That Old-Timey Moog Sound

Andy Haas/David MorenoHaas/Moreno (Studio Stereomo, 2013)

haas-morenoThere’s something comforting about the analog synth and Moog beats that fortify Haas/Moreno. That might be the nostalgia talking. It’s hard to hear those synths and not think of ’70s UFO documentaries.

But Haas/Moreno doesn’t feel like a throwback. It’s informed by the dance music of the ’00s, full of squelchy, understated beats that might soothe but aren’t going for the spacey relaxation of ’70s “space music” (the less saccharine precursor to new age, and the electronic foil to Windham Hill). He also adds quite a few world-music influences to the beats, elements that I don’t remember being that common in the early days of electronic music.

David Moreno is responsible for those sounds, and he’s complemented by Andy Haas’ saxophone. Haas has become a specialist in that genre of Whatever-I-Feel-Like-Playing, often coming up with excitingly abrasive improvisations, but here, he’s offering melodic soloing that’s sometimes even comforting, augmented by reverb and other, more sophisticated electronics effects, to create an extra layer of atmosphere.

You get the full effect right away with “Sequence Green,” the upbeat opener that’s equal parts Kraftwerk doodling, planetarium effects, and jazz sax. “Amplifier Red,” soon after, presents an exotic beat overlaid with Middle Eastern-tinged sax.

On the less relaxing side,  there’s the curtain of droning horns on “Oscillator Magenta,” a backing laid down by Haas as Moreno plays the soloist, dealing those thick Moog notes.

Most of Side A is upbeat, with tracks that fly by. Maybe it’s greedy of me to wish the songs were longer; as pleasing as they are, they might wear out if they went eight or 10 minutes. A couple of middle tracks slow things down considerably, including the second half of “Generator Yellow,” which is about sleepy atmosphere and Haas’ placid sax lullabies. Things perk up later on “Multiplier Grey,” where a rocking little beat offers some space for Haas to have ragged fun on the sax.

The LP is printed in a limited edition of 100. Downtown Music Gallery had at least one, at this writing.

David Moreno, by the way, is a visual artist and (like Haas) works at New York’s MoMA for his day job. MoMA recently published an enlightening interview about his work.

From the Lab of Andy Haas

Andy HaasParadise of Ashes (Resonant, 2010)

Paradise of Ashes pits Andy Haas’ sax against prepared backgrounds of drum machines and strange synthesized rhythms, crunchy and thick. It verges on a late-night tiki bar feel, with the warm loneliness of the sax and the primitive percussive sounds in the background — but there’s something darker afoot.

You could say it’s more of an electronics album than a sax album. The backgrounds really are backgrounds, as opposed to backing rhythms, built from drum machines, electronic treatments, and all manner of strange samples. On many tracks, it’s all looped into a rhythm that doesn’t march in step with the sax.

Haas didn’t just hit “on” on a drum machine; these backgrounds took work, and they defiine each track’s mood. “Khalliha Allallah (Leave It To G-d),” is driven by a drum/didjderidoo hybrid from the Tron universe. Haas’ composition “New Maladies of the Soul” bubbles up like something from a sparse alien lounge, with a saucy percussive backdrop against the sax’s lonely lead melody.

The setting also creates some opportunities for goofing around. Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye” is played straight in terms of melody, but it’s backed by a cluttering hailstorm of clunky percussion, like a Polynesian war council. “My Life Would Suck Without You” (which is apparently a pop tune with ties to Glee or American Idol or something else I don’t watch) becomes a reverent funeral march, backed by a slow bass-drum pulse.

Many tracks’ melodies are ballads or folk songs, but Haas does add some free-jazz jumping and skipping on “The Devil Is Loose in the World,” a rather upbeat traditional song backed by the sound of slowed-down, backwards singing (or speaking), a warbly, like Gregorian chants sung by some alien blobular race. I also like “Bonjour Tristesse,” which is almost hip and electronica-like with its background (drum machine with occasional falling rubble?) and blippy, carefree sax.

Haas has Martha and the Muffins on his resume, but I know him from the CDs he’s sent to KZSU every now and again. They’re all quite different, bound together by a few common themes, such as an affinity for Eastern religions and musics. On Death Don’t Have No Mercy (KZSU review here), he and Don Fiorino painted cowboy Western landscapes populated by  modern sax sounds. Radio I Ching had more of a world-fusion feel. Hanuman Sextet played around with the motifs of Eastern religions (with Fiorino adding some cowboy twang again).

Even with his solo stuff, Haas’ ideas branch out; in fact, I think each of his solo albums has taken a different direction. The Ruins of America, from 2007, uses electronic treatments to twist his sax notes into eerie forms — but it’s got a similar edge. (You can find out more about Ruins in this Canadian interview — the last question of which is priceless — and on CD Baby.) And Humanitarian War, a 2006 response to the Bush administration, is a stark, angry scream. The politics are still there on Paradise of Ashes — I’m sensing a cynical smirk in that title — but the album seems to be coming from a happier place.

Playlist: June 19, 2009

Playlist for Friday, June 19, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

….. Whoa, that new Steve Lehman Octet album is a kick. More about that later.

….. Played about 20 minutes of Tina Marsh‘s music, as promised. Didn’t have time for the full 20-minute “Milky Way Dreaming,” unfortunately.

source:….. Bloom Project is, in this case, the duo of Rent Romus (sax) and Thollem McDonas (piano). They explore some nice spaces well beyond jazz, but in a style that sticks to traditional playing as opposed to the heavy electronics Romus has been using lately. The contrast is interesting (and probably worth a writeup sometime).

source:….. Pink Saliva is a trio of Montreal-area improvisers, documented on one of a few 3-inch CDs we’ve gotten from Majuma. It’s mostly lo-fi cacophany — I mean that in a good way — but the third track, played here, gets a little closer to jazz.

source:….. Andy Haas (sax) and Don Fiorino (guitar) are improvisers who craft a unique sound, one with heavy doses of world music and a subtext that I’m guessing comes from a lot of classic-rock listening during formative years. They’ve got two very different CDs in rotation with us right now. Hanuman Sextet can be traced back to psychedelia experiments with Indian music, but it’s also got healthy doses of jazz horns, lots of steel guitar (not your usual improv instrument), and some more down-to-earth grooving than you normally get from the psych crowd.

source: myspace/radioichingnewyork….. Radio I-Ching, also featuring Haas and Fiorino, goes in a tougher direction: Heavy drums powering fleet sax lines and often crunching guitar, a heavy dose of rock sound applied to a jazz-jam concept. The lighter tracks add swirls of world-music exotica, a tough-to-place mix of African, Cuban, and Asian styles. “Judgement Day” is like a late-night party in a Cuban jazz club, and “Topsy” is a bebop gyroscope out of control. But I’m particularly taken with their version of “Misterioso,” which is a raging blur of guitar and drums, dark and flitting, with the soprano sax suddenly piping in with the melody line.

….. Pop alert: The new St. Vincent is really good, richly produced, and packed with nooks and crannies of sound (strings! extra guitar!) that make for a great pop-record experience. As good as Annie Clarke’s first album was, this is miles ahead. Flotilla is an indie-pop quartet with a harp player (and yes, she gets a solo, on at least one track!) They’ve got a deliciously icy sound that reminds me of Call and Response’s Winds Take No Shape album.

Continue reading “Playlist: June 19, 2009”