The Squid's Ear Magazine


Spectral (Dave Rempis / Darren Johnston / Larry Ochs): Empty Castles (Aerophonic)

Spectral, since 2012 the working horn trio of Dave Rempis on alto & baritone sax, Darren Johnston on trumpet, and Larry Ochs on sopranino & tenor sax, split their time between San Francisco and Chicago, in their 3rd album of spontaneous, complex free improv, here using the setting of Bunker A-168 in Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve, CA, to influence their performance.
 

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Personnel:



Dave Rempis-alto saxophone, baritone saxophone

Darren Johnston-trumpet

Larry Ochs-sopranino saxophone, tenor saxophone


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UPC: 902249000917

Label: Aerophonic
Catalog ID: AR016
Squidco Product Code: 25568

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2018
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve in Bunker A-168, in Vallejo, California, on June 14th, 2017, by Philip Perkins

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Empty Castles is the third document of Spectral, a working horn trio split between the cities of San Francisco and Chicago that's been active since 2012. As with their previous two releases, 2014's self-titled debut, and 2016's digital-only Neutral Nation, this new recording showcases a free improvising band that fully embraces the term "instant composition." While their performances are known for thoughtful pacing and development, methodically spinning off complex structures from scratch with an unparalleled sense of architecture, the context for this new recording pushes that approach to a new extreme. In this case, setting becomes character, like the spaceship in Alien, or the frozen landscape in Fargo, adding a new dimension to the band's compositional process.

Bunker A-168 is a 12,000-square foot concrete shell, perched slightly back from the water at the tip of the long peninsula known as Mare Island in Vallejo, CA, at the far northeast corner of San Francisco Bay. This long deserted mammoth, originally a munitions bunker in a former naval station dating back to WWII, is protected behind gates, set back from the road, and unseen through the overgrown grass that surrounds it. Hand-painted numbers in thick black paint on the heavy concrete walls designate each of the roughly fifty stalls originally intended for armaments, with the assistance of subtly zig-zagging lines in those same heavy but efficient brush strokes that carve the space up further. They hang on the wall like calligraphic text on a Chinese parchment, providing definition to the sprawling and vacant background. The atmosphere created by these visual remnants combines with the highly charged acoustics of the space to add undeniable gravitas and austerity to these proceedings, such that every note hangs in the air as its own object, a tangible apparition to be thoroughly considered. These three improvisers use the setting to great effect, forced to further distill their sonic decision-making into territory in which every highly exposed gesture contains the gravity of a closing move in a well-matched game of chess. There was nowhere to hide during this recording session, every note staring back at its creators with fearless eyes. And the resulting musical tension is palpable, as the band tosses ideas up into the air between them, and sets them spinning off into the ether, each one on their own unique path."-Aerophonic


Artist Biographies

"Dave Rempis was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts on March 24th, 1975. He began his musical studies at the age of 8, inspired by a family friend who played clarinet in local Greek bands, and by Zoot, of the Muppets Band, to pick up saxophone. During high school he performed in his town, district, and all-state bands and wind ensembles, as well as in a jazz combo at a local music school.

In 1993, Rempis began a degree in classical saxophone at Northwestern University with Frederick Hemke. Finding this environment stifling, Rempis quickly ditched the music degree to pursue studies in anthropology and ethnomusicology. As part of these studies, he spent a year at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the University of Ghana, Legon, studying African music and ethnomusicology. He also continued to perform with many different types of groups, ranging from highlife and reggae bands while in Ghana, to jazz, free jazz, funk, and contemporary music ensembles at home. He graduated from Northwestern in 1997.

Upon graduating, Rempis decided to focus on performing, and in March of 1998 at the age of 22 was asked to replace veteran saxophonist Mars Williams in the well-known Chicago jazz outfit The Vandermark Five. This opportunity catapulted him to notoriety as he began to tour regularly throughout the US and Europe playing clubs, concert halls, and festivals on both continents.

During his tenure with The Vandermark Five, Rempis also began to develop the many Chicago-based groups and international collaborations for which he's currently known, including The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Engines, Ballister, Rempis/Abrams/Ra, Wheelhouse, The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, and The Rempis/Daisy Duo. Many of these groups have been documented on the Okkadisk, 482 Music, Not Two, Clean Feed, Solitaire, and Utech record labels. Past collaborations have included performances with Paul Lytton, Axel Dörner, Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake, Steve Swell, John Tchicai, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Kevin Drumm, Paal Nilssen-Love, Nels Cline, Tony Buck, and Joe McPhee. Rempis has been named regularly since 2006 in the annual Downbeat Critics's Poll as a "rising star" on alto saxophone, and as a "rising star" and "established talent" on baritone saxophone.

Aside from performing, Rempis is also active as a presenter. Since 2002, he's curated a weekly Thursday-night concert series for the Elastic Arts Foundation. The series has featured over 500 concerts by some of the best improvisers from around the world, while maintaining a focus on up-and-coming local musicians. In late 2005, Rempis helped form the presenters' collective Umbrella Music, working with a small group of musicians and presenters in Chicago to provide better playing opportunities for creative and improvising musicians. As part of this group, he organized the annual Umbrella Music Festival from 2006-2014.

Rempis is also one of the main organizers of the indie-rock Pitchfork Music Festival, a 60,000-person event which takes place in Chicago's Union Park every July."

-Dave Rempis Website (http://daverempis.com/bio/)
2/26/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Since settling in San Francisco in 1997, Canada-born trumpeter/improviser/composer/songwriter Darren Johnston has collaborated and recorded with an extremely diverse cross-section of artists. His interests rotate around composing instrumental music, writing songs, and performing all styles of jazz, experimental and purely improvised music, as well as traditional music of the Balkans, Greece, and Macedonia.

He has performed and/or recorded with luminaries such as ROVA Sax Quartet, Fred Frith, Myra Melford, Ben Goldberg, Matt Wilson, Mark Dresser, Marshall Allen, and many others.

As a composer, he has written for jazz and/or non-idiomatic improvising groups, big bands, string quartet, and even a multi-generational choir, with songs based on a collection of immigrant letters. He has written for dance companies such as Amy SeiwertÕs Imagery, Deborah Slater, Axis Dance, Robert MosesÕ Kin, Liss Fain, and others, as well as for dance films."

-Darren Johnston Website (http://darrenjohnstonmusic.com/)
2/26/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Larry Ochs (b. May 3, 1949, New York City) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Ochs studied trumpet briefly but concentrated on tenor and sopranino saxophones. He worked as a record producer and founded his own label, Metalanguage Records, in 1978, in addition to operating the Twelve Stars studio in California. He co-founded the Rova Saxophone Quartet, and also worked in Glenn Spearman's Double Trio. A frequent recipient of commissions, he composed the music for the play Goya's L.A. by Leslie Scalapino in 1994 and for Letters Not About Love, which was named best documentary film at SXSW in 1998. He has also played in a new music trio called Room and the What We Live ensemble. He has recorded several albums as a leader. He formed the group Kihnoua in 2007 with vocalist Dohee Lee and Scott Amendola on drums and electronics, which released Unauthorized Caprices in 2010. He is married to the poet Lyn Hejinian."

-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Ochs_(musician))
2/26/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



1. Dirt Angels 08:57

2. This Is Not Vermont 04:22

3. Luminal 05:08

4. Brooklyn Took It 05:28

5. Splash Zone 06:37

6. Protest Portal 08:49

7. Little Hymn 02:46

8. Bunker 05:08

9. Gravity Corridor 04:28

Related Categories of Interest:


Improvised Music
Jazz
Free Improvisation
Trio Recordings
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
West Coast/Pacific US Jazz
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
Last Copy of Items that will not be restocked...

Search for other titles on the label:
Aerophonic.


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