AMN Reviews: Ari Chersky – Fear Sharpens the Dagger (2018; Bandcamp)

Ari Cherksy is a New York based guitarist who has played on a number of improv / creative recordings over the last few years. Fear Sharpens the Dagger is his second effort as a leader. On it, he is joined by Peter Schlamb on vibraphone, Joanna Mattrey on viola, Christopher Hoffman on cello, Ross Gallagher on acoustic bass, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Cherksy expands beyond providing just 6-string contributions by also incorporating synths, organ, mellotron, toy piano, ukelin, electronic bass, percussion, loops, and effects. The result is an album with a huge, rich, and involved sound that is unlike just about anything else out there. The closest comparison that comes to mind would be to Nathan Hubbard’s recent recordings, but even so, Cherksy heads in different directions.

The general approach across these 13 short pieces is polyphonic, usually with guitar simultaneously sharing the lead with at least one other instrument. Beyond that, Weinrib is a major contributor with his uptempo free-jazz drumming underlying even the slower tracks. On top, Cherksy adds studio effects, backwards masking, overdubs, samples, and various accentuations. There is a tenseness present because, from minute to minute, you are never quite sure what he might throw at you. These left turns and detours are not jarring, however, as they lie in the details of the recording. And a close listen at high volume might be necessary to appreciate these subtle facets.

Taking a step back, the album as a whole could easily be classified as improv with its liberal use of extended techniques, though it comes across as being carefully constructed and probably could not be reproduced live. Nor does Chersky provide a music that is totally alien – certain tracks are recognizable as jazz, maybe even jazz fusion or psychedelia, but with more than a few inflections and twists. Nevertheless, Cherksy is at his best when he is, either by composition or otherwise, offering a complex, labyrinthine, and layered set of contrapuntal melodies that frantically shift from theme to theme.

Fear Sharpens the Dagger is not be to taken lightly. There is too much going on herein, and the stylistic elements are surprisingly broad. This recording is easily an album of the year candidate.

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Four New Bug Incision Releases

Source: Bug Incision.

Joe Morris/Rob Oxoby
Dancing With Penguins (bim-75)

Last spring semester, renowned improvising guitarist/bassist, writer, and educator Joe Morris spent four months in our midst during his spell as visiting scholar at the University of Calgary. He taught open classes which vividly brought to life the basic tenets of his wonderful book Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music, hosted weekly playing sessions with whoever was interested, and performed a few packed, memorable concerts. And behind this bounteous occasion for our community, double bassist (and U of C prof) Rob Oxoby was one of the people turning the cogs. Oxoby appeared in Calgary in the early 2000s after spending many years in San Francisco, where he played with the likes of John Tchicai and Eddie Gale, to name a few. In recent years he’s logged hours with Not Now, Hamelin (with Jonathon Wilcke and drummer Eric Hamelin) and Muerte Pan Alley, a strange and ferocious take on blues and country. Morris is widely regarded as one of the preeminent guitarists working in the field of free improvisation; his singular style, highly adept listening skills, and astonishing technique are bolstered by the strong conceptual frameworks from which he operates, and this combination has placed him alongside such contemporaries as Anthony Braxton, William Parker, Nate Wooley, Augusti Fernandez, Matthew Shipp, Ken Vandermark, and Evan Parker.

Bent Spoon Trio
Nine Year Itch (bim-76)

Chris Dadge, David Laing, and Scott Munro (along with Kevin Lee) formed the Bent Spoon Ensemble in 2002, and after a few years of activity in that formation, they shed a member and, in 2005, became the trio. At the same time, they inaugurated Bug Incision Records, and the label’s first release was the Bent Spoon Trio’s debut, March 3, 2005, praised by The Wire’s Brian Morton as “improv of a very high order”. The group played – in all permutations of duo and trio formations – around Canada and the UK, and put out a bunch of records on Bug Incision, Holy Cheever Church, Total Vermin, and Unit Structures Sound Recordings. Around 2008, Laing shifted his focus to songwriting, which led to the co-formation (with Dadge) of Lab Coast, a pop group who has since released four albums and toured all over Canada, the UK, and Europe. The duo of Dadge and Munro continued – albeit with some long gaps between performances – to record many interesting collaborations on Bug Incision Records, and also performed with Peter Evans, Chad VanGaalen, Eric Chenaux, Chris Riggs, Josh Zubot, Ellwood Epps, and Jack Wright. Munro also concurrently founded the band Preoccupations, whose synth-laden gothic post-punk has garnered acclaim across the globe.

Joe Morris/Chris Dadge/Jonathon Wilcke
Rural Optimism (bim-77)

In March of 2018, during guitarist Joe Morris’ stay in Calgary (see bim-75 notes for the full story), he joined the Chris Dadge/Jonathon Wilcke duo on two occasions. The first was a live performance at a tiny and packed room in the Theatre Junction GRAND building in the heart of downtown Calgary. After a stellar set from Laura Reid and Mark Limacher, Morris played a short solo set, Dadge and Wilcke played a short duo set, then the latter three played as a trio; it was their first time playing together. Later that month, the three reconvened in Dadge’s basement studio, fuelled by Richard Youngs’ vegetable curry, for this sparkling burst of playing. A relative minority of Bug Incision releases are studio-based affairs, but the added clarity and sonic precision on display here greatly benefits this music, which is chock of full of dense, pointillistic playing. Wilcke’s sax work moves from fluffy free-bop melodicism to strangulated smears of sound, bringing out some inventive comping moves from Morris. Morris strikes an impressive balance between Wilcke’s saxophonic abstractions and the kinetic, tactile playing of Dadge, who is clearly relishing the opportunity to interact with such a spiky playing partner. Bug Incision could not be more pleased to present (along with bim-75) this second fine document of Morris’ Calgary saga.

Chris Dadge/Jonathon Wilcke
Three Live Pieces (bim-78)

Chris Dadge and Jonathon Wilcke played together for the first time around 15 years ago, both summoned by saxophonist/presenter Darren Williams for a performance of Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. (Williams, now located in Kelowna, was living in Calgary at the time and presenting a seminal series called nach Hause.) That performance, rousing as it was, was predictably free of intimate moments of small-group interaction, so no great revelations were made for the two that evening. Fast forward a bit to the latter half of 2006, when the first six months of Bug Incision shows were taking place at the Soda. During the “trios” month, Wilcke joined Dadge and bassist Scott Munro (who was also present at the Free Jazz gig) for a set where things really clicked. But, by that time, Wilcke was living in Vancouver and deep into the 1067 scene there, playing with Williams, Dave Chokroun, and Shane Krause, among others.

Avant Scena Reviews

Source: Avant Scena.

Michael Byron – “The Ultra Violet of Many Paralel Paths” (2018)

Leah Asher – “Retreat Into Afters” (Scripts, 2018)

Golia / Kaiser / Moses / Smith / Walter – “Astral Plane Crash” (Balance Point Acoustics, 2018)

Gianni Lenoci – “Earle Brown Selected Works For Piano” (Amirani, 2018)

Martin Kay’s Forage – “Move To The Bleat” (Super Sonic, 2018)

Catherine Sikora and Brian Chase – “untitled: after” (Chaikin Records, 2018)

Schnell – “Live at Sowieso” (Clean Feed, 2018)

Sonic Arts Union Profiled

Source: The New York Times.

Members of the Sonic Arts Union helped rewire classical music in the 1960s. Literally: The founders of this collective used homemade electronics to power their experiments. And also metaphorically, by organizing festivals and producing albums for Columbia Records’ influential avant-garde series.

Their legacy would already have been formidable had it been limited to these activities and a focused span of touring, between 1966 and 1977. Yet after the union’s four founders stopped playing together regularly, they went on to achieve new individual heights as composers.

Vital Weekly Reviews 1141

Source: Vital Weekly.

SIMON CRAB – DEMAND FULL AUTOMATION (CD by Klanggalerie) *
MAP 71 – VOID AXIS (CD by Foolproof Projects/Fourth Dimension Records) *
ALF FORSMAN & TAPANI VARIS & EERO SAVELA – ATMOSFÄRG (CD by At First)
CHRISTOPHER CHAPLIN – PARADISE LOST (CD by Fabrique Records)
MODELBAU – ZENDER (CD by Antenna Non Grata) *
QST – 2023 (cassette by Cassauna) *
ILIA BELORUKOV – NOBODY EVER ESCAPED FROM THERE (CD by Moving Furniture Records) *
HAARVOL – PERIPHERAD DEBRIS (CD by Moving Furniture Records) *
PRELIMINARY SATURATION – YOU ARE THE UNIVERSE (CD by Moving Furniture Records) *
CARLOS SUAREZ SANCHEZ – POST TENEBRAS LUX (CD by Luscinia Discos) *
JEROME NOETINGER & SEC_ – LA CAVE DES ETENDARDS (CD by Mikroton) *
ANGELICA CASTELLO & JEROME NOETINGER – DISTURBIO (CD by Mikroton) *
STEFANO GENTILE & MONICA TESTA & ENRICO CONIGLIO & STEFANO GUZZETTI – NELL’ATTESA DEL TUO PROMISSIMP RESPIRO (2CD plus books by Silentes) *
ANDY ORTMANN – PATAPHYSICAL ELECTRONICS (LP by Nihilist) *
LLARKS – LIKE A DAYDREAM (LP by Vanguard Flowers Publishing)
SHHH…. – I, OF THE STORM (LP by Thisco)
– TOTAL LIBERATION (12″ by Gooiland Elektro)
FØRSTEPERSONENTAL+1 – SAME (7″ by Lydhor)
FORESTEPPE – MÆTA (CDR by Eilean Records) *
THE PRAIRIE LINES – TODAY LEAP AND STOP TIME (CDR by Eilean Records) *
JONNIE PREY – LIFE ON BOB-LO ISLAND (CDR by Chocolate Monk) *
AMANDA R. HOWLAND – MONA COST RETURNS TO CANTON (CDR by Chocolate Monk) *
LÄRMSCHUTZ – DONS (cassette by Faux Amis Records)
THOMAS BEY WILLIAM BAILEY – LA PRODUCTION INTERDITE (cassette by Elevator Bath)
THOMAS SHRUBSOLE – THEMES AND VARIATIONS (double cassette by Parenthetical Activities)
ASHAN – FAR DRIFT AFIELD (cassette by Inner Islands) *
KENJI KIHARA – SCENES OF SCAPES (cassette by Inner Islands) *