What a whirlwind Damon Smith's label has released! Even the group name connotes the grit, multifarious sludge but also the inclusive music tenor saxophonist Jeff Chan, guitarist Da Wei Wang and percussionist Jerome Bryerton unleash as they pound, scrape, and finesse each tone and timbre.
I use the term percussionist quite deliberately, and Bryerton's approach is never conventionally drummer-ly. If you want a point of reference, consider a marriage of Albert Ayler's furthest orbits with Last Exit. That really doesn't even do the sounds justice as evidenced by the disc's roiling closer, "Descent into the Maelstrom", named after the Edgar Allan Poe story. Yes, it's loud, as is much of the music here, but what begins to stand out, especially after lengthy immersion, is a kind of delicacy, even a hypnotic gentility. In the Poe story, a certain relativity is reached as objects of varying sizes and descriptions gain equilibrium in the torrent. A First-rate recording ensures that something similar happens here. How exquisite and piquant the percussion is against the guitar drone and gently undulating saxophone, that is until the very end. The fact that much of the album inhabits similar territory, despite what we'll call dynamic impact, gives the music an added layer of beauty, almost gentle extensions of tone and rhythm gliding forward atop layers of droning staticity. "Cracks in the Concrete" grooves and shakes in tandem with the disc's overall vision, especially as Chan's often beautiful scalar descents and broken arpeggios stack up against that crystalline metal and all-encompassing drone-wave.
More needs to be said about the guitaristry of Da Wei Wang. As I listened, I kept thinking of Keith Rowe. Very infrequently do we hear anything conventionally plucked or even tonal. Wang's playing is both vibrant and decidedly unstruck, as Tibetan Buddhists might articulate it. Sounds emerge and slide or sizzle forward, but standard articulation is not what Wang is after. This makes a wonderful contrast to everything else as sounds from percussion and saxophone, far from standard in their own rights, bubble to the surface only to disappear, the sounds of the street pitted pell-mell against that concrete backdrop of Wang's own construction. If you take the disc on its own terms at low volume, various types of melodic and harmonic interplay will tickle the ear. Turn it up, and the vibe changes dramatically. Take your choice!
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