Taking stock, a year half over
exclusiveOr Archaea Carrier Records 2013
In 1978 a small band pop from Akron, Ohio asked the question, "Are we not men?" The answer was, of course, "We are Devo!" The inside joke was that their version of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," performed as if the band were robots, was more humanoid than the cartoons that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had become by that time. But then, humans have been making machine music since the Italian futurists predicted machines would take over that chore in 1910. Enter Sam Pluta and Jeff Snyder, the duo known as exclusiveOr. Their machine music, delivered via Pluta's laptop (and custom built software) and Snyder's analog modular synthesizer build upon the futurist tradition of mechanized music. Pluta has collaborated with trumpeter Peter Evans on Ghosts (More Is More, 2011) and Sum And Difference (Carrier, 2011), and he performs with Rocket Science made up of Evan Parker, Craig Taborn, and Evans. Snyder can be heard with Federico Ughi's Quartet, the noise trio The Mizries, and laptop ensemble Sideband. Their collaboration, although it renounces anthropomorphic tendencies, bounces along by switch-via-switch and electronic bleep-and-spurt, cannot eschew its humanity. It does try. The pair deliver as much noise as a Merzbow recording, but without the Hurricane force distortion. The music is at once old school computer low-fi and modern de-evolution.
Franco D'Andrea Today El Gallo Rojo Records 2013
My Italian-immigrant grandfather born 1902 was always fascinated by my earliest computer. He never could quite grasp the concept of the internet, asking "how do you put those things in there?" He did, though, delight in the sounds and images on the screen. I surmised that he resigned himself to believe in the magic of the unexplained. The same can be said for Today pianist Franco DAndrea. The maestro of Italian jazz follows up his award winning ensemble recording Traditions And Clusters (El Gallo Rojo, 2012) with a solo session of standards and imaginative improvisations that pulls together pieces and parts of familiar sounds. With seemingly the entire history of the jazz piano stored in his hard drive (brain), he samples bits and pieces of the familiar to pull together his "Rituals" and "Cluster" of sound. These, like "Ritual N. 1," may quote "Caravan" and "Love Supreme" while dangling piano convention over quixotic improvisations. He can make, and essentially remake, a standard like John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" to sound like a semi-stride piano piece that could have been played by Duke Ellington. Or he can mix Ed Ory's "Muskrat Ramble" and Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From The Apple" to reconfigure it to his tastes. His insouciant style and the ease in which he approaches the tunes belies all that jazz history that is packed in his playing. There is no need to draw the curtain back on his magic, one just needs to believe.
Tim Daisy / Jason Stein Bascule Vincent Peirani 2013