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.
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more