Earth Tongues

Ohio
Neither Nor Records n/n 006

Dedicated to expanding the duration of microtonal improvisations in inverse ratio to the briefness of instrumental tones, members of the New York-based Earth Tongues trio spread their interpretations over this two-CD set. Each disc is an extended, self-contained performance that meanders through extended patches of near-inaudibility, squeezed extended techniques and equally terse bursts of raucous intersection.

Although ear-straining may be necessary to pick up some of the subtleties of the interaction, both slices of Ohio are the equivalent of peanut butter massively layered on slices of bread: every iota of the grain of the area is covered. Equally committed to solo – that is unaccompanied – projects the three Earth Tongues are involved in all manner of experimental projects. Trumpeter Joe Moffett also works with vocalist Kristin Shipp; tuba player Dan Peck is a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble and has worked with Anthony Braxton and Tony Malaby; while percussionist Carlo Costa is part of bands featuring Sean Ali and Steve Swell among many others.

Like watching a nature documentary on flower germination in real time, appreciation of Ohio involves aurally fastening on the scratches, puffs, pings and resonations that arrive and depart in deciseconds, linking the tone to one of the three instruments. To add further disorientation to the sound unraveling, both Moffett and Peck occasionally inject cassette player-sourced textures to the mix, so that on “Ohio Pt. 1” for instance flanging from backwards running tapes and the field recording of a darkened forest path at night time can possibly be heard. A defining moment, although not a climax is reached three-quarters of the way through the piece when recognizable braying trumpet tones intersect with growled plunger vapors from the tuba, joining to form a near-vocalized burst of sound. Uncovering various whines, burbles and intermittent static, the conclusion again melds wooden pops, abrasive metal scrapes and hard pumped air into a dissolving triptych of almost sound.

Prolonging the triple-interaction so that it’s almost one-quarter lengthier, means that “Ohio Pt. 2” sources more attributable and unidentifiable noises. But like observing fraternal rather than identical twins, the resemblance is still so pronounced that family characteristics are obvious. Among them are cymbal clangs, high-pitched whistles, and spittle-encrusted slurps leaking from the brass, plus wood-rending suggestions and static crackles. One-third of the way through the detached interjections, the work begin echoing, the results of which are soon dissipated by mouthpiece blows and flutters that pan across the playback system. Eventually though pointillist hunting horn style grace notes, contrapuntal rhino-like growls and mouthpiece shrills meet up with buzzing electronics and hunt-and-peck percussion resonation. When back-of-throat trumpet tones that seem as much like exercises as expressions, splashing percussion beats and continuous tuba snorts fill all available aural space, the end is signaled.

No set for easy listening, each side of Ohio should be followed separately. Rewards will only come with the acceptance that the journey doesn’t have to have a dramatic conclusion and that small highlights are as interesting as large statements.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. Ohio Pt. 1 CD 2: Ohio Pt. 2

Personnel: Joe Moffett (trumpet and cassette player); Dan Peck (tuba and cassette player) and Carlo Costa (percussion)