A guitarist who acts as a textural architect cutting across jazz fusion, electronica, world music, ambient and minimalism with a heavily experimental/improv bent is how you might describe Barry Cleveland. It also characterizes Richard Pinhas. The two recently joined forces for the Cuneiform Records release Mu, essentially Cleveland’s trio (with electric bassist Michael Manring and drummer Celso Alberti) augmented by Pinhas.
It’s a collision of two worlds, albeit similar worlds. And yet, anyone who’s familiar with Pinhas’ body of work will instantly recognize his contributions here. Perhaps the big takeaway in this melding and molding of new age, world fusion, art-rock and improvisational music is how adaptable Richard Pinhas’ on-the-fly “Metatronic” live-looping and effects technique to any demanding setting involving world-class fellow musicians.
Four tracks were formed out of sessions where the material was largely created on the spot, and Cleveland applied post-production pixie dust where needed to make it flow right and seem perfectly coherent. He also contributed a dizzying array of instruments, including an assortment of guitars, guitar synths, woodwind synth, sitar, zither, kalimba, gong and percussion.
Cleveland’s precisely programmed percussion formed from samples lays the foundation for both his and Pinhas’ sound sculpturing on “Forgotten Man,” both finding their own place in the resulting montage that could have easily sounded too weighted down as a result pairing two guys known for piling on effects. But it doesn’t.
The price of this CD is worth it for “I Wish I Can Talk In Technicolor” alone. Consuming more than half of the album’s total running time, it’s an astonishing showcase for Manring, a bassist who’s already had plenty of those. His bass guitar in effect acts as the lead voice that centers the ever-evolving sonic squall while Pinhas and Cleveland swirl all around him. Turning the focus from Manring to Pinhas reveals the latter’s nimbleness when the cadence shifts, adding layers of electronic murmurs as Cleveland pulls out nearly every weapon in his arsenal to complete this lush, attenuated and unpredictable soundscape.
“Zen/Unzen” and “Parting Waves” offer up more ideas in this vein, the former almost a straight continuation of “Technicolor” and the latter wraps it all up with a pensive coda featuring Manring’s meditative EBow bass.
Using effects and looping as devastatingly effective conduits for improvisation have long been the stock in trade for both Barry Cleveland and Richard Pinhas. Putting these two together in the same room to do their thing at the same time amounts to more than the sum of two big parts. With more than ample help from Michael Manring and Celso Alberti, Mu is a major entry in the catalog for any of these accomplished veterans.
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