There is a certain style of sparse free improvisation that involves a group playing in an abrupt, disjointed style – one in which there is little melody or rhythm. Instead, the emphasis is structural and exploratory. Geometry of Distance is a prime example of such a recording.
The group is called Geometry, and this is their second release after last year’s Geometry of Caves. Vocalist Kyoko Kitamura teams with Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and trumpets, Joe Morris on guitar, and Tomeka Reid on cello. Each member contributes micro-thematic elements; namely, short motifs and lines that may overlap with those of the others. Kitamura provides wordless vocals, scat singing, screams, and harsh utterances. The focus is not on what she might be saying, but what she conveys with tone and technique. Morris’s contributions are characteristically spiky. Scratching and rubbing alternates with cleanly-picked sections. Bynum and Reid are perhaps the most “outside” of the four. The former squeaks, warbles, and blows through discordant passages, while the latter offers an understated but ambitious set of wanderings through the lower registers.
Without any solid structure and including generous use of extended techniques, the album is subtle in approach. Listen in a quiet room, as this is not something that you will fully appreciate when subjected to background noise – while commuting, for example. The many rich details would be lost.
But perhaps the most notable aspect of Geometry of Distance is how Kitamura, Bynum, Morris, and Reid manage to make the 50-plus minutes thereof such an engaging listen. In lesser hands, their approach might have fallen apart under its own weight into aimless meandering. But with this quartet, the album is an adventure – one that keeps the listener on edge with evolving meta-patterns and systems. It is a piece of abstract performance art dutifully transcribed to the digital medium. Highly recommended.