Outsound 2011, #2: The Freedom of Sound

The Outsound New Music Summit takes place July 17-23, 2011, at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp St., San Francisco.

The Freedom of Sound” (Thur. July 21) could also be called “Group Night.” The focus here is on established groups, combinations that have each played together for years and set the rules for the kind of improvising they want to do.

I’ve discussed Grosse Abfahrt before (see here); it’s Tom Djll’s group-improvisation group with a persistent core of five players and a different invited guest in each permutation. Ideally, that guest is someone who’s never played with any of the members before, but they appear to be making an exception, because the added guest is local oboist Kyle Bruckmann. Nothing wrong with that; Kyle is a good player who’ll easily fit in with the sound-based extended playing that Grosse Abfahrt tends to prefer. Every instantiation of the band has a slightly different aesthetic, by design, so who knows — this could consist of long, very quiet, studied improvisations, or it could be a galloping blowout. Or both.

Here’s an excerpt from an April 2009 unreleased session that Tom Djll gave me.  It’s a 10-person instance of G.A. You can hear their louder side and get a taste for the quieter aesthetic that I think is a hallmark of the band.

And here’s a sampling of the band’s quieter aesthetic, from later in that same improvisation. They savor the silence here, so you might want to use headphones — but resist the temptation to turn up the volume.

Positive Knowledge is a Bay Area jazz treasure that often feels like a secret too well guarded. Oluyemi Thomas is a burly, muscular presence on bass clarinet, saxophone, and related instruments, channeling the free end of the jazz tradition that draws strength from late-era Coltrane. Ijeoma Thomas adds sharp poetry and rattly percussion, adding the feel of a spiritual ritual.

Here’s a 1998 sampling of their work, from the album At the Center of the Threshold, with Michael Wimberly on drums and Wilber Morris on bass. The piece is called “Of Living Waters.”

I’ve always mentally pigeonholed Tri-Cornered Tent Show as “avant-rock.” They’re a spaced-out descendent of psychedelic blues, or a jam-band trio with dark impulses: electronics, fuzzy distorted vocals, and H.P. Lovecraft references. Bubbling electric bass and outer-space drumming lead the sound, with what I guess is autoharp and electronics sometimes filling the spot of a power trio’s electric guitar.

I have to confess, I’ve never really gotten into their music, which tends to hover in one place too long for my ears and sometimes goes a heavy on the reverb. (As with ketchup, I perfer reverb in small doses.)  Still, I can appreciate that the band tries to challenge themselves in open-ended improvising that tickles the King Crimson synapses.

Their latest, Alien Trailways, includes vocals and presumably improvised lyrics from Teri Pope, a San Diego singer. This creates some bluesy lines out of the bass/drums jam on the track, “3rd Eye Must Die.” More often, she adds a moaning, keening presence that adds to the overall sense of dark insanity, with words and sounds that progress slowly across the jam. Dina Emerson will be the vocalist joining Tri-Cornered Tent Show for Thursday’s performance, which should make for a great combination. She’s well versed in improvised performance and has a tremendous range of styles and sounds at her disposal. (I’d written about her “bees” project in April.)

Here’s an excerpt of “Twist the Sky,” a noisier track from Alien Trailways.

Previous Outsound 2011 posts:

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