This is a set of three longer pieces interspersed with five substantially shorter ones, four of those improvisations and three of those performed by the trombone duo, Rage Thormbones (Matt Barbier and Weston Olencki). The trombone improvisations ('speed sputter', 'flutter gust' and 'wafts & drifts') are essentially brief exercises in extended technique of the gabbier sort, an approach commonplace in music, both "classical" and avant-jazz, since the mid 60s, technically proficient but with a lack of spatial concern; one imagines what Rishin Singh and Radu Malfatti might have made of the opportunity. They also perform a reading of the title composition, 'SHIFT' on their own (called 'RESHIFT') which works very well, some non-overt structure perhaps reining in the looser tendencies elsewhere. The album ends oddly enough with a e-guitar improvisation by Nicholas Deyoe, evoking a rock-ish atmosphere.
The three extended pieces are more interesting. 'SHIFT', for trombones and ensemble (performed here by wasteLAnd, an 11-member chamber group), involves the trombonists moving through the performing space, apparently in relation to a painting by Rafael Soto. Without direct benefit of the spatial consequences, the resultant music is strong and varied if vaguely reminiscent of the work of composers like Penderecki in the 60s, full of deep brass crescendi that explode as they reach zenith. As with the above improvisations, there's something of a horror vacui in effect, a collage of colorful attacks that, while fascinating in and of themselves, begin to sound a bit forced after a while. More successful is 'Gesang an das notch namenlose Land' for string trio. While still quite active, the scurrying about is tinged with enough angst and even aggression that the work doesn't feel as crowded as 'SHIFT' but more conversational. The violin carries faint echoes of improvisers like Leroy Jenkins and the cellist adds some jazz-like passages as well, a welcome and unexpected tinge. But the highlight, for this listener, is 'modules for amplified quartet and effect pedals'. The instrumentation isn't listed and the electronics make it hard to say for certain, though piano, percussion, guitar and, I think, one of the trombones are present. But the balance of textures and spatial distances is finer here; one has a sense of tissue-like connections that might evaporate in a few moments. Without any obvious structural underpinnings, one nonetheless gets a sense of something tensile lying beneath the sounds. It's an exciting work and a direction this listener would be interested to see pursued further.
Comments and Feedback: