AMN Reviews: Nate Wooley / Liudas Mockūnas / Barry Guy / Arkadijus Gotesmanas – NOX (2020; NoBusiness Records)

There is something about Nate Wooley recordings – they exhibit a broad intentionality even if the pieces therein appear to be freely improvised. Within ostensibly unstructured passages, meta-patterns slowly emerge that make you question how much of the music was truly spontaneous. Here, he is joined by the legendary bassist Barry Guy, as well as Arkadijus Gotesmanas on drums and percussion and Liudas Mockūnas on clarinet and sax. Three lengthy pieces on NOX explore several dimensions of guided improvisation.

At first blush, the album is open, noisy, and full of extended techniques. There is no traditional sense of melody. Instead, all four musicians provide bursts of rough and discordant energy as a quartet as well as in subsets thereof. Wooley’s playing is gritty and angular, carefully crafting sound envelopes and pulses. Mockūnas forms more lilting or circular contributions in addition to staccato runs of notes. In parallel to this, Guy explores his bass in a characteristically unconventional fashion, essentially soloing through most of the recording. Gotesmanas drums in a rhythmless free-jazz style, with little repetition or predictability. As an example of how this is put together, Multa Nox, the second track, is an interesting juxtaposition of sparser moments and jerky, stumbling progressions.

In short, this is forward music – both aggressive and restrained. Occasionally this presents itself as harsh wailing, but those moments are outnumbered by more overtly cerebral passages. Like the fabric of the universe in quantum theory, NOX is continuously ripping itself apart and putting itself back together on the particle level. Well done indeed.