AMN Reviews: Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl – Artlessly Falling [ Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-034 ]

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“Artlessly Falling” is the latest album from guitarist, composer Mary Halvorson’s group Code Girl. Halvorson has received a great deal of recognition for her unique guitar style and her unpredictable improvisational skills but it is her writing that really shines on this album. For the eight songs on “Artlessly Falling” Halvorson first wrote the lyrics, with each lyric written in a pre-existing poetic form and then set them to music. Halvorson’s songs balance poetic lyrics rich with imagery set to elaborate melodies over challenging but supportive accompaniment. “Artlessly Falling” is an evocative set of songs that will really grow on you with each listen.

For this edition of Code Girl Mary Halvorson is joined by longtime creative associates Amirtha Kidambi on vocals, Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums, plus new collaborators Adam O’Farrill on trumpet and María Grand on tenor saxophone and vocals. They are joined by guest vocalist Robert Wyatt, who appears on three songs that Mary Halvorson wrote especially for him. It is really great to hear Wyatt’s voice on something new! Halvorson considers Wyatt to be a major influence on her and on this particular recording.  The influence is clear on the tracks Wyatt sings on but it is felt throughout the album.  The production of “Artlessly Falling” has a warm, very even, and somewhat dry sound reminiscent of albums recorded at Carla Bley’s Grog Kill Studio by Bley, Michael Mantler, and John Greaves / Peter Blegvad that featured Robert Wyatt.  It’s a great sound and Code Girl really extends that sound with their incredible imagination and musicianship.

The opening track “The Lemon Trees” begins with a nod to Wyatt’s “Sea Song”. However, this quickly becomes a very original piece. As Wyatt sings the lyric, each verse alternates with a probing trumpet commentary. That becomes a trumpet solo accompanied by the rhythm section that slowly develops into a trumpet and drum duo that transforms into a drum solo and then suddenly the ensemble is right back to the lyric. The tag ending features a bass solo beautifully accompanied by just the two female voices.

The album continues with “Last-Minute Smears” which is most likely the only song to ever use the congressional testimony of a candidate for the US Supreme Court as a found lyric.  It opens with a very “downtown” improvised intro that slowly develops into a striking ballad beautifully sung by Amirtha Kidambi. It has colorful ensemble writing plus a soulful tenor solo from María Grand. 

On “Walls and Roses” Wyatt and Kidambi sing the same introspective verses back to one another. Halvorson frames the verses with a contrasting section that allows her to wink at Jimi Hendrix as she sails off past the straits of Sonny Sharrock and Shockabilly era Eugene Chadbourne only to return with a winding melodic counterpoint between her and Kidambi.  I hope these brief descriptions of the first three tracks leave you with a sense that on “Artlessly Falling” each track is filled with surprises.

As a group Code Girl’s playing is solid and adventurous. They very easily move back and forth from the written to the improvised. This allows Code Girl to continually shift and transform their sound. It is this combination of Halvorson’s writing and the group’s interaction with both her music and one another that makes “Artlessly Falling” such an interesting listen.

Highly Recommended!

https://firehouse12records.com/

Chris De Chiara

AMN Picks of the Week: Håker Flaten / Bankhead / Mazurek / Revis / Zorn

English: The Norwegian jazz band Element in co...

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten / New York Quartet – Now Is (2012)
Harrison Bankhead / Sextet – Morning Sun, Harvest Moon (2011)
Rob Mazurek / Pulsar Quartet – Stellar Pulsations (2012)
Eric Revis – Parallax (2012)
John Zorn – Rimbaud (2012)

AMN Picks of the Week: Sky Burial / Eduardo F. Rosario / Magma / Anglagard

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Sky Burial – There I Saw The Grey Wolf Gaping (2012)
Eduardo F. Rosario – (Auto/Anti)nomía (2012)
Magma – Félicité Thösz (2012)
Änglagård – Viljans Öga (2012)

AMN Picks of the Week: Vaggione / Bisio & Shipp / Young / Ahleuchatistas / Living By Lanterns

avant-garde pianist Matthew Shipp
avant-garde pianist Matthew Shipp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Horatio Vaggione – Points Critiques (2011)
Michael Bisio / Matthew ShippFloating Ice (2012)
Katherine Young’s Pretty Monsters – Pretty Monsters (2012)
Ahleuchatistas – Heads Full of Poison (2012)
Living By Lanterns – New Myth / Old Science (2012)

AMN Picks of the Week

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Atomik Clocks – Magdan in Charleroi (2011)
Andy Ortman – Provocative Electronics (2008)
Family Battle Snake – Split LP (2008)
Eli Keszler – Cold Pin (2011)

AMN Picks of the Week: Morris / Ware / Tin Hat / Kubisch

English: Photography of William Parker at Jazz...
English: Photography of William Parker at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2010, Austria. By Frank Schindelbeck, http://www.schindelbeck.org (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Joe Morris – Altitude (2012)
David S. Ware / Cooper-Moore / William Parker / Mohammed Ali – Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (2012)
Tin Hat – Rain is a Handsome Animal (2012)
Christina Kubisch – Mono Fluido (2010)

AMN Picks of the Week

(the) Melvins live in concert
(the) Melvins live in concert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Joel Harrison – Holy Abyss (2012)
Jesse Stacken – That That (2007)
miRthkon – Vehicle (2009)
Lustmord – Other (2008)
French TV – I Forgive You For All My Unhappiness (2010)
Melvins – Freak Puke (2012)

AMN Picks of the Week

Henry Threadgill - Zooid
Henry Threadgill – Zooid (Photo credit: volume12)

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Henry Threadgill‘s Zooid Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (2012)
Harris Eisenstadt – Canada Day Octet (2012)
Steve Lehman – Dialect Fluorescent (2012)
Steve Lehman – Manifold (2007)
KTL – KTL V (2012)

Bjork and Dirty Projectors – Musical Ambitions Overflow

An odd pairing is reivewed:

The music was quiet: just voices and modestly amplified acoustic instruments. But the songs were hugely complex and ambitious, announcing their destination in the lyrics: “on and on and ever onward.”

Bjork was collaborating on a suite of six very new songs with Dirty Projectors, the New York City band led by David Longstreth. They had been brought together by Brandon Stosuy, from the music blog Stereogum.com, who supervised a Bjork tribute album and found they admired each other. No wonder: they could be musical cousins, although their songs head in different directions. Mr. Longstreth’s leaping, suddenly swelling vocal lines clearly show Bjork’s influence. And his music’s blend of classical and progressive-rock intricacy, pointillistic backup singing and West African picking patterns rightly appeals to the equally eclectic Bjork.

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AMN Picks of the Week

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Steve Adams Trio – Surface Tension (2009, free jazz)
John O’Gallagher Trio – Dirty Hands (2009, free jazz)
Henry Cow – Stockholm & Goteborg (1977, free improv / prog rock)
Holger Czukay – La Luna (2000, electronic experimental)
Holger Czukay – Linear City (2001, electronic experimental)
David Dunn – Music, Language and Environment (1996, electroacoustic)
Gustavo Jobim – Belles Alliances (2008, electronic experimental)
Ammer Einheit – Crashing Aeroplanes (2007, electronic experimental)

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