September 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm 4 comments

KihnouaUnauthorized Caprices (Not Two, 2010)

Performs Friday, Sept. 24, at the Community Music Center, San Francisco, along with the Marco Eneidi & Vinny Golia Quartet.

Vocals are a weak area for me, by which I mean, I sometimes have trouble getting into avant-garde vocalizing. The swoops and screeches and groans just don’t click with me sometimes; they’ve got an artificial feel next to the music.

Kihnoua is a trio where you can’t miss Dohee Lee on crazed vocals: babbling, wordless singing, the patter of spoken nonsense syllables. But with this group, the vocal sounds seem to mix well with the whole. That concept of voice-as-instrument works, as Lee does indeed treat her vocal chords as an instrument, often a backing one.

Lee knows when to get subtle and when to solo. And Larry Ochs‘ sax, sticking mostly to conventional playing, becomes a soothing, jazz-infused balm next to Lee’s raspier or pricklier playing.

On top of that, these are some nicely crafted pieces — probably improvisations guided by frameworks provided by Ochs.

For instance: The ending of the 19-minute “Nothing Stopped But a Future” is a glorious long tail, a group work that sustains its dark intensity as a climax, then tails off to make way for a Lee solo — it’s a terrific group effort, if it wasn’t all planned — and an all-out tumult as a finale.

I also like the gray-skied tumble of “Weightless,” which actually carries some of the more extreme vocalizing on the record — starting with whispery, raspy sounds and culminating in a mad babble delivered with froth against Amendola’s intense drums. That’s a well crafted passage — Lee eventually drops out, leaving the drums to continue the solo.

Ochs has convened different versions of Kihnoua over the years for one-off performances, always with a guest instrument added to the usual trio (Ochs on sax, Lee, and Scott Amendola on drums). Cellists Joan Jenrenaud and Okkyung Lee were there for the two performances I’ve seen, one of which was played under rather adverse conditions — I wrote it up back in 2008.

On this record, Kihnoua becomes even more of a party. The trio is joined by Liz Allbee on trumpet most of the time — man, I wish I’d seen her perform with the punk-instrumental Mute Socialite — and adds Jeanrenaud, Fred Frith, and Carla Kihlstedt for the aforementioned “Nothing Stopped.”

Entry filed under: CD/music reviews. Tags: , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Beautiful Mind  |  September 18, 2010 at 4:07 am

    I was able to find a few (hopefully authorized) pieces of theirs on You Tube.

  • 2. Craig M.  |  September 18, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Indeed there are! Thanks for pointing that out – I should embed at least one of them. (In fact, I may have done that by the time you read this.)

    I’d bet the videos are authorized. The longer ones were recorded at 21 Grand, it looks like, and it’s not really possible to surreptitiously video someone there.

  • 3. markweiss86  |  October 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I saw this act at DeYoung about a year ago and thought they were pretty cool. I have seen some of them in their other groups.

  • 4. decker  |  October 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Don’t miss Liz Allbee’s solo albums. Samples are on the label site…

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