Dave Rempis in October

Saxophonist Dave Rempis is coming to town from Chicago. He’s part of the same Chicago scene that’s lent us Aram Shelton. Rempis is a veteran of The Vandermark 5 (the free-jazz band that’s a centerpiece of Ken Vandermark‘s career) and has led or co-led scads of other bands, like The Engines and Triage.

Here’s the itinerary:

11 OCT :: Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs Trio @ The Uptown – Oakland
… Sax, trumpet, sax.

13 OCT :: Rempis/Shelton/Hoff/Ospovat @ El Valenciano – San Francisco
… Sax, sax, bass, drums. Hey, everybody, it’s Devin Hoff! Former Bay Area bassist (and half of Good for Cows) who’s moved to Chicago.

14 OCT :: Rempis/Shelton/Looney/Hoff/Nordeson @ Studio 1510 – Oakland
… Sax, sax, piano (electronics?), bass, vibraphone. Whoa.

What happens when you go listen to Dave Rempis? Things like this:

I’d also recommend hearing his group Ballister. There’s a sample on Rempis’ web site that shows the energy and bombast you can get from a trio. Visit here: http://daverempis.com/groups_ballister.php.

Good For Cows: The Metal Side

Good for CowsAudumla (Web of Mimicry, 2010)
Lucifer the Lightbearer [a.k.a. Devin Hoff] — Lucifer the Lightbearer (self-released, 2010)

Wait, that sounds like something electric.  Wait, that’s a keyboard. Wait, now some guy screaming -?

If you’ve wondered how many albums Good For Cows could squeeze out of the acoustic bass/drums format, you’ll want to give this a listen. After years of stripped-down instrumental pop (usually filed in the jazz bins), the duo has downshifted into a slow-blaze kind of metal, with gravity-well electric bass (deployed like a fuzzy lead guitar, really) and deliberate, icy-stare drums. Within a few notes of Audumla, the black-on-black album cover makes sense.

It’s a new voice that doesn’t necessarily accommodate their prior approach to writing. “Fafnir” recalls Good For Cows’ earlier pop, albeit done up in fuzzy aggression. But that somehow seems to call attention to the song’s slow pace; it feels incomplete (but redeems itself with an awesome bass/drums double-soloing stretch).  Other tracks feel more like they’re written with the grinding heat of metal in mind — “Lenore,” for instance, uses a snappy midtempo bass riff to set up a mood of power and dread, later popping into a stomping hard rhythm. That’s more like it.

“Invisible Goth” rocks out with a hammering beat and some ringing, guitar-like electronics triggered by Ches Smith‘s drums. The extra sound adds a nice dimension. But my favorite on the album is probably “Solfell (Mountains on the Sun),” where Devin Hoff adds some noodling prog-rock bass patches and Smith gets a spacey electronics break.

Now, if I’d actually known something about Hoff and Smith, Audumla might not have surprised me. It turns out Hoff has an “undying love for metal,” which is how he explains his newest solo project, Lucifer the Lightbearer.

It’s a solo excursion into multiple basses and vocals, creating heavy, dark landscapes (as if the album art, at right, wasn’t clue enough). “The Fallen” opens the album with a heavy, slow chanting of electric bass, eventually adding a treble voice in the form of bass played with (I think) the edge of the bow, for a springy and — in the literal sense — metallic squealing.

The album starts to really rock out with “Son of the Morning,” which stacks up a sinister chiming electric bass with grimaced vocals done in an oversaturated whisper/groan, followed by squealy bass-guitar soloing. Overall, Lucifer is heavier than Audumla and doesn’t have the latter’s pop roots. It’s a fascinating little world of evil, built by Hoff in shimmering layers.

The album wraps up with the acoustic “Light Bearer,” a peaceful and even mournful ending, perhaps showing — I can’t believe I’m about to type this — some sympathy for the devil.

Lucifer the Lightbearer is being released by Hoff on Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis — find it here. You can also find his other solo works there; be sure to check out The Redressers.

Hoff is in the process of putting Good For Cows’ older albums on Bandcamp as well — follow this link. Or, you could also see if Mike at Asian Man Records has any more copies of Good For Cows’ Bebop Fantasy CD.

Now Batting for the Nels Cline Singers

Bassist Devin Hoff has left the Nels Cline Singers and will be replaced by Trevor Dunn, according to Cline’s latest email newsletter to fans.

(I feel like such the sportswriter here. It’s like the Giants signing Miguel Tejada, and then the Padres trading to get Bartlett from the Rays to fill the shortstop void. Totally the same thing, right? Right?)

Hoff moved to Chicago from the Bay Area and probably wants to concentrate on establishing himself there. He’s also been doing some projects of his own, including a solo metal-influenced album that I’d been meaning to mention here.

The more relevant news is that the ‘Singers will be playing California in February — specifically, at The Independent on Thurs., Feb. 3, and near Santa Cruz at Don Quixote’s on Fri., Feb. 4. They’ll be adding Yuka Honda on keyboards and sundry. For a glimpse of how that sounds, check out their Honda-infused appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk series, from September 2010. The band kind of tones down for the small setting; their performance has a spacey jam in the middle — slow, mind-expanding sounds — and ends with straight jazz guitar that gets bent up.

Nels Cline Anticipation

I like the promo being put behind Initiate, the upcoming (April 13) album from the Nels Cline Singers.  There’s a spiffy new front page at NelsClineSingers.com.  And Cryptogramophone is running a contest: Answering a trivia question will make you eligible to win all four Nels Cline Singers CDs, a T-shirt, a tote bag, and a poster.  (The only caveat is that the winners are being drawn on April 31. You might have to wait a while.)

(And no, they didn’t scrub the trivia question answer from the Web. Go scout around, and along the way, you’ll pick up some interesting names  and facts from recent L.A. free-jazz history.)

For the uninitiated, the Singers are a singerless trio that plays a wide swath of outsider jazz.  Cline’s guitar runs jazzy and jangly on some tracks, with shadows of prog rock here and there, but each album also tends to have at least one rockin’, indie-sounding instrumental, and at least one drifting, tetherless, seemingly formless piece. The rich variety is all the more reason to put out a double album — Initiate being a package of one studio disk and one live disk.

And it’s the Singers who augment ROVA on the new album, The Celestial Septet.

Cline’s on guitar, of course, with Devin Hoff — formerly of the Bay Area duo Good for Cows and a host of jazz projects — on bass, and versatile mercenary man Scott Amendola on drums. (Amendola has some interesting shows coming this week. More on that tomorrow.)

Pre-ordering for the CD is available through the IndieJazz Web site — or, if you want the T-shirt and tote bag, the Wilco site.