We receive many review requests. In order to increase the amount of material we cover, capsule reviews are short reflections on recent releases of note.
Kohoutek – Curious Aroma (2015; MIE)
With a name like Kohoutek, one immediately thinks of Sun Ra and space music. This Washington D.C. based group falls squarely into the domain of the latter. The album consists of two tracks, 18 and 24 minutes respectively, both the result of studio improv. Drawing on a Krautrock vibe, the first track features atmospherics with quiet electronics and found object percussion providing a base layer for picked electric guitar. The second piece adds another guitar and slowly builds to a jam session featuring a drum kit and dueling fuzzed-out guitars. Electronics and effects take a secondary role. An interesting release, reminiscent of Ash Ra Temple, with more than a hint of British psychedelia.
Guitarist McManus and bassist Hebert are well-traveled in the New York creative improv scene, the former of the Gerry Hemingway Quintet, Kermit Driscoll group, and Herb Robertson, the latter of the Fred Hersch Trio, Uri Caine Trio, and Andrew Hill. This is their debut as a duo, a release that covers quite a bit of ground. McManus’s playing has some similarities to the cleanly-picked outside lines of Joe Morris, but with less overt aggression. Whether plucking or bowing, Hebert is up and down the bass. As a result, the listener is never quite sure where the next note is going to come from, nor the direction that each piece will take. A representative track is It’s Always Something, where Hebert takes the lead and McManus provides delay-driven atmospherics until the bass settles into an ending drone.
Machinefabriek with Anne Bakker – Deining (2015; Bandcamp)
The process used for making the 26-minute drone-based effort is almost as interesting as the music itself. As stated by the artists, violinist Anne Bakker bowed “each string of her instrument while sliding slowly from the lowest note to the highest, in exactly 5 minutes.” Then this process was repeated in reverse. As a result, Deining has four discernible parts, one for each string, though these parts run together. After layering the violin tracks, electronic processing took place to add synthetic drones, waves, and effects. Needless to say, the slowly-evolving pitches bring a certain amount of sustained tension to the recording, which is not released until about one minute remains. At that point, a low-volume interlude of structured static concludes the album.