AMN Reviews: Sandy Ewen / Rebecca Novak / Carol Sandin Cooley – Garden Medium (2016; Balance Point Acoustics)

When it comes to improv, there is free, and then there is free. Garden Medium, the debut album from Sandy Ewen, Rebecca Novak and Carol Sandin Cooley, falls into the latter category. In addition to playing their respective instruments, these three ladies make liberal use of extended techniques to coax out idiosyncratic elements as well.

Ewen compels sounds from her prepared guitar as a basis for the album, Novak adds cornet and autoharp, and Cooley focuses on electronics. All three also provide found object noises. The result is a set of non-repeating themes across eight improvisations, featuring more scraping, scrobbling, and percussiveness than actual notes.

Rather than music in the tradition sense, Garden Medium is about texture and atmosphere. This trio evokes a rich and varied soundscape, with an unfettered sense of experimentalism. I suspect that any performances of this or similar material would have a compelling visual aspect so that the listener could see how this distinctive material is actually created.