AMN Reviews: Samuel Goff – Transmissions [Cacophonous Revival Recordings]

Samuel Goff, the percussionist, composer, and improviser from Richmond, VA, begins 2020 with his first monograph album and the inauguration of a new label. Goff, who plays tuned percussion and keyboards as well as drum kit, and who often works with field recordings and electronic processing, is no stranger to establishing close-to-the-ground institutions in music’s borderlands. He is one of the founders of the Richmond Avant Improv Collective (RAIC), a free-floating group whose five core members are often joined for performances and recordings by guests drawn from the unexpectedly deep bench of Richmond’s musical underground—musicians such as Jimmy Ghaphery, Fred McGann, Tim Harding, Lucas Brode, and Sam Byrd. For Transmissions, which in addition to being his first solo album is also the first release on his Cacophonous Revival Recordings label, Goff is the sole musician, playing percussion of various types along with keyboards, turntables and more.

Many of the pieces on Transmissions can be described as augmented musique concrète—improvised instrumental performances layered over a foundation of processed field recordings and other pre-recorded sounds. This documentary grounding also comes out in titles like Pikeville, Snakebite and Cochabamba, which evoke places and situations in the real world, the local flavor of which Goff evinces with the instrumental voices he chooses to use. There’s a soundtrack-like quality to much of his music—the two-part title work, for example, has the cinematic sweep and drama of an imaginary science fiction film set in interstellar space. Not surprisingly, one of Goff’s recent albums with RAIC was a soundtrack improvised to a silent film. While Transmissions’ seven tracks happily transgress boundaries of genre and programmatic content, they make for a coherent whole. What holds them all together is Goff’s own sophisticated sensibilities as a composer crafting finished works out of multiple moving parts.

Daniel Barbiero