AMN Reviews: Reid Karris – Obscure Sorrows (2021; Enforced Existence)

Chicago improviser Reid Karris is back with a new solo release for 2021. Obscure Sorrows was recorded in December 2020, and features Karris on all instruments. These include drums and various object percussion, as well as electric guitar. I would not be surprised if there were some skatchboxes and/or post-processing as well.

Karris’s approach is outside and free, with very little in the way of repetitive structures or patterns. Instead, he creates a jangling amalgam of two to three overlapping tracks of percussion as well as extended techniques on the guitar. The percussion is cymbal-heavy with bells, bowls, and cracking elements. His approach toward guitar is noisy and experimental, with rubbing and scratching of the strings to create gritty textures in addition to distortion and echoing from effects pedals. But the overall sense you get from Obscure Sorrows is one of density. Karris has a lot going on here, especially for a solo album, and is comfortable filling free space with as much sound as he can. Thus, the album moves along at a rapid pace.

If one were to view improvisation on a spectrum from the more systematic to the more free, Karris would land squarely at the latter end. Not unlike his previous releases, this album explores the extremes in an unassuming and unpretentious fashion.

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