AMN Reviews: Zeena Parkins and the Adorables – The Adorables

adorable4by Dan Coffey

Zeena Parkins and the Adorables – The Adorables (Cryptogramophone CG147)

Superlatives would fail me here if I were to resort to them. So I won’t say that this is the career-defining Zeena Parkins recording. Or that this album takes the best of her compositional skills and harp prowess (you can hear shades of Ursa’s Door as well as hints of the beauty of her playing as far back as the News from Babel albums with Chris Cutler and Lindsay Cooper), and places them alongside young musicians who are as clued in to her unique vision as anyone could hope to be.

I’m talking about percussionist Shayna Dunkelman and electronics manipulator Preshish Moments, who, along with Parkins, form Zeena Parkins and the Adorables. This band seems to have achieved an empathy that none of Parkins’ other groups has ever quite achieved (though, of course, her longtime collaboration with Ikue Mori is a different story).

What strikes the ear in the first few minutes of the opening track — the crazy quilt tour de force “Constructed” — is how polished and at the same time fresh the recording sounds. What follows, and lasts through the whole album, is the astonishing melding of Parkins’ and Dunkelman’s playing — usually only slightly electrified harp and vibraphone, respectively, and the incongruous electronic interjections made by Moments which are the ingredients that shouldn’t work, but do anyway.

Nothing stays the same for very long in any track on the Adorables album, but it’s not for lack of attention span. The quick changes from intricate composition to improvisational noise (an AMM comparison would not be far off the mark when describing the middle section of “Raking”), are key to Parkins’ aesthetic, but never more fully realized than here, on The Adorables.