Han-earl Park/Bruce Coates/Franziska Schroeder
io 0.0.1 beta++


Once again, a CD I found in my mailbox made me painfully aware of the great quantity of fine music about which I know absolutely nothing (the real problem being, of course, that my condition is quite typical). Of the three flesh-and-blood musicians performing on this album (the reason for my being so specific will became apparent in a moment or two), the only one I'm somewhat familiar with is sax player Bruce Coates (mainly for his collaboration with Paul Dunmall); though they both possess long and prestigious curricula, I'm sure this is the first time I've listened to guitarist Han-earl Park and soprano saxophonist Franziska Schroeder.

Closing track here, Return Trajectory is a good for instance of the excellent rapport existing among the aforementioned players, whose parallel traveling seems to suggest a good dose of telepathy - check the final moments, the two winds going towards a note in teleological mode. This is the track that, in my opinion, clearly shows more than a trace of these musicians' formative influences, with Schroeder's soprano reminding me of Evan Parker (elsewhere on the album she sounds quite more personal), while Coates's alto is clearly reminiscent of the zig-zag wondering of Anthony Braxton (an influence that is also quite apparent elsewhere on the album, both on alto and sopranino). Han-earl Park's guitar sits somewhere halfway between Joe Pass and Derek Bailey, being quite aware of the jazz vocabulary and the art of comping, though of course filtered through a modern sensibility, starting with timbre, but not as "indifferent" to the surrounding as Bailey's sometimes could be.

Were the album as good as its closing track, well... we'd only have a good album, nothing more. But - surprise! - as per its title, we have an "unknown quantity" called io 0.0.1 beta++: a "musical automaton" created by Han-earl Park whose improvising - so rich when it comes to timbres (which are sometimes more than a bit old-fashioned, a fact that goes well with its bizarre physical aspect, so reminiscent of 50s sci-fi movies), so mysterious when it comes to its decision-making - works as a valuable stimulus for its fellow musicians.

If on an aesthetic plane the main parallel that I can trace (one that I hope can be useful to readers) is with mid-80s Company, here the work as it's offered to the listener appears to highlight the issue of the decisional process which is at the basis of improvisation when seen as a conscious "discipline of choices". And in the CD liner notes penned by Sara Roberts I seemed to detect more than an echo of those debates which flourish about the famous (?) Turing Test. My quick description of the music featured on this CD which follows puts the "mystery" of the decision-making process in the background - it could be said that "man or machine", it's all so similar, though when it comes to issues like this I'd prefer a bit more technical details, la George Lewis's Voyager (but the liner notes refer readers to writings and texts, some of which are accessible via the Web).

Opening tracks Pioneer: Variance and Pioneer: Dance (total length: about 25') are maybe my favourite moments here. The former opens with "bizarre" synth sounds, sporting vintage "squeaks" and modulations; then it's the soprano sax, with "split" notes and a fine dialogue; then it's the guitar, played with volume pedal, harmonics, and chords rich with echo. The latter features alto sax, quite Braxton-like (of the four musicians featured here, Coates is the one who can easily be classified as the one with a "jazz" background); the automaton formulates an interesting answer, with a square wave animated by an LFO (at least, that's what it sounds like to me); there are fine bass (meaning: bottom) guitar strings appearing in the left channel, sounding almost like toms or bongos, the high strings being placed in the right channel (an interesting idea, having the guitar so spread in the stereo field, and one used with good taste); a serene soprano goes hand-in-hand with a "noisy" synth and a "flamenco" guitar; the synth has a few interesting oscillator "beatings", and a very fine coda.

Discovery: Intermodulation has a frantic sopranino and a "dark" soprano, the "automaton" producing both long and short notes; "pizzicato guitar", with "cramped" arpeggios. Discovery: Decay opens with io 0.0.1 beta++ playing solo, its timbre somewhat reminiscent of vocals filtered through a vocoder; then it's the guitar, and the soprano sounding somewhat "Baroque" and "Renaissance-like", the whole sounding quite consonant, and so offering the most listener-friendly moment on the album.

Laplace: Perturbation starts with timbre halfway between trombone and filtered cymbals, with a long solo part by io 0.0.1 beta++; the guitar plays in a dialogue, the alto sax quite Braxton-like, the three musicians traveling parallel streets, with fine results. Laplace: Instability says a lot in just about three minutes; while alto sax and "synth" are somewhat reminiscent of the preceding track, there's a meditative soprano performing a counterpoint that's quite chamber-like, the track ending on a consonant note.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2011

CloudsandClocks.net | Sept. 4, 2011