The Squid's Ear Magazine

While We Still Have Bodies (Gerstein / Ali / Foster / van Hemmen): While We Still Have Bodies (Neither/Nor Records)

Using lo-fi electronics and found objects alongside their acoustic instruments, the NY quartet of Ben Gerstein (trombone), Sean Ali (double bass), Michael Foster (saxophones) and Flin van Hemmen (percussion) freely improvise with textural, rhythmic and timbral interactions, captured live at New Museum accompanying an exhibition by video artist Cheng Ran.

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product information:

UPC: 700261461014

Label: Neither/Nor Records
Catalog ID: n/n 009
Squidco Product Code: 26141

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2017
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at the New Museum artist-in-residence studios, in New York City, New York, on September 11th, 2016, by Nathaniel Morgan.


Ben Gerstein-trombone, radio, cell phone

Sean Ali-double bass, cassette player

Michael Foster-tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, cassette player

Flin van Hemmen-percussion, mp3 player

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"After several years of performing regularly in New York City, While We Still Have Bodies present their eponymous debut album. The single extended improvisation presented here is imbued with an arcane ritualistic quality and ranges from trance-inducing slow builds to noisy tape collage, from environmental soundscapes to a raw and abstracted take on free jazz. The four musicians utilize a variety of lo-fi electronics and found objects along with their acoustic instruments, creating vibrant textural contrasts and mysterious timbral affinities."-Neither/Nor Records

"How one can create music of madness? Or music that will follow the process of a man who turns mad, in a far away, foreign culture and in a different era?"

The New York-based experimental quartet While We Still Have Bodies - trombonist Ben Gerstein, double bass player Sean Ali, sax player Michael Foster, and percussionist Flin van Hemmen, planned to record their debut album on the summer of 2017, but then was contacted by Chinese media-artist Cheng Ran. Ran asked the quartet to record music for his multi-video installation exhibition "Diary of a Madman" at the New Museum in New York. This exhibition borrowed its title from what is widely considered China's first modern short story, written by Lu Xun in 1918. Just as Lu Xun's story, the Ran's exhibition comprised first-person narratives of a character at the margins of society who gradually turns mad.

Ran's offer turned out to be an inspiring one. While We Still Have Bodies has operated since its foundation in 2014 as a sonic lab that explores intuitive, sometimes unintelligible textures that challenged the musicians methods, routines, and perceptions. The quartet focused on experimenting with sounds that transcended the individual musical personalities, blending and contrasting sonic textures, long and immersive musical forms, and an integration of pre-recorded media (cassettes, radio, mp3 players, cellular phone) into acoustic textures.

The music for Ran's exhibition was spatialized over twelve speakers that were spread throughout the gallery, providing an ambient soundtrack to the several separate but interconnected story-lines of Ran's video-films. On the recording, each instrument has a left and right channel, thereby creating spaciousness and intensifying the overall feeling of losing your way and total confusion.

While We Still Have Bodies prepared a single, extended improvisation, imbued with an enigmatic, ritualistic motives. The musicians act, all over the place, more often than play - in any conventional sense of playing, re-contextualizing their instruments and their timbral affinities, and their role as improvisers in the theme of the exhibition, as can be seen in the attached video. The arresting, yet very demanding outcome is a nuanced but totally spontaneous process of constructing and deconstruction of sounds. A non-judgemental process of integrating sounds into a bigger, deeper whole. All sounds - sparse, fractured, cryptic and more intelligible ones, noisy, acoustic, of low-fi electronics and of found objects.

And these sounds have an arcane quality and even almost hallucinogenic power. These sounds shatter inhibitions, open doors to new ways of listening, force you to relate to these almost tangible reality and invite you to embrace the unknown. The mysterious, vibrant trances shift organically into rattling, heavy resonating sounds, to tortured collages made of noisy tapes,to atmospheric soundscape and even raw and intense outbursts of muscular free jazz. While We Still Have Bodies does not attempt to gravitate this sonic experience into a clear narrative, structure or rhythmic patterns, but this open, all-inclusive attitude does not interfere with the quartet collective and highly impressive senses of interplay and invention.

Warmly recommended."-Eyal Hareuveni

Get additional information at The Free Jazz Collective

Artist Biographies

"Ben Gerstein is a trombonist and artist from Santa Barbara, California. Based in New York City since 1995, he collaborates with groups and individuals around the world. His music and works explore influences of nature, composition, culture and art through improvisation, performance, multi-instrumental and mixed-media practices."

See also:

-Pi Recordings (

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

"Bassist, composer, and improviser Sean Ali from Dayton, Ohio has been living in New York City since 2003, where he participates in the city's vibrant experimental music scene both as a performer and curator. His current projects include: Fester, Hag, LathanFlinAli, Mattrey.Bordreuil.Ali, Natura Morta, PascAli, Phantom Circuit, While We Still Have Bodies, and solo performances. He is co-founder and member of the new music label Prom Night Records. He is co-founder and former curator at 65Fen Music Series. Sean Ali performs regularly in New York City and has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe."

-Sean Ali Website (

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

"Michael Foster is a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist working in the fields of free improvisation, noise, free jazz, graphic & video notation, performance art, and other forms of weird music.

Foster utilizes extensive preparations of his saxophone, augmenting it with amplification, objects, balloons, drum heads, vibrators, tapes, and samples as a method of subverting and queering the instrumentÕs history and traditional roles.

His current ensembles include duos with cellist Leila Bordreuil, percussionist Ben Bennett, poet/vocalist Lydia Lunch, vocalist Anais Maviel, Richard Kamerman, The Ghost (with Henry Fraser & Connor Baker), Barker Trio (with Tim Dahl, James Ilgenfritz, & Andrew Barker), While We Still Have Bodies (with Sean Ali, Ben Gerstein, & Flin van Hemmen), Weasel Walter Large Ensemble, and BDM (with Ben Bennett and David Grollman).

Selected notable venues he's performed at include Bowling Green State University (Ohio), The Stone (NYC), BimHuis (NL), Jazzfestival Groningen (NL), Fabrica Bra¨o de Prata (PT), Death By Audio (NYC), Studio Loos (NL), Betalevel (Los Angeles), Webster Hall (NYC), XI20 (LT), Jazzclub Erfurt (DE), and many more."

-Michael Foster Website 5/31/2023

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

"Flin van Hemmen is widely regarded as a versatile drummer and composer with a keen ear and a commanding presence. Flin has reached beyond the modern jazz audience, inspiring listeners of all backgrounds by exploring the drums as a melodic instrument as much as a dynamic force. Since moving to NY in 2009 he has become an important presence in the 'downtown' jazz and improv scene, playing with such people as Tony malaby and Kris Davis, as well as being a part of the 'Promnight Records' scene. Flin has recently toured with Tony Malaby's Paloma Recio (w/ Drew Gress and Ben Monder) in Europe, Eivind Opsvik's Overseas (w/ Jacob Sacks, Brandon Seabrook, Tony Malaby), Harmen Fraanje's trio in Vietnam, Robin Verheyen's quartet in Switzerland, and Bram deLooze's 'Septych'.

Born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, Flin played guitar before switching to drums and then moved to Amsterdam at age 18. There he forged many strong musical and personal relationships most notably with fellow young musicians Harmen Fraanje, Robin Verheyen, and Clemens van der Feen with whom he formed Narcissus. This band has released two records for 'de WERF' and continues to be an active presence in Europe. Today Flin remains active on both sides of the Atlantic, honing his skills as an improvisor and taking a serious interest into composing. Currently he is launching his debut CD 'Drums of Days' consisting of Eivind Opsvik and Todd Neufeld, in which he plays piano as well as drums. Here his body of compositions comes to life. Other projects co-lead projects include: LathanFlinAli (w/ Lathan Hardy and Sean Ali), Costa/vanHemmen duo, Narcissus, While We Still Have Bodies, Gestures (w/Eliot Cardinaux), and plays solo concerts. Flin has performed/recorded with: Todd Neufeld, Frantz Loriot, Mat Maneri, Thomas Morgan, Ben Gerstein, Michael Moore, Joe Moffett, Sean Ali, Harmen Fraanje, Kris Davis, Tony Malaby, Pascal Niggenkemper, JP Schlegelmilch, Eivind Opsvik, Lathan Hardy, Kenny Warren, Ralph Alessi, Robin Verheyen, Daniel Levin, Brandon Seabrook, Franz von Chossy, Carlo Costa, Yoni Kretzmer, Jesse Stacken, Patrick Breiner, Eliot Cardinaux, Roberto Pianca, Jacob Sacks and many others.

-Flin van Hemmen Website (

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

Track Listing:

1. 1:06:25

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Electro-Acoustic Improv
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Quartet Recordings

Search for other titles on the label:
Neither/Nor Records.

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