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Brett Larner / Joëlle Léandre / Kazuhisa Uchihashi - No Day Rising

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Artist: Brett Larner / Joëlle Léandre / Kazuhisa Uchihashi

Album: No Day Rising

Label: Spool

Review date: Oct. 30, 2003

No Day Rising is a document harnessed from one of those improbable circumstances whereby far-flung improvisers come together. Koto and bass koto specialist Brett Larner – associated both with his duet partner Anthony Braxton, and with the Tokyo onkyo scene in which he has performed frequently – was a student at Mills College when this date was recorded in 2002. Kazuhisa Uchihashi – a specialist on guitar and the daxophone, a modified string/wood instrument familiar to fans of Hans Reichel – was in Oakland on Larner’s invitation for some gigs. Turns out that French contrabassist and vocalist Joëlle Léandre was a visiting professor at Mills that fall. Léandre was in between engagements and had the briefest of windows during which to record, so Larner booked an overnight studio session, the fruits of which make up this recording.

Comprised of 13 short tracks – which Larner reckons have the focused intensity of rock music, which could be why the disc’s title recalls a certain great Hüsker Dü record – each of which is titled after the hour at which it was recorded, these wondrously strange performances have a nighttime spectral quality to them, as if characterized by apparitions and visions that one is uncertain one has actually seen. What was that shadow? Whence that noise? Is someone watching me?

The feel ranges from a chorus of bells to buckling wood and metal; from the whispers of sine waves and rubbed glass to spiky sharp electric proddings. Vocal sounds are often quite prominent, as well, though I’m fairly certain most of these are from the daxophone and not Léandre’s contributions. The dynamic range is fairly wide as well. The idiomatic properties of the instruments are almost never audible, which is not to say that the music lacks elements of structure and organization (since there are tones, counterpoint, and even some near-motives). But this is structure and organization without a net. One of the keys to the music’s success is surely Uchihashi’s mysterious and highly pliable daxophone, with its uniquely wide range of sounds, from the moaning of sirens to harsh percussive plunks. It tends to establish many of the musical connections here, or to swing wildly into new and unexpected directions. Brief but enigmatic, this disc is – in terms of both instrumentation and level of success – distinct from many run of the mill improv recordings out there.

By Jason Bivins

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