AMN Capsule Comments: Mike Eisenberg’s Recent Playlist (September 9, 2021)

From time to time, AMN writer Mike Eisenberg revisits older albums that he has not listened to in a while and provides comments.

Sophia Domancich Trio – La Part des Anges (1997)

An excellent studio date for this piano trio of Domancich (p) Paul Rogers (b) and Tony Levin (d). Rogers and Levin were the great backline for the avant/jazz improv quartet Mujician but on this date they are playing it a little straighter, but only a little bit.

Although Domancich plays some gorgeous, old-world melodies that have a decidedly European noir vibe she does not shy away from breaking off and aggressively attacking the keys, producing some sharp edge/spikey and angular dissonance. Her extremely dexterous playing on some of the faster pieces is a wonder as she leads the trio down some avant/jazz superhighways that are fraught with peril. Whatever she is driving is lean and mean…and powered by the stellar stickwork of Levin and the rich, woody sound of Rogers stand up. This is a high-level hivemind in action-recommended!

Doctor Nerve – Loud (2020)

I’ve been a fan since day one having acquired much of their catalog by way of the Wayside catalogs. I think I may have missed one or two of their most recent releases but, I’m sho glad I didn’t miss “Loud”. Most of the original Nerve seems to be intact on this release and, with all these pieces in place…”Loud” has that unmistakable Nerve sound I loved from my days of yore.

This album is programmed in an unusual way though. Didkovsky and co. play on the “original versions” of the longer tracks but…then these tracks are repeated with Nick laying out and having numerous guest guitarists step in to solo over. First of all, Nick is a pretty amazing guitarist in his own right but good lord…the guests on this record are mind-blowing. Featured on various compositions is Mike Keneally, Henry Kaiser, Rene Lussier, Robert Musso, Shawn Persinger is Prestor John, Kevin Hufnagle, Matt Hollenberg, and Andrew Hawkins and all of these cats rip the time out of space!!!

The compositions are typical ultra-complex Nerve like and, scattered among these longer scorchers are short (under 15 seconds) tone poems (I guess) that are also quintessential Nerve. The standouts for me are the tracks with Hollenberg, Persinger, and Musso…and throw in Lussier too with his spikey, disjointed playing. I can’t believe I’m so late to the party on this record because it is total smoke-balls! 

Various artists – Visions of Darkness in Iranian Contemporary Music (2017)

This is one of the many “sound mapping” releases on the Unexplained Sounds Group label. I’ve been reading their reviews and randomly sampling stray releases for a while now and, everything that I’ve heard has been extremely consistent in high-quality curation.

So, this is my first official foray into the label…and I can tell you it won’t be my last. This is an excellent overview of what’s happening in a distant part of the world that I would otherwise have zero exposure to.

Spanning close to 2.5 hours, this release showcases the experimental underground in Iran. The great majority of the tracks are electronic, and much of it (although not all) is drone-based.  Its uniqueness comes through by the very nature of its locational sound sources that are liberally used throughout. There are lots of field recordings mingling within some very thick, and quite beautiful synth textures. The drones themselves vary from gentle undulations to much more extreme power electronics. Much of this sounds very “different” to these ears and I found it fascinating to hear how these artists vary from what I’m used to in my small corner of the Western world. This release was an excellent deep dive into sound worlds that I would otherwise have not known about. I can see this being a launching pad for further explorations. I plan on investigating some of the other USG’s releases…they are numerous.

Michael Eisenberg