Montreal improvisers Joshua Zubot on violin, Isaiah Ceccarella on drums, and Nicolas Caloia on double bass, with European improviser Tristan Honsinger (ICP) on cello and voice, in a diverse and informed album of free improvisation pushing strings to their limits.
In The Sea (Caloia / Zubot / Ceccarella / Honsinger)
Henry Crabapple Disappear [CASSETTE with download code]
Label: Astral Spirits
Released in: USA
"Although this qualifies as a free jazz recording, its very elegant and purposeful. The recording has a dichotomy similar to the art of pugilism: It floats with grace and style, but with that comes force and brutality. At times there is a sense of urgency and anxiety. And conversely, there are moments where the instruments sound woozy and the mood is sullen. Throughout, gravely vocals hock, spit, grumble, shush, articulate and sputter inane jibberish. It's a wild wild ride."-guidemelittletape.com
"It begins as a Magic Band outtake. The song is 'Perpendicular', and Tristan Honsinger does his best Captain, beginning the track with the lyric Goat (or God?) on a mountain / River through the trees ... Moments later, he repeats the band's name twice before delivering a staccato Not.To.Be.Per.pen.dic.ular, as Joshua Zubot introduces as many erratic patterns on violin as Isaiah Ceccarelli does on the kit. The vocals appear to be completely improvised; and they are - to borrow from Honsinger: feverish - erish - erish - erish ... Occasionally they offer finite images; often, they're polysyllabic gibberish. Textures of jazz. And important ones. When Honsinger finally reaches for his bow, his arco draws Zubot into intersecting lines, compelling counterpoint. The song ends with a nice imitation by Honsinger's bow of his voice to start the piece. Indeed, it's a song of right angles; it stands. And true to its title, even the supposed parallels are undercut by harmonic and theoretical dissonance. For all its improvised madness and vocal deliveries stinking of Beefheart, this isn't an abstraction of the blues but of classical music. Consider this then the overture.
I'm going to ruin this for you. Because I just want to talk about it. The next song - or the beginning to the whole mad riddle following the aforementioned overture - is called 'Chicken and Peas'. Here's the thing: this song is four minutes and fifty-one seconds long. And for about 4:20 it's a tasty collection of limber motifs. Any one, every one almost, primed to pop off the staff to start a song of its own. But with seconds left in the track, Honsinger takes a few exaggerated breaths, and finally speaks. It's a grunt turned snarl, followed by a measure of fevered vocal nonsense. And then a few-seconds long arco/drum sprint concluding with a single burly drag by Nicolas Caloia across the double bass.
The song's explicit relation to food is apt.
Every motif a musical ingredient. To build a fine meal with several components and as many different techniques over the course of hours, to watch it be consumed in a matter of minutes. 'Chicken and Peas' takes a four-hour dinner - from slaughter to service - and tells its story in four minutes.
And then, Pot.
Back into the kitchen? Or the restroom? A pot in which to send the waste of food just consumed? To this point, In the Sea has demonstrated fairly well its anger and intelligence and righteous chops. On 'Pot', they reveal their elegance. There are moments on 'Pot' where you begin to suspect that this could be a five-star album. They can go here, you say. And to leave the track here: in third position, not even midway through the album. They may want a chase or they may want a fight, but for the listener, they set a bar.
'Time Lost' follows. On the heels of a song called 'Pot', it could take on a more psychedelic connotation. But in truth, the song has much more of a youth-is-wasted-on-the-young feel. In mapping life, the track seems especially biologically accurate concerning pace. It slogs in, leaving the listener with a wonder that quickly turns to thirst for growth. However, when the song's fever pitch back-half concludes, you're left wondering where all the "years" went. Its arco assault ends the album's first half and you almost don't know quite how it got there, how it got so charged. In the Sea pull this trick off throughout the album: building, perhaps without plans, but with such structure and attention to detail that it's clearly the work of a collective machinist; the magic: that its bolts never show.
'Rattlesnake Den' begins the second half, and Honsinger has much to say in this one. The thing that is both unfortunate and thrilling at once: it's not in any known language. What follows is some deeply complex playing with enough dissonance that I can safely say they weren't aiming at all for casual listening converts. 'Rattlesnake Den' is for the connoisseur. The playing and precision here is absolutely without weakness. The middle section, the one that just builds and builds and builds - as I mentioned with Time Lost - contains movements that are so slight that it hits like a hammer before you ever realize it had risen above a sting. These are some of the thrills this album provides, those moments of revisiting movements to answer questions like How'd they do that? How'd they get there? Before long, Ceccarelli deconstructs the rhythm and it turns into something almost monastic. Then, Honsinger bites. The band reinterprets his voice to close. Zubot rises in this one - literally and figuratively. Caloia's consistent punishing: the heartbeat beneath the floorboards.
335 BLW follows Rattlesnake Den, and it's a merry chase.
If 335 BLW is coffee, Back Stab is the cigarette.There is a scene. And the stabbing is relentless.
Is there a more perfect song title to end this album? I think perhaps not; nor a more perfect lament.
So who is the Henry Crabapple of our story? In the Sea gets everything right, dispelling immediately with the linear oceanic adventure their name suggests by placing us on a mountaintop in the opening bars of the first track. Is he then another bit of Honsinger's gibberish, a statement of percussive syllables more about becoming aural than literal? Likely. By the end of Breadcrumbs, it does sound as if he's slipped beneath the waves. A ship then? (Did In the Sea dispel with the notion of water after all?) Or maybe he's already gone and disappeared, and the entire thing is one massive eulogy. Is the band's name a nod to another body of "water" perhaps? A "pool"? The ICP? Could be.
None of this speculation matters at all of course, but that's the thrill of the album and of listening to music in general. And yes, this cassette is packaged in the standard Astral Spirits format: band, title, edition number and small graphic on the cover. In the past, I admit, I haven't paid much attention to the covers beyond thinking that AS releases were handsome in their near-uniformity and refined understatement. But HDC's graphic not only looks very much like a hurricane, it is a spiral that speaks to the cyclical nature of the album as a whole. Listen to the final blurts of Honsinger and especially the final "false bottom" notes in Breadcrumbs. These notes drop away in a very unusual pattern and location. They can seem like an unfinished idea. But the remaining fifteen seconds of silence leaves little doubt. To make sense of it all you must tie these notes to Perpendicular and begin the whole thing again. And again. And again. And that, to me, is the very definition of a five-star album."-Joel Barela, Free Jazz Glog
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Label: Astral Spirits
Catalog ID: AS021
Squidco Product Code: 20895
Recorded at Hotel2tango in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on March 28th, 2013 by Thierry Amar.
Nicolas Caloia-double bass
Tristan Honsinger-cello, voice
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1. Perpendicular 4:22
2. Chickens and Peas 4:52
3. Pot 11:34
4. Time Lost 5:07
5. Rattle Snake Den 9:41
6. 335 BLW 4:10
7. Back Stab 3:53
8. Breadcrumbs 8:14