Momentum 2 & 3 Reviewed on “Music and More” Blog


“Ken Vandermark was struggling to put together an American tour, with promoters and venue owners reluctant to host to mini festival of improvised music that he envisioned. Eventually, they found  studios in Nashville and Chicago that would host them, and this double disc set was born. The Nashville session, from April 2016 features Tim Daisy on drums, Christof Kurzmann on ppooll (an audio networking system), Jasper Stadhouders on electric bass, Vandermark himself on reeds, Nate Wooley on trumpet and C. Spencer Yeh on violin, voice, electronics. This is highly experimental stuff, opening with sampled human and electronic noises building an uneasy cohesion. As the short tracks of the suite “Momentum 2: Brüllt” build upon one another, drums move in, brushes, fluttering in and around, creating odd textures, and adding a weird percussive mixture of drums and samples. The full band jumps in, with very exciting horns and all leading to an excellent blowout of collective improvisation. Drawing on strings and a ripe, potent trumpet solo, the music is followed by guttural, free form saxophone and drums led section which is very compelling. Dropping back down to eerie and haunted tones in space and taking a nuanced approach, the music, swirls and squeals with electronics and industrial clanks developing a horror movie aesthetic. Bouncing back to bright horns and skittish percussion, the push and pull between accessibility and abstraction continues as the sound devolves into grinding a electric bleeping with static like a mis-tuned radio. Horns reemerge and fly about, reveling in their freedom, with scrapes of frantically bowed strings adding to the tension with bursts of sound join to create a complex rhythm. Horns develop a melodic riff with circular brush patterns adding heft, creating a very attractive and easy going section that is unexpected. As the suite continues to evolve, space opens for subtle percussion and electronic devices, creating an odd sound sensation akin to little birds fluttering about in the bushes outside an open window. Strings move within the overall sound, placed against the groaning electronic noises, which gradually fade to allow space for fragile clarinet to emerge. A hard to describe electro-acoustic improvisation emerges, concerned with texture and dynamics rather than form and rhythm. There is a long developing section anchored by feathering percussion framed by sounds that seem to emerge if their own accord as if willed into existence followed by strings that grow in volume, altered by the magnetic field of the surrounding electronics. Trumpet breaks free to emote in pursed and worrying tones, breaking into more peaceful sounds offset by the unusual backdrop, and weaving through the thicket with addition of strong tenor saxophone, bursting into a colorful free improvisation. The first suite closes as it began, with a mysterious transmission of alien signals, that skirt along the sides of comprehension. Two long improvised tracks make up the second suite “Momentum 3: Monster Roster” recorded in Chicago on August with Tim Barnes on drums and percussion, Nick Macri on acoustic bass, Lou Mallozzi on turntables, CDs, microphones and mixer, Vandermark on reeds and Mars Williams on saxophones and toys.  The music opens with a startling drum shot, with loping bass and powerful horns developing a strong flank. There’s a pinched sounding saxophone breaks free to solo over bass and drums, with electronic instruments framing the acoustics, and the tight bass and drums making all the difference as the saxophone that is stretching out nicely, playing with an angular sensibility. The music evolves into abstraction with sub-vocalized sounds, choppy clanks and swirls, then ominous quiet. Drums allow the music to keep some form of momentum through the strangeness, and Barnes plays with a master’s touch, as the electronic noises skulk about and low horn sounds rise from the ground. The final section adds light toned saxophone and swirls of sound and a light rhythm. Electronic cracking and snatched of spoken words, add a sense of general weirdness to the proceedings. This collection can be a bit exhausting, but it is admirably ambitious in the melding of free jazz and abstract electronic music. They may seem like strange bedfellows, but when everything clicks, the results are undeniably impressive.”
-Music and More, January 12, 2018