Evergreen is a cemetery in Los Angeles, where several generations of local sax player, multi-instrumentalist and sound artist Patrick Shiroishi’s relatives are buried, and a place he often visited when growing up. The album Evergreen is based on field recordings Shiroishi made at the cemetery in 2021 and is a kind of very personal meditation on Shiroishi family history, processed through music with an urgent call against racial discrimination. Shiroishi added to these field recordings music that he composed, played on synths, clarinet and the tenor sax and used his voice at Orange Door Studios in September 2022.
Shiroishi, who investigated his family history already in Hidemi (American Dreams, 2021), created layered, highly suggestive and openly emotional and somehow melancholic ambient drones, briefly referencing the psychedelic, synth-laden space-rock of the seventies. He plays the tenor sax in the most gentle, caressing-comforting manner possible on «there is no moment in which they are not with me», and does the same with the clarinet on the last, most emotional piece «here comes a candle to light you to bed», where one of his relatives speaks about the of the oppression of Asian-Americans during the World War II. Shiroishi humbly asks the listener to reflect on his or her ancestors, as «we all come from somewhere, and there is not a moment when they are not with you».
Basket of Knvies is Shiroishi’s free improvising trio with like-minded experimental musicians – St. Louis-based violinist Alex Cunningham and Ashville-based percussionist Thom Nguyen, that draw inspiration from free jazz, contemporary music, avant-rock and metal. This album, true to its title, features four distinct and thorny pieces. The opening piece «Good News Doesn’t Travel in the Middle of the Night» begins with urgent but sparse dynamics, with Cunningham, Nguyen and Shiroishi experimenting with extended bowing, breathing and percussive techniques, but these dynamics soon shift into brutal, uncompromising and explosive ones. The following «That Kind of Hell» is introduced by Shiroishi’s effects-laden, resonating alto sax but morphs immediately into a muscular, raw and cacophonous improvisation. Cunningham, Shiroishi and Nguyen try a different, looser approach in «Noon Rings Out», exploring tense, dissonant sounds before establishing a playful interplay. The last, 18-minute title piece begins with Nguyen’s suggestive, resonant gongs and cymbals sounds, and slowly shifts into a mysterious drone with Shiroishi’s sax vocalizations and Cunningham’s buzzing violin. Then, again, the trio employs its brutal power patiently but when it reaches its full power it opts to explore abstract, distorted but quiet sounds.
Oort Smog is the duo of Shiroishi with Los Angeles-based drummer Mark Kimbrell, known for his high-energy propulsive drumming style. The duo is well aware of the legacy of sax-drum duos of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali or Anthony Braxton and Andrew Cyrille, but feels more at home with the sonic territory of Sax Ruins and Dead Neanderthals, and mixing elements of brutal prog-rock (both played in the defunct prog-rock band Upsilon Acrux) with free improvisation.
Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother is the sophomore release of the Oort Smog duo (following Smeard Pulse Transfers, Sweatband, 2019) and is a 29-minute piece, written over the course of eighteen months and recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic and the explosion of demonstrations around the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Shiroishi adds guitar pedals and an amplifier to his sax in order to contain Kimball’s massive drums. The album was recorded at a local DIY art and music venue, Human Resources, a space with a cavernous, ancient church sound. This piece begins with a reverent, meditative tone but patiently and methodically builds its tight, dramatic and heavy sound toward the inevitable cathartic explosion. But, still, this powerful piece offers many vulnerable, emotional threads that capture Shiroishi and Kimball’s responses to the racial injustice that infects the United States.
Patrick Shiroishi (synth, cl, field rec, v, ts, as, eff), Alex Cunningham (vio, eff), Thom Nguyen (perc), Mark Kimbrell (dr)