Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder: At Night (2007)
Experiencing the music of vocalist Theo Bleckmann and guitarist Ben Monder isn't so much listening as it is swimming.
Take, for instance, their cover of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Norwegian Wood." The Beatles' guiltless romp through sexuality opens with a tidal wave of fuzzy, over-amped guitar and vocal feedback. Bleckman begins, "I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me..." singing the lyrics from the bowels of a submarine, and this one isn't yellow. Monder's tidal wave of sound signals the innocence, Bleckmann calls out from a moonless night's pounding sea.
The music these two have been making for the past twelve years veers in and out of jazz, grabbing pieces of poetry, classical, avant-garde, and ambient music. Bleckmann, known for his wordless interpretation, released a very straight-ahead tribute to show tunes on Las Vegas Rhapsody (Winter&Winter, 2006). Monder, a member of Maria Schneider's Orchestra, Guillermo Klein's Los Gauchos, and Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band is a chameleon of a guitarist whose most interesting works have (not surprisingly) included some collaboration with Bleckmann, specifically Excavation (Sunnyside, 2000) and Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005.
The pair have made several duo recordings, with accompanying players. Here they add drummer/ percussionist Satoshi Takeishi on half of the tracks.
This central theme of this session revolves around the Rumi text translations on three tracks"Late, By Myself," "Orchard," and "At Night." While in other places Bleckmann utilizes his wordless voice as an instrument, here the text is given full effect. The meditative nature of the Quatrains is revealed as a gently peeled artichoke.
Elsewhere, the three play three freely improvised tracks. And while these instant compositions are a bit more frenetic than the composed tracks, they consistently adhere to the trio's patient approach to the time and textures of this recording. They surround you with sound, touch and sensation.
Executive producer and Songlines label chief Tony Reif has committed himself the SACD format. While you can listen to this disc as a regular two-track, At Night is an outstanding utilization of this technology.
Track Listing: Late, by Myself; Sunny Sunday; Carbon; Hymenium; Animal Planet; Swarm; Orchard; Norwegian Wood; At Night; Apocryphon.
Personnel: Theo Bleckmann: voice, live electronic processing; Ben Monder: guitar; Satoshi Takeishi: drums, percussion, laptop.