May 22, 2018
Blue Chopsticks BC29 CD
Unsurprising if guitarist David Grubbs’ history is known, Creep Mission’s seven tracks could serve as the soundtrack for an experimental film, TV documentary or art installation. That’s because Brooklyn-based Grubbs, also known for his so-called Post-Rock Gastr del Sol band, has done just that job in several media, as well as teaching and collaborating with mixed partners raging from poet Susan Howe to saxophonist Mats Gustafsson.
Despite this musical orientation, and except for two brief solo guitar interludes, Creep Mission isn’t an underscore. Instead it features enough unexpected and original motifs to be appreciated as foreground sounds. Grubbs’ guitar textures are reinforced on five of the seven tracks by trumpeter Nate Wooley, known for his improv work with the likes of Harris Eisenstadt as well as his own electro-acoustic compositions; on three tracks by the drums and percussion of Eli Keszler, who is also a notated composer as well as working in Rock and Free Music settings; plus on two tracks the electronic programming of German Jan St. Werner, who now works under his own name and various pseudonyms and was one-half of Mouse on Mars.
Oddly enough the strums, fills and licks which infuse Gubbs’ guitar style here are folk-like, reminiscent of an idiosyncratic Folk-Rock accompanist like Bruce Langhorne. Mixing these folksay inferences with percussion reverberations plus the wispy, wriggly electrified oscillation on sets up the strategy that moves several tunes chromatically with more energy later provided via scatter-shot brass flutters and dynamic guitar runs. Some like the wholly improvised “Jeremiadaic” are enigmatic and menacing, as harbor bell ringing mixes with detached drum thumps while whistling flanges and snarls intensify the vulnerable possibilities by being unattributable to any sound source. This could be developed into a particular dramatic score. Other pieces, such as the title track, mix Wooley’s bird-like screeches and Rock-Blues guitar inflections for particular startling effects, while the final “The C in Certain” underscores the CD’s blueprint.
Neatly wrapping folksy guitar lines plus positioned string strokes with Wooley’s open-horn blasts or electrically amplified brass swooshes, the contradictions and complements of Grubbs’ compositions are highlighted and resolved. This resolution between foreground recital and background enhancement could attract many listeners.
Track Listing: 1. Slylight*+ 2. Creep Mission* 3. The Bonapartes of Baltimore 4. Jeremiadaic*+ 5. Jack Dracula in a Bar 6. Return of The Creep 7. The C in Certain
Personnel: Nate Wooley (trumpet) [except 3, 5]; David Grubbs (guitar); Eli Keszler (drums, percussion)* and Jan St. Werner (electronics) +