AMN Reviews: Bernstein, Marcelo, Popejoy, and Podgurski – Propolis (2017; Minus Zero)

Minus Zero is a new label started by Vijay Anderson, Ben Goldberg, and Dina Maccabee. All of the proceeds from album sales are donated to Planned Parenthood. This is a review in an ongoing series covering the label’s releases.

Recorded live in January 2015 at New York’s Firehouse Space, this two-track album of improvised avant-rock features Sarah Bernstein on violin and voice, Alexis Marcelo on piano and keyboard, Stuart Popejoy on bass, and Nick Podgurski on drums. Perhaps the most immediate observation is the raw power of the rhythm section, with Popejoy and Podgurski providing two-pronged approach. On one hand, they work tightly together to set forth complex, intricate lines, but on the other, then go in their own directions during more free sections of this recording. The former is reminiscent of that of Idiot Flesh, while the latter is more propulsive in nature. Over this, Bernstein and Marcelo supply effects-laden violin and keyboards. They keyboard patches are thick and orchestral, evoking a cinematic and slightly retro feel. Bernstein provides snippets and sawing wails, more for effect than for purpose of melody. A great album for those who like their improv to be creative and not too free.