbres supplied by American trumpeter Nate Wooley, French guitarist Marc Ducret and Belgian’s Teun Verbruggen, who plays both drums and electronics. With each a leader of other, sometimes larger bands, the intent here is to discover a new textural balance through more limited instrumentation. Swiss-based Le Pot on the other hand has more aggrandized ideas. Part of a projected CD trilogy, She’s eight, but much lengthier tracks are designed to discover the common points among Jazz and improv, psychedelic and electronic, sentient and subconscious playing. Trumpeter and electronics manipulator Manuel Mengis and drummer Lionel Friedli were part of Mengis’ Gruppe 6; Hans-Peter Pfammatter, who plays Moog and other synthesizers here, has worked with Tim Daisy and Christy Doran; while guitarist Manuel Troller jumps between avant-Jazz and avant-Rock.
With a dual role on The Evil Art Contest, Verbruggen is often in the position of being both the canvas on which the sonic picture is being created and one of the sound painters who is creating the art. In other words his juddering electronic wave forms often define the continuum upon which other sonorities – including percussion clanks – are placed. Most of the time however, the divergence that’s resolved involves how best to integrate Wooley’s minimalist inner tube-like breaths with the sometimes outlandish, near arena-Rock, buzzing and violent licks from Ducret’s guitar.
Tracks such as “If I loose (sic!) it’s all your Fault” and “Size M. Dump” pose and resolve these contradictions. “Size M. Dump” starts off with flanged twangs from the guitarist that plus steady drum beats are gradually integrated into Wooley’s dog-like yelps. The trio’s distinctiveness is defined here as tongue-sucking brass timbres become almost identical to electronic wave forms. The former track is even more defining. That’s because a blending of the bent and curved expositions from fretless guitar licks, hand-muted brass flutters and echoing drum thumps confirms the coupling into which the narrative relaxes. The other stand-out track is the eventually mournful “Ruby Rose”. It too begins with near organ-like cascades, probably from processed electronics, tremolo capillary slurs and shaking string licks that eventually squeal and clang into a satisfying mix.
With keyboard instruments capable of consistently dominating the narrative, Le Pot instead concentrate on extending its interface into uncharted territory part-improv and part-rhythmic. Rather than Pfammatter’s synthesizers though, it’s usually Mengis’ electronics which provide the tracks’ direction(s). Creating pensive, elastic tremolos, which evidently take early- 1970s Miles Davis muted tones as his model, the trumpeter invests a track such as “Part I Desert Whale Song” with the brass equivalent of circular breathing, creating a tone that seems never to start or end. When his solo finally turns to aggressive sputtering, the affiliated irregular drum pulses, guitar buzzes and processed oscillations add an intensity that goes past any ambient suggestions. As the unaffiliated timbres wiggle amoeba-like in the same fashion during “Part II Phili’s Boat Bursting” plus “Tartarugas Dream” divergent hand-muted brass slurps and slides are integrated into the concentrated program(s) with added impetus provided by clattering rim shots, keyboard drones and ring modulator-like blurry oscillations.
Torrents of understated puffs or explosive projections arrive often enough throughout the tracks that the interaction never settles into any accustomed groove. If the vibrations are heavy enough faint echoes of a Metal-oriented Emerson Lake & Palmer are suggested; elsewhere implications propose a relationship to AMM and microtonalism. However “Gezinkt Sind Wir Alle” includes a Sun Ra-like, outer space-like keyboard blast as well as nearly overdone crunching drumming. Yet here too the dovetailing of muted trumpet tones plus jagged guitar licks prevents the tune – and by inference the CD – coming down on either side of the Rock-Jazz continuum.
Both She and The Evil Art Contest are notable in showing how bands can use convincing and unexpected timbres to cleverly differentiate themselves from other ensembles. The challenge facing each now is to exactly define a sound that makes it unique.
Track Listing: Evil 1. Shanna the Fairy Queen 2. Commission BlitzPonX 3. If I loose it’s all your Fault 4. Size M. Dump 5. If you see any errors please inform me 6. Watersoup 7. Ruby Rose 8. My Flexible Friend (homage for Mastercard)
Personnel: Evil: Nate Wooley (trumpet); Marc Ducret (guitar) and Teun Verbruggen (drums and electronics)
Track Listing: She: 1. Ariel Alert 2. Part I Desert Whale Song 3. Part II Phili’s Boat Bursting 4. Tartarugas Dream 5. Me, Mo and Mu 6. Gezinkt Sind Wir Alle 7. ICCL 8. Hier, oder am anderen Ende
Personnel: She: Manuel Mengis (trumpet and electronics); Manuel Troller (guitar); Hans-Peter Pfammatter (Moog and synthesizers) and Lionel Friedli (drums