Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Julia Bloop - Out of the Bloop (Patient Sounds, 2019)

Hey all!  I hope that everyone is keeping healthy and not going stir crazy in these very interesting times.  We can do this self-isolation thing.  Just please be kind and loving to your fellow citizens, maintain your distance, and above all, stay positive!  Me, I turn to music in times like these, and this lovingly crafted cassette courtesy of Julia Bloop is getting me through the social distancing blues.

Out of the Bloop was released by the now-defunct Patient Sounds label, an imprint that had been at the forefront of sonic curiosity for 10 years before calling it quits in 2019.  As a matter of fact, this was one of the final cassettes to leave their hands before the proverbial towel was thrown.  I was misty-eyed when I heard that M. Sage was drawing his lovingly-curated label to a close, but the legacy that he’s left behind certainly stands tall, and we have over 100 releases to return to when the need arises, so there’s that.

Rather than going out with a bang, Patient Sounds chose to drift off toward infinity, patiently.  This is definitely reflected in the telltale loops and samples that have become a signature of Julia Bloop’s, and are featured readily on this stunning cassette.  The most rabble rousing of the pieces on offer here is “Sailor”, which leads off the proceedings with a loping drum loop and an almost Hawai’ian guitar that dives in when it’s appropriate to do so.  There are chirping birds as well, and this seems to be a thematic touch point throughout the cassette, as they appear again in “Pacific Sunset”.  On this track, Bloop dials the drums back to a clickety-clack ratcheting that seems to grow more pervasive as the track progresses.  Piano, sax, and other tones are sprinkled about gingerly, not merely decorative, but adding to the overall sense of good vibrations being transmitted.

“Deserted Shore” is even more mellow, a piano/guitar heartstring-tugger that tumbles through a bank of samples like that prince who rolls the Katamari ball around in that highly addictive video game.  Along the same lines is “The Thrill of Shelter,” which seems to bounce around with a misty reverb that implies a cavernous locale of some sort.  Eventually, it settles into a dreamy swirl of sound, before vanishing completely.  And then there’s “Set Us Free of This World,” which is the culmination of all that came before it.  A plethora of birdsong, piano, guitar and other samples are combined into a lengthy meditation on existence itself.  This is a doozy and the perfect way to sign off such a lovely cassette.

Should you wish to investigate the wonderful world of Julia Bloop, you can find both physical and digital options at their Bandcamp.  Enjoy, and once again, stay healthy and safe!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

heArt Ensemble - Oréade (Small Scale Music, 2019)

The Small Scale Music imprint is a tiny Montréal-based label dedicated to pursuing the exploratory flavors of music: noise, free jazz, experimental stuff.  All of it is worthy of digesting for those listeners with feisty viscera.  The Montréal creative music community is prolific, adventurous, and has an incredible story to tell the rest of the world.

Recently, Small Scale unleashed a pair of CDs featuring the work of Guy Thouin and the second incarnation of his heArt Ensemble.  Thouin is a legendary figure in the French-Canadian free jazz scene.  He is the only surviving original member of the Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec, which was the first free jazz combo formed in the city of Montréal, active from 1967 to 1974.  A prolific drummer and percussionist, Thouin was also a member of L’infonie, a loose collective of musicians who favored beat poetry and prog-oriented avant-jazz.

This new branch of the heArt Ensemble tree finds Thouin paired up with saxophonist Félix-Antoine Hamel.  The two musicians have been improvising in the drummer’s basement every week since 2015, often inviting guests to explore along with them.  The material that comprises Oréade is the result of a heavy period of experimentation as a trio, with harpist Marilou Lyonnais-Archambault joining the fray.  There is almost 70 minutes of music presented here; who knows for how long these mavericks jammed in order to harvest this distilled product of their creativity.

One intriguing aspect of this particular recording is the melodic sensibility that wafts into the proceedings from time to time.  The CD actually begins in this mode, with the almost funky “Ostinato” searching out and finding a groove to lope along to.  That being said, the trio brings on the fire most of the time, roaring along with abandon.  The harp adds a certain uncanniness that is amplified by the clever deployment of electronics.  There be ghosts here, but their howls are shimmery and bright.  This is some straight up outstanding music!

Small Scale Music still have copies of this stunner over at their Bandcamp, so head on over and drop some dollars.  You will thank me later.