How many artists can list "bee biologist" in their collaboration roster? On Sarah Peebles's (the Smash in Smash and Teeny) biography page, there is an image of her wearing headphones and squinting intently through a magnifying glass into an ornate wooden box. Further exploration of her work suggests that this is an "audio bee cabinet" she designed for various international installations (Resonating Bodies). Pretty cool.
A player of rock, jazz and No Wave over the past 30 years, Nilan Perera's efforts stress anti-guitar and its extensions via effects and looping devices. Like Willem De Kooning proving he can still sketch a portrait, he can nimbly shred but prefers to churn out fluid, organic bunches of microbursts and sheets of pedal combinations where a few notes form endless patterns and intricate structures.
As a duo on disc one, Peebles's (laptop and shô) and Perera's end product is a tug of war between placid soundscapes and field recordings (i.e. lakeside avian calls, tramping through snow and earth, jets passing overhead), approximation of natural versus mechanical noise, and fiery passion, both musicians participating on all sides.
With "Looking Glass," a neutral drone purrs alongside Super 8 camera film ticks and vibrated, twanging strings. As the piece progresses, an enveloping engine rumble interjects, and Perera grinds his instrument into mangled scrapes and metallic wrenches. On "Stridulation Nation," Perera performs in a hushed jumble of filtered finger-taps as Peebles introduces a dense, looping bed of synthetic crickets that almost rises to a fatal chokehold; Perera flips on his distortion pedal, lowers his fader on the mixer and rocks / weirds out like Nels Cline at his most bombastic while the "insects" morph into stuttering mechanical clicks under the weight. "Kite Storm Warning" wobbles as a drunken music box playing a melody founded in repeating rhythmic chimes, slide guitar, hammer-ons, shimmering pan-tonal drones and extremely detuned strings.
Another reoccurring element in this set is Peebles's sustained single / sometimes microtonal shô lines. Due to the shô's commonplace role in gagaku — a music she focused on in an academic setting — her performance guides works such as "Salt Phase Results" and "Lacemaker's Ruin" into an idiosyncratic meditative, tranquil base (ala Takemitsu's In An Autumn Garden) over which Perera's active slinky bow riffs flourish.
Disc two's twenty-six-minute "Hummingbird" adds another color: John Butcher (does he need an introduction?) His soprano sax playing here mirrors the "natural" feel he engaged in with Akio Suzuki on Immediate Landscapes. That is, his attempts are subtle, nonchalant, non-invasive to Smash & Teeny's environment, integrate with the acoustic (or lack thereof) space, and simply assume the role of another voice (or bird call, or heavy breath) in the textural gaggle. On the contrary, the shorter "Crunchy Hands," crunching samples feed Butcher's wanton honks and Perera's blazing runs.
The included eleven-minute film, "Kaladar Kodex," features Cinnamon Sphere, the trio of Peebles, Perera and calligrapher Chung Gong, and impeccably showcases the visuals Smash & Teeny's audio output inspires: a grassy field behind an old house and a barn, Peebles behind a relatively hulking PC monitor (the recordings are from 2004), a barefoot, messy-haired Perera in camo pants seated on a wooden chair with surrounding guitar accoutrement. Chung Gong uses an enormous flappy brush (mop?) to slather canvases in real-time with the music; grasshoppers fiddle around, clouds wander by. It's unassuming, relaxed, shows a simple facade while actually being particularly complex.
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