AMN Reviews: Rhonda Taylor – Afterparty (2020; Bandcamp)

Like many of us, Rhonda Taylor found herself coping with an uncertain situation early last year. She chose to express her thoughts and feelings across a set of nine freely-improvised solo tracks that eventually became Afterparty. A music professor at New Mexico State University, Taylor recorded the album at home under lockdown.

There are three main elements to these pieces, Taylor’s voice, her idiosyncratic sax playing, and post-processing of both. Often voice and sax are combined, as she has a penchant for speaking, breathing, or wordlessly singing alongside or through the instrument. She also makes use of percussive and scratchy extended techniques, to the point at which it is hard to identify what she is playing as a sax. But she also produces mournful drones and quiet atmospheric explorations. Melody and harmony take a back seat to texture.

The end result is a haunting, distorted, melancholy experience. On Afterparty, the listener gets a clear sense that there is something wrong with the world. Another way of thinking about this release is that it is a solo sax album for people who don’t necessarily like solo sax. Regardless, it comes highly recommended.