After publishing two albums in four years (1997 to 2001) for Werner Uehlinger's hatART and hatOLOGY imprints, Matthew Shipp's String Trio let eighteen years go by before releasing a new one. The acoustic entanglement of Shipp (piano), Mat Maneri (viola) and William Parker (double bass) strikes from the very beginning, for these insightful artists always have a lot to say. Yet, "saying a lot" might cause interpretation problems to audiences not inclined to simultaneous fluxes of consciousness with chamber free jazz scents.
In his liner notes, the late Steve Dalachinsky tried hard to enlighten us about the trio's interactivity within and beyond the existential issues. However, attempting to chew inventive prose poetry while assessing the instrumental course of action is highly unrecommended. Rather, this is a record that should be "lived", literally. And so did this reviewer: the first spin occurred prior to dawn, then I continued to absorb the often intricate interplay through an entire day in which Symbolic Reality was the exclusive "active soundtrack". I even tested it during a long drive, playing it loud; Maneri's microtonal phrasing highlighted the flocks of birds taking off from the countryside quite wonderfully, whereas certain tight dialogues between Shipp and Parker — especially the most vehement ones, the woofers shaken by the mass of low frequencies — were an excellent intellectual antidote against traffic-derived frustration.
The best outcome is obviously achieved by letting the performers' souls and brains ring resplendently by enjoying the CD in a domestic habitat, with the necessary focus. Tones and chords diffused across the room in a silent afternoon reminded of a vivacious conversation founded on strong individual principles. And yet, at times Shipp, Maneri and Parker seem to operate on a parallel plane with respect to physical existence. Perhaps this is what the title refers to, albeit remotely? We don't want to know. The sounds contain the information; their intersections, including the inevitable clashes, are transported by our own aliveness like branches carried by a river's current. They may remain stuck in a bank and stay there for a while, all piled up in apparent chaos. But in the end the river wins, and resumes pushing them towards the sea. Our heart opens, the music having finally become a part of us. Without further explanation.
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