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Premature Burial — The Conjuring
(New Atlantis Records , 2015, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2015-12-19

The Conjuring Cover art

Reading our recent interview with Morgan Fisher, I was struck by his remarks about improvisation:

“Improv” aka “Free Jazz” as a genre I find tends to avoid: 1. Melody, 2. Harmony, 3. Rhythm. So it is not really free at all, and can hardly be called music. It is more like catharsis. All very well in its place...

Premature Burial certainly fits that description. The trio consists of Matt Nelson (sax, effects), Dan Peck (tuba, effects), and Peter Evans (piccolo trumpet); I first encountered Nelson with his solo release Lower Bottoms. In my review of that album, I said I’d like to hear his wild sax work in a group setting, and with The Conjuring my wish has come true. I’m reminded of the saying “Be careful what you wish for”... It starts out rather quietly, with Nelson playing wandering phrases on the soprano while one of the brass instruments makes sputtery noises, and gradually some electronic sounds creep in, then we hear some phrases on the tuba while the sax squawks and makes other noises. In some ways, brass instruments are a bit more limited in the array of possible sounds they can produce compared to a saxophone, and in my experience with experimental players, many of those sounds could be broadly described as “fart noises”: lips vibrating in the mouthpiece at a frequency too low to make a conventional note. There’s a lot of that on The Conjuring. There’s also a lot of eerie breathing through the instruments and clicking of keys. Run all that through an array of pedals to modify the signal and you’ve got lots of possibilities. Improvisation this far out on the avant scale can be a real treat to watch happening live. Listening to a recording, however, is a different matter entirely. Something that by its very nature exists only in fleeting moments has been frozen in bits, minus any connection an audience could have with the physical presence of the musicians. As such, it’s rather like paintings made by elephants or cats – kind of interesting, but not something you can relate to emotionally.

Filed under: New releases, 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Matt Nelson, Premature Burial

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