Parkins/Rasmussen/Sawyer

Glass Triangle
Relative Pitch RPR 1118

Reflecting both parts of the title are the distinctive unity and transparent innovation arising during this session’s six tracks. The first recorded meeting of Danish alto saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and Americans, percussionist Ryan Sawyer and electric harpist Zeena Parkins, Glass Triangle builds on individual expression from Rasmussen’s raw reed lacerations, Sawyer’s place marking rumbles and the layered manipulations emanating from Parkins’ self-built harp. If unique saxophone techniques and distended string judders aren’t enough, Parkins and Rasmussen also vibrate several objects to link with Sawyer’s distinctive drum patterns. All three have experience with the associated beats playing in rock-styled groups with partners like Lee Renaldo, Chris Corsano and Thurston Moore. But joint musical sophistication and perhaps Parkins’ notated music and dance company compositional experience ensure this set avoids excessive density and formlessness.

With group emphasis on unpredictable innovations, the percussionist eschews time keeping, instead occupying himself with ruffs, ratchets and rebounds plus cymbal claps that create irregularly paced but connective beats. Meantime balance is established on tracks like “Nat Bygone, Just Biggone” and “The Crystal Chain Letters” as Rasmussen confirms her ability to equally emphasize bellowing snarls and strangled squeaks as Parkins doubles the exposition with buzzing string strums in the first case and creaking processed vibrations in the second. Intonation from metallic implements is a constant as well, but without individual identification. Still overall intermittent sound clues allow the three to always circle back to group concordance.

Although the trio’s extended techniques encompassing percussive frails and extended drones from the harp plus strangled screams or chalumeau rasps from the saxophonist keep the tracks in constant ferment, evolution is also logical. That means the final “Melts into Surface” does just that. As triple tones accelerate simultaneously, each member’s contribution blends into pitch-separated layers and on to a multi-textured conclusion.

Parkins, Rasmussen and Sawyer may have recorded together for the first time here, but the creativity displayed in exposing unique sounds suggests a fruitful encore.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Begiunners, Begges, Beattle, Belt, Believers 2. Nat Bygone, Just Biggone 3. Flod of Trees 4. The Crystal Chain Letters 5. Merlin and the Gleam 6. Melts into Surface

Personnel: Mette Rasmussen (alto saxophone and objects); Zeena Parkins (electric harp and objects) and Ryan Sawyer (percussion)