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Maximalism and its Opposite; Still in Full Effect in 2018

I’m keen to get back in the swing of blog things after a along hiatus, so this is the second missive of the evening. It will be a slightly disingenuous attempt to yoke together two recent themes in my listening, two very different audio experiences, but which both feature releases from this year.

As the attentive reader will have noticed, I have been working on a biography of Barry Guy over the past year, which has led to a cessation of blogs. The first draft of the biography is now complete, so this frees me up somewhat for a short time. Barry, and Maya Homburger, his wife and musical partner, recently sent me two new CD recordings on their Maya label. Their long-term relationship with Intakt Records seems to have ended, and so they have entered into a relationship with the on-line service Bandcamp, through which their recordings will now be available. Bandcamp apparently offer slightly more favourable terms for artists than more traditional earthbound labels. We shall see, I guess.

The recordings are two duos, hardly a new thing for Guy - one with increasingly-appreciated American trumpeter Peter Evans, and the other a bass/percussion duo with Ramon Lopez, who Guy has played with for many years in a trio with Catalan pianist Agusti Fernandez. These are very unusual combinations, even in free improv, which has historically favoured seemingly disjunctive combinations. I can’t think of another bass/drums combo in this genre, off the top of my head, to be frank (can anyone else?). Maybe some AACM project? Anything Guy participates in tends to be sprinkled with fairy dust, but I’m clearly biased here.- this is rather recondite listening in the final analysis, and just two more steps along the road of a remarkable career in music and sound.

Now, the ‘maximalism’ ( as opposed to Guy’s more ‘limited’ palette) of the title of this piece is provided by the laminar sounds of a trio recently recommended to me by my son, Sacramento’s Death Grips. This group will, I’m sure, be familiar to many (the Deep Cuts website has produced a rundown of all their recordings from 2011 onward), but they were new to me until a couple of months ago,  I was immediately reminded of Public Enemy and  Hank Shocklee’s multi-layered production methods - this is truly ‘laminar’ (Evan Parker’s term to describe AMM), a complex, multi-layered RACKET. Their just- released  ‘Year of the Snitch’ grows on me every time I listen to it, even though I find the hardcore-simian vocals a bit hard to take seriously. Listen to Oliver’s Deep Cuts review for a proper run-through of this band’s output. 

I’m still getting hold of more of their stuff, and I can’t help comparing it to Barry Guy’s austere, dedicated improv as both an opposite, but yet also a compliment, to the ugly roar of these American digital giants, who are seemingly  ‘Experimental Hip-Hop’ heroes. I’m very grateful that Nathan put them my way.

These recordings do give me such faith in the state of modern music. Both are such vital recordings, and as uneasy as f***, which perfectly accords with the national mood of both countries. Listening to some radio programmes (no name, no pack drill) makes me despair, in the face of their backward-looking attitude. A former member of The Fall (of all groups!!) especially comes to kind.

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