October 1, 2017
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society
tak:til GB CD 048
With the object of synthesizing his experiences with Alt-Rock, World Music mysticism and Jazz-oriented improvisation, Joshua Abrams has created a characteristic record whose five tracks are equally concerned with rhythm, rapture and repetition. Experimenting with assorted sonic input from his established Natural Information Society (NIS) band plus guests the compound is distinctive. But like a mule, which is an offspring of a jack donkey and a mare, only some of the offspring appear fertile enough to germinate future experiments.
Graduate of Rockish bands like Town & Country plus stints with Jazz groups led by, among others, flutist Nicole Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, Chicago-based Abrams and NIS have no trouble creating mesmerizing, euphonious tunes that are so self-contained that they seem to start before the first note is played and continue long after the final tone has faded. This is done by blending the particular textures arriving from his own double bass or guimbri, Lisa Alvarado’s harmonium, Ben Boye’s keyboards, Emmett Kelly’s guitar and percussion from Frank Rosaly and/or Michael Avery.
Sound workhorses– in both senses of the word – the first three tracks are layered with a resilient bass line, knife-sharp guitar incursions, which constantly riff and repeat, and underscored by keyboard oscillations which manage to be simultaneously progressive and propulsive. Guimbri plucks and tape manipulation add unexpected timbres, as a sort of IVF to help infertile mules germinate. What results is a pleasant mutation even as the tunes move with a winnowing beat.
More attuned to next-generation research, “Sideways Fall” and “2128½” advance novel concepts that could be explored even more in the future. The first, build around outsized piano power, staccato guitar pulses and a double bass line that could quicken tension in a thriller’s soundtrack, manage to be both resourceful and rhythmic. Alluding to Carnatic beats Dervish-like abandon; the piece is trance-like yet still approachable. Honoring Anderson, whose legendary Velvet Lounge club’s address was “2128½”, the piece takes full advantage of Abrams’ previous skill as house bassist at the club to moor the track. As drum rattles, and bell shakes and smears from multiple keyboards create an interlocking continuum, the composition step up its emotionalism as tenor saxophonist Ari Brown advances an architecturally perfect solo that honors his Free Jazz masters antecedents like Anderson being distinctively his own work.
Simultonality demonstrates that Abrams and NIS could easily be a high-quality groove band if it wishes. But like thoroughbred stallions that can be born as the result of careful breeding, the final two racks confirm that compositional and performance smarts exist to move the group onto an even higher level.
Track Listing: 1. Maroon Dune 2. Ophiuchus 3. St. Cloud 4. Sideways Fall 5. 2128½
Personnel: Ari Brown (tenor saxophone)*; Ben Boye (chromatic electric autoharp, piano, Wurlitzer); Lisa Alvarado (harmonium, Leslie and percussion); Emmett Kelly (guitar); Joshua Abrams (guimbri, bass, small harp, bells); Frank Rosaly (drums, percussion, resonator bells); Michael Avery (drums, percussion)