AMN Reviews: Lore – Lore EP (2018; Bandcamp)

Lore’s self-titled EP begins with a drone and evolves in multiple directions from there. The brainchild of Greg Sterland (sax and harmonium) and Hugh Sheehan (diatonic button accordion and electronics), this duo offers three medium-length tracks on their debut.

In addition to the aforementioned drone, the opening track, titled Grind, encompasses button mashing and free improvision. Pierrots and Doves adds melancholy wordless vocals as well as spoken word and sung poetry from Mirva Soininen. The accordion is again used for a baseline drone, while the sax provides snippets of melodies, though these are tempered by the downtempo nature of the piece. Liminal ends the album with wistful, high-pitched cello work from Joasia Cieślak. Subtle electronic processing adds percussive elements before a free-form interlude involving all three players rears its head for a few moments. Throughout, the use of electronics is understated, and often hard to pick out from the acoustically-generated sounds.

The terms “novel” and “unique” get thrown about too liberally when describing creative and avant-garde music. Nonetheless, both of these terms are fitting to describe Lore. Whether it is the unusual choice of instrumentation or the juxtapositioning of spaciousness and indeterminacy, this debut release has much that is new to offer and comes highly recommended.

AMN Reviews: Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood Ensemble – Rogue Star (2018; Edgetone Records)

Sometimes creative or free jazz is a radical departure from its ostensible genre, and other times you can clearly hear the jazz within. Rogue Star, the fourth album from saxophonist Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood Ensemble, falls into the latter category. Joined by Timothy Orr on drums, Joshua Marshall on sax, Heikki “Mike” Kosikinen on e-trumpet and recorder, Mark Clifford on vibes, as well as Safa Shokrai and Max Judelson pairing up on bass, Romus leads this extended outfit through eight pieces that repeatedly cross the line between open improvisation and more directed composition.

The use of two bass players provides an orchestral feel, over which Romus, Marshall, and Kosikinen layer jagged melodies. In fact, these three are as likely to head in different directions are they are to “play together” in the traditional sense. Clifford’s vibes and Romus’ occasional flute add to the jazzy feel, but in anything but a conventional fashion. To that point, even when the ensemble sets forth a few bluesy melodies, these are rounded out by a polite discordance.

At its best moments, Rogue Star offers a chaotic rhythmic structure and focused wailing that is grounded with a few cool vibe flourishes. This is an album on which all seven musicians are given their chances to shine both individually and as a group. A rewarding and compelling release.

Anthony Braxton’s New Charlie Parker Set Reviewed

Anthony Braxton

Source: Village Voice.

“When I first heard Charlie Parker — the record was Bird on 52nd St. — that record frightened me. It frightened me, and it was the most exciting music I’d ever heard…” Those were musician and composer Anthony Braxton’s words in a 1988 biography about him, Forces in Motion, by Graham Lock. It’s now hard to believe that the 72-year-old Braxton — a fearless musician who created the music he felt compelled to make, popularity and commerce be damned — was ever frightened of anything, especially of a portly man in pinstripe suits. But sepia-toned photos of Parker don’t fully illustrate that he was a Kansas City rebel with a cause, a Beat prior to Kerouac, and two beats ahead of hippies and punks.