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  Brandon Seabrook, with Cooper-Moore and Gerald Cleaver 
  Exultations  
  (Astral Spirits) 


  
   review by Thomas Mellish
  2020-10-13
Brandon Seabrook, with Cooper-Moore and Gerald Cleaver: Exultations (Astral Spirits)

In Exultations, Brandon Seabrook lends his frenetic and to use his own wording - schizophrenic guitar playing to two other accomplished jazz musicians, Gerald Cleaver and Cooper-Moore. Exultations provides a continuation of Seabrook's previous work in that there is an exploration of musical juxtapositions, which is often done through capricious "jump cut" rhythms. However, the record also acts as Seabrook's attempt to expand his musical repertoire, a task which Seabrook succeeds at on all fronts. This record provides a pensive and lucid focus on these musical juxtapositions. Rather than these sonic landscapes being glued together and shoe-horned into place, these explorations of difference form cogent and cohesive musical environments. Metaphorically, the hyperactive toddler has matured into a contemplative adolescent.

The first indicator of this descent into juxtapositions and musical vicissitudes comes in "Flexing Fetid and Fecund" and "Dark Bogs." In the former, Cleaver and Cooper-Moore create a bog-like rhythm, an impenetrable quagmire. Seabrook fights his way through this rhythmic fog by use of his own interchanging and capricious guitar rhythms. Then, a prolonged, dissonant guitar loop intrudes like a Greek chorus, signifying the apex of these vying rhythms. However, in the latter track, this thickset rhythm section, rather than vying with Seabrook for primacy, complements and underpins. A semblance of structure is provided, in which Seabrook harks back to No-wave. His sprawling arpeggios can flourish in the thick polyrhythmic morass.

Following the contradictory "Flexing Fetid and Fecund", "Behavorial Tub" presents another dichotomy. A concrete, unmalleable rhythm section is played against a sparse, flurrying guitar. The track acts as a musical Bayeux Tapestry; the listener is made aware of the individual conflicts between the mercenary-like musical notes. However, in this battle, there is no victor, the track is marked by an absence of a grand nadir or apotheosis. In this musical stalemate, the battered and beleaguered instruments individually return to their own state of sonic equanimity. Cleaver's fatigued drumming during the concluding moments provides a fleeting and paltry victory.

In "Essential Exultations", texture and tone, rather than rhythm, take primacy. Soaring reverb-laden arpeggios morph and transfigure. As the track progresses, the guitar song becomes a siren call; dissonance overcomes harmony. Likewise, in "Cudgel Majik", syncopated diddley bow plucks and muted drums form a sparse and meagre structure; a far cry from Seabrook's throbbing and pulsating fuzzy guitar chords, which provide a rich, oozing texture, while ebbing and flowing in and out of coherence.

"Dank Esseintes" follows the precedent set by "Cudgel Majik." However, unlike the latter, where Seabrook's guitar provides an escape from the all-encompassing yet prostrated rhythmic framework of the track, the former does not provide such a moment of solace. The track plods along like a tired traveler, heaving one leg in front of the other. If the previous three tracks are pieces of musical stupor, then "Along Comes Diddly" signifies the triumphant escape from this musical miasma. A track of immeasurable vitality, where efflorescent drums, aggravated chords and fiercely plucked arpeggios all intertwine and become enmeshed.

"Absurdities in Bondage", as an ending track, is apt. Seabrook's guitar cries and the unfaltering rhythm of the track perfectly encapsulate the aim of the album, which is to compartmentalize and package the free form; to provide a framework for musical chaos. The track fades out over a wispy guitar shriek. Perhaps chaos can't be captured after all.

Although the one-dimensional aspect of the diddley-bow can become a tad tiresome, which I note is more of a comment on the limitations of the instrument, as opposed to Cooper-Moore's playing, the inventive and simply mercurial nature of Seabrook's and Cleaver's playing offset this rather minor limitation. As a rhythmic and textural exploration, Exultations is demonstrably intrepid while remaining reticent and contemplative. There is no sense of brazen or brash disregard, which seems to plague much of experimental music. Exultations provides a cohesive exploration of difference and contrast.



Brandon Seabrook, with Cooper-Moore and Gerald Cleaver: Exultations
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