Marc Ribot: Scelsi Morning
It would be diminishing and inappropriate to say that Marc Ribot is an eclectic guitarist as too many artists fall into this category. Even using a term such as abstract is not suitable. What is certain is that his work defies categorization, it has been changing our perception of the guitar as an instrument and its real possibilities. Very few people can match some of the experiences he has gone through. Even his guitar sounds easily defy any usual description, and as a sideman Ribot has proven to have a perfect sense how to fit in his guitar brushes with the artists' concepts, regardless of the genre. It is not accidental that he is a first choice musician when it comes to working with adventurous musicians including Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Waits, Costello, Lounge Lizards and Zazou. In a way, most of the work done by these musos is inconceivable without the delicate sound of Ribot's guitar. On the other hand, with solo works such as Saints, Shoe String Symphonies, Film Works, Requiem and Shrek, he has proven to be a composer of limitless imagination as he brings various experiences from different settings and genres into something unique.
I have no idea what scelsi means but the music on this record can be described as mysterious, rough, emotional, picturesque, delicate. In a way his approach reminds me of Van Gogh's style of painting with its colorful, blunt and slightly rough brushes on the canvas. This may not be the most accessible record but this type of record has always provided longer listening as it usually carries a sense of discovery. Ribot's choice of personnel is impeccable, and this is evidenced by the intricate yet powerful sound. The first track, "Bataille, features a brutal guitar opening that suddenly builds into a delicate world of sounds, in a way resembling the complex world of Shrek. The title track is a nice, quiet atmospheric work with strings and oboe. Ribot employs a wider pallete of instruments and thus creates all kinds of dense soundworlds.
"Earth" features strange windy sounds backed up by a fuzzy guitar in the background. "Pennies From Hell" is characterised by a monotonious and repetitive bass line interrupted by simple piano run overs and strangely colored guitar sounds. "Geese" features Ned Rothenberg on bass clarinet and he does miracles with it either by achieving various sounds or by playing repetitious melodies interrupted by violin and clarinet melodies. In a way, this track is a perfect showcase for Ribot's compositional abilities at their best. "The Youth Brigade Triumphs Again" has a subtle Chinese tinge as he plays distorted Chinese-like melodies in his thrash-like style. It is a dense world of twisted guitar sounds and repetitive percussion in the background. "Identify I-Shmentity" implies minimalistic keyboards with guitar run overs and strange violin squeaks in the background. The closing track, "Kabukitch," is a spooky piece of music with monotonous organ and directionless banjo sounds, slow keyboard textures and Japanese percussion in the background.
If Ribot has proven anything with this and his last few records it is that labels don't apply to a talent such as his. He is a musician who has mastered his instrument and approaches any music he is playing with artistic integrity and credibility. Although it is not an easy listening experience and, at first glance, it may not be apparent what is happening here, Scelsi Morning is a showcase for Ribot's unique and broad compositional skills.
Personnel: Christine Bard: (Percussion, Drums); Anthony Coleman: (Piano, Organ, Trombone, Sampler); Jill Jaffe: (Violin, Viola); François Lardeau: (Instrument); Ted Reichman: (Pump Organ, Accordion); Marc Ribot: (Guitar); Roberto Rodriguez: (Percussion, Drums); Ned Rothenberg: (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet); Eddie Sperry: (Sampler); Rob Thomas: (Violin, Bass); Chris Wood: (Bass)
Track Listing: Bataille; Scelsi Morning; And Then She Fell; Earth; Pennies From Hell; Geese; Our Daily Bread; Identity I-Shmentity; The Youth Brigade Triumphs Again (And Again); Kabukitsch