Danish-born and Norwegian-based alto sax player Mette Rasmussen and French, Paris-based guitarist Julien Desprez played together in the third incarnation of Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra (Ritual, Rune Grammofon, 2016) and shortly afterward recorded together as The Hatch duo (Dark Tree, 2019). Texas Edition is an orchestral expansion of the vocabulary of The Hatch extrapolating into two ad-hoc nonets in Texas, recorded during a North American tour of the duo at Transart, Houston, in June 2019 and two days later at MOHA in Austin. The album is released as a limited edition of 200 gatefold double vinyl plus a digital download.
The two ad hoc nonets feature some of the best but unfortunately still underrated free improvisers of Houston and Austin. Rasmussen and Desprez used The Hatch as a liberating sonic haven where they could abandon the familiar roles and the conventional techniques of the alto sax and the electric guitar and re-invent their musical languages, with healthy doses of eccentrity and humor. In Texas, Rasmussen and Desprez found like-minded improvisers, who do not necessarily come from jazz or free jazz schools, with a similar passion to expand their sonic vision.
The Huston performance features members of the local art-rock band Morning Scales the Mountain – guitarist Tom Cater, drummer John Alan Kennedy and vocalist-poet-performance artist Misha Tsypin who adds a dadaist aroma to the free-associative improvisation. The Austin performance features Norwegian bass legend and Sonic Tramsission label founder Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and a few of his frequent collaborators like guitarist Jonathan Horne (of Young Mothers), alto sax player Joshua Thomson and drummer Lisa Cameron. This improvisation stresses, even more, the singular voices of Rasmussen and Desprez as they keep pushing the sonic envelope of the ad hoc nonet into more open and unpredictable territories.
The ad-hoc free improvising trio of legendary American sax player Joe McPhee (who plays here on the tenor sax, and trumpet and adds vocals), Danish alto sax player Mette Rasmussen (who adds vocals and plays with objects) and Beligian sound audio-visual artist Dennis Tyfus (who plays on tapes, adds voice and percussion and did the cover artwork. Known for his work with French vocal artist Ghédelia Tazartès) was recorded in Tyfus’ home town, Antwerp, in 2018. McPhee and Rasmussen performed together in various formats but Oblique Strategies is their first recording so far. Rasmussen and Tyfus have previously recorded as Bazuinschal (Released on Tyfus’ label Ultra Eczema, 2018). Oblique Strategies is released as a limited edition vinyl plus download option.
Oblique Strategies blends McPhee’s Ayler-esque folk melodies with slow-motion-free blues, sonic experiments with extended sax tomes and post-Fluxus antics with a few comic explosions. The recording and the production of this album add a spacious and reverberant, hazy unclarity and unpredictability that often make it impossible to tell who is doing what, blurring the lines between the acoustic saxes and the decayed fidelity of Tyfus’ tape playback. The atmosphere of this meeting is mysterious and contemplative but possesses a primordial energy. It reaches its most lyrical and emotional climax on «Destilled Edible», dominated by a slow, microtonal melody played with a breathy tone resembling a shakuhachi. It ends with the 19-minute «Light My Fire» which flirts with free jazz and blues spiced with some crude tape and vocal maneuvers but concludes with a magnificent dual saxophone finale.
Mette Rasmussen (alto saxophone, voice, objects), Julien Desprez (guitar), Ruth Langston (cello), Keisha Cassell (violin), Tom Cater (guitar), John Alan Kennedy (percussion, drum feedback), Misha Tsypin (vocals), Sonia Flores (bass), Rachel Orosco (sound, light, visuals), Carl Smith (bass clarinet), Henna Chou (cello), Jonathan Horne (guitar), Sarah Ann Philips (piano), Joshua Thomson (alto saxophone), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), Lisa Cameron (drums), Joe McPhee (tenor saxophone, trumpet, vocals), Dennis Tyfus (tape, voice, percussion)