Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Further to saxophonist/facilitator Jeff Henderson's series of interesting improv albums under the collective title Jazz from the Underground Nightclubs of Aotearoa on the new Kiwijahzz label, our attention was drawn to another series . . . Experimental Guitars of Aotearoa, the first volume of which was released in 2019 (who knew?) and the second last year (ditto).
However it's the nature of such outlier music that it hardly matters when you find it. And these two are worth finding.
The first Experimental Guitars volume is A Feast of Tones by guitarist Greg Malcolm and percussion player Chris O'Connor.
Those with a long memory – back to the late Nineties – may recall Malcolm was the centre of some mild controversy and manufactured outrage when his Ballad of Peter Plumley Walker (the murdered Auckland cricket umpire involved in some B&D sessions) from the album Trust Only This Face was singled out for media coverage, largely because it was claimed to be distasteful and, worse, that Malcolm had received arts funding for the recording.
Talkback ran hot and . . .
Malcolm followed the album up with What is it Keith? – recorded in Berlin where he had fled -- which largely exploited the notoriety and frankly wasn't up to much.
But that was long ago and far away in other countries, and since then Malcolm has established himself as an innovative avant-guitarist (often with longtime pal O'Connor from their band Surfin' USSR).
This album – recorded live at Auckland's Audio Foundation in August 2017 – finds the duo on fine form as Malcolm weaves easily between minimalism, melodies (try the opener Some Other Time), maximalist noise, wide textural landscapes and experimental sounds derived from odd tunings, pedals and delays.
All while O'Connor, who has played with Steve Lacy, Henderson's Trioglodyte group and Don McGlashan – delivers deft, complimentary rhythms and quite melodic parts in tandem.
There is clearly an intuitive connection between these two players and although these four pieces over 36 minutes offer passages which are challenging, the overall result is surprisingly approachable, enjoyably immersive and you won't have the “guess you had to be there” response.
Volume 2 in the series is Grisly Finds by expat Kiwi Misha Marks whose sometimes excoriating and abrasive sounds were recorded in Mexico City in 2014 and '15 where he has lived for many years.
As the title suggests, this is a much tougher proposition for those who are merely passers-by in the avant-guitar world.
Although Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz is quite a funny piece which sounds like bent Orientalism.
However those who have solo albums by Fred Frith and Thurston Moore at his most experimental, the more out-there albums by Bill Frisell and Vini Reilly, Henry Kaiser or Derek Bailey won't feel out of their comfort zone with the light-industrial sounds here.
Just two volumes in this series (so far) but as with the Kiwijahzz label, this is the place to come to clean out your ears and be a bit confronted.
In a good way.
You can hear and buy these albums (cheaply) at bandcamp here where there are links to many other such albums.