David Fiuczynski — Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam!
(RareNoise RNR058, 2016, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-04-05
Guitarist David Fiuczynski is probably best known for his acrobatic, highly technical playing, but this release finds him in very different territory. The “Microjam” part of the title refers to the prominence of microtones in this music, with Fiuczynski playing fretless guitar, Jack Sherman using “microtonal keyboard” (which often sounds like an oddly-tuned Rhodes electric piano), and a variety of instruments capable of executing the pitches between the notes of equal-tempered scales: violin, suona (a Chinese double-reed instrument), and percussion. The other element that features prominently in the arrangements is birdsong, with recordings of quite a few different species making appearances. Thus, a title like “Loon-y Tunes” is literally accurate and does not refer to classic cartoons. Other factors are composer Olivier Messaien, who was known to have been inspired by birdsong, and the rhythmic style of hip-hop producer James “JDilla” Yancy. If you’re guessing at this point that Flam! Is fairly distant from mainstream jazz or rock, you are quite correct. There are a few tracks that lean a bit more to the jazz side, such as “Uira Happy Jam,” which features a drum kit and guest Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto sax, though no one would ever mistake it for a George Benson tune. The way mallet instruments are used often brings to mind gamelan music, but this is truly like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Fiuczynski released an earlier “microjam” album in 2012, but I missed it when it came out. Among other things, Flam! provides a working model for one way to successfully use microtones in music that’s not wholly alien to Western ears. It’s also a blending of Western styles with music from other parts of the world that doesn’t shoehorn the subtleties of non-even-tempered scales into even-tempering in order to appeal to Western ears and be easily playable on standard instruments. It’s a fascinating and enjoyable listen from start to finish, and should continue to reveal new details for many repeats to come.
Roswell Rudd RIP – Jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd, one of the distinctive players of his instrument in many strains of music, has died at the age of 82. With a career stretching back to the early 60s and over a hundred recordings featuring his playing, he leaves behind a substantial legacy. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. » Read more
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more