Whenever I listen to any music by New Atlantis Records, it feels like the spirit of the original ESP-Disk Records departed New York, went west and made a new home at New Atlantis’ Yellow Springs, OH offices. Launched a year ago with its first batch of releases out on September 11 of last year, the label is marking their first anniversary with another batch of releases on September 11. Below are quick takes on four new ones, in CD, mp3, cassette, or some combination of these forms. Each of these albums have their own distinctive personality within the realm of experimental music, but all fit in well with the jazz fringe character of this fledging label:
Joy Mega – Forever Is Something Inside You: Any band that incLudes Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone, Chad Taylor, Matt Bauder and Jason Ajemian has my full attention. And just as what you’d expect from a collection of musicians who’ve made their mark on the outside in music, Joy Mega is outsider music. It’s raucous, improvision-laden and moves unpredictably.
Leader Ajemian also sings, but no one would rave about his singing ability; he wouldn’t make it past the first round on American Idol and it’s heavily reverbed, processed and billowing “Crimson And Clover” style. The collective sound of the band is lo-fi and sometimes it’s hard to pick out individual performances. And right in the middle in the whack jazzery they break out into simple indie-folk melodies.
I love it. They gleefully subjugate styles in coming up with one all their own. That’s the “joy” of Joy Mega.
William Hooker Strings 3 – A Postcard From The Road: Hooker is a stalwart in the NYC Downtown scene, having arrived there back in ’74. Since then, this drummer has worked with everyone from David Murray to Billy Bang to Thurston Moore. A Postcard From The Road is from a Toronto date while on tour with D.C./Ohio guitar heavyweight Edward Ricart and New York City’s Dave Ross. Taped by a member of the audience, the balance amongst the three (Canadian tenor saxophonists sits in for a couple of tracks, including a drums/sax duet) is remarkably good. And yet, the vocal exclamations — presumably from Hooker — can be picked up as well, proof of the jubilance that went into this set of performances.
The unmistakable presence fo Ricart and the absence of a bass makes the date suggest Ricart’s band Matta Gawa at times, but Ross sometimes acts as a counterweight to Ricart’s daring flights of fancy, and Hooker likes to have more quiet moments to break up the violent ones. Most notable moments are Ross’s solo that begins “Sweep The Wind” and Ricart’s out-blues free expressions during “Tantri.” Hooker is, of course, improvising right alongside them.
Raw, powerful and often unhinged, Postcard is a live date that deserved to a rescued from bootleg status.
SCUO – 5678765: Here’s another guitar/drums combo, only this time, there’s only one guitar. Scott Clark (drums) and Scott Burton (guitar) make up this Richmond, Virginia experimental, instrumental rock band. Sometimes math-y, sometimes free from, sometimes a savvy mixture of both (“Toes”), SCUO emits a full sonic blast for just two instruments; it never sounds like anything’s missing.
Perhaps the reason for this is niether really solos, they are both piloting through impossibly tricky lines together. In what might be a first for this kind of music, there’s a track (“Armsth”) that’s a remix of another track (“Arms”). Not really rock, not really jazz, SCUO simply takes elements of both to create a quirky, intriguing stew.
Psychotic Quartet – Cordyceps: The all-acoustic group of this batch, consisting of trombonist Dan Blacksberg, violinist Katt Hernandez, bassist Evan Lipson and percussionist Michael Evans. The juxtaposition of a trombone and violin makes for an interesting group tonality, made even more so by Hernandez’s predilection for microtones. That’s what makes this a little different than what a meeting between Billy Bang and Roswell Rudd might sound like. Nonetheless, the extemporaneous interactions amongst them and the foursome as a whole forms the music heard here, the music acting like an organism that reveals its intentions over time, through several listens.
Here’s a look back at our past thoughts on some of the initial New Atlantis releases from last year. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
Hyrrokkin – Astrionics (EP): A synthesis of the Dayton, OH prog-punk band Kuan (Paul Larkowski, guitar/bass; Brett Nagafuchi, drums) and Matta Gawa’s guitarist Edward Ricart, Hyrrokkin seems to split the difference between the two, a sort of raw, punk-ish rock-jazz that often shares the same strains and sonic aggression as the early version of Tony Williams’ Lifetime.
Nick Millevoi – Black Figure Of A Bird: Clocking in at less than 26 minutes, Black Figure Of A Bird comprises more of a short story than a novel. Nonetheless, it’s s fascinating look into the music of Nick Millevoi at its naked core.
Matta Gawa – Tambora: Tambora is just as fertile as the debut album with imaginative ideas, penetrating energy and carefree attitude. In that alternate universe where indie rock is fringe music and post-hardcore improvised rock is mainstream, Matta Gawa is The Black Keys.