I am beginning to wonder whether there is a compositional aesthetic at work on David Peck's ensemble discs. Yes, improvisation is certainly integral to whatever aesthetic Peck and company bring to the table, but something more complex may be determining, or at least guiding, the always engaging and often perplexing music as it unfolds.
As with Peck's other ensembles, everybody plays multiple instruments, but here, certain threads of sonic perspective seem to be interweaving at strategic moments which, to these ears, threaten to place the diverse music beyond the whims and whiles of improvisation. Let's examine the moment, at around 14:30, when long tones emerge from what was already largely a series of near drones. These spiky electronic exhortations bloom and fade, echoing and propelling the rest of the ensemble along a similar path. In fact, similarly employed electronics function as a kind of backdrop throughout the hour plus track. It's especially audible when drums and guitar fade suddenly at 23:14, laying bare a quiet but almost cinematic palimpsest of tone and overtone in joust. Again, that sudden fade may speak to something other than pure improvisation at play. Whatever processes are at work, there is an absolutely industrial hum that underpins everything, something out of David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick's nightmare visions of a decaying city.
Far from entropy however, Peck and this particular ensemble create music of astonishing vigor, and diversity. If I posit that it's a busier and more technologically pervasive version of early AMM, that is in no way to deny its originality, only to offer a point of comparison. We are given vast plains of sound to explore and revisit, as each audition brings forth layers as yet unheard. Peck's soloing is not quite as often in evidence here as in other contexts, and the whole is more an oceanic study in slowly evolving contrast than in instrumental prowess, though it is far from absent. The notes say, intriguingly, that samples were taken from the Evil Clown archive, which, in combination with this excellent release, has the disquieting effect of making me want to hear as many discs from this fine label as possible.
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