Artist: The Tantric Doctors Meet Pingham Bark
Title: A Green Ritual In Blue
Label: Focused Silence
Keywords: Experimental, Free Jazz
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Hey! Welcome to another review!
I’m excited about this one right away, because everything I’ve heard from the Focused Silence label has been excellent. I can only hope that this album is no different, or else my opinion may forever be blemished in a slight, irreparable way. A way in that, if anyone should ever then in future ask me, “hey, how do you feel about the label Focused Silence?” I would be forced to reply, “oh, everything they’ve ever released has been utterly fantastic, but… alas, there was an exception once…” and they would see the lines of sorrow crease my face as I turned my gaze down and inward, in pained recollection of this album. I seriously doubt that this will happen, though, the artist seems pretty cool and I love free jazz music.
So, we begin here with an album that is comprised of one composition in three parts. ‘A Green Ritual In Blue Pt. 1’ starts off with some sharp, jagged guitar shards, immediately followed by trumpet that sounds like an operator on the phone line… then we head right into some jazz that feels formless, but tightly constructed. There is a strange assortment of percussion… some piano… those snares are crisp! This is really fun so far, entirely off the deep end. The way most of us get used to listening to music is to look for recognizable patterns, or when presented with something entirely abstract such as this, to try and superimpose the patterns we think we caught a glimmer of while listening, but this resists the attempt pretty well. The horn soars over the chaos, itself like an escaped canary drunk with freedom. The piano grows dark, the horn has gone absent for a moment. The color of the sounds seem to shift infrequently. Now, it feels like the sounds are hopping on toadstools. I could be in a swamp of sound at this time. The horns are a waddling duck trying to talk to me about the available food stuff to be found in their murky swamp home. The drums here are tight but clunking, like a junk motor sputtering with every bump on the road. It’s kind of a cartoon feeling I get, like with Raymond Scott, but a lot less organized. Abstract associative/dissociative imagery, Merrie Melodies acid-trip sequence from out of a derelict downtown basement. Now, it feels like the march of toy soldiers, melting before my ears… a raspy Daffy tries to sleep off a cold while a phone rings and mice bang cymbals together. A tomcat struts under moonlight, serenades a lamp post. Clocks go off in a shop. There’s the creeping malice of robbers. There’s an ineffective chase sequence. It was all just a dream! Well, I guess I couldn’t exactly escape pattern searching.
‘Pt. 2’ feels like a broken transmission at first, with waves of drums washing ashore and plucked string vibrations. It sounds like a machine falling apart… some melancholy in the piano dissipates quickly… but, then it returns, like a creepy music box, over the popcorn drums. The percussion feels like it’s on a rotary, sticks beating tin pans and small cymbals as a cylinder spins. Bicycle whistle, jumbled piano keys, saxophone scrawls on a chalkboard. Rhythms seem to be jogging, tumbling, galloping, stomping, flailing wildly. Horn squawks. We return briefly to a marching sound, without context, then any semblance of regimentation dissipates into absurdity. Then we come to a very sharp, staccato rhythmic snare, holding itself together for a time, too. The piano often sounds as if it has some kind of honky tonk saloon tuning, at least in certain registers. We’re in a kitchen, tossing plates. It sounds like a really strange moonlit waltz now!
The final part, ‘Pt. 3’ feels like it’s got a breakbeat groove with dark piano and sketches of horn sound over the top, and it’s awesome! It erodes, leaving me with the continued feeling of standing around confused and uncertain about what to do or where to go on a street corner in Louisiana. Shakers seem to point me toward a convenience store or bar with a cool fan or an ice cream truck. This is real life, though, and there is no rehearsal… even though it sometimes sounds that way. Every sound is like the repercussion of a choice made without any necessary rhyme or reason. Walk here, by a drink there… it all leads inexorably toward something, of variable degrees of meaning or lack thereof. Stranger moods surface… perhaps we’ve had a run in with someone we didn’t expect to see, or there was an altercation. This, too, passes, and we are on our way through loud streets, a hot marketplace, vendors struggling for our attention with unusual items. For some odd reason, this music makes me wanna go out and fly a kite. Guitar comes in, drums become more and more scattered, with minimal expressions…
I knew this release would be good all along! You can find copies of it for sale at the bandcamp link below: