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Memorize the Sky - In Former Times

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Artist: Memorize the Sky

Album: In Former Times

Label: Clean Feed

Review date: Nov. 26, 2008

This may only be Memorize The Sky’s second album, but the trio has more time on its clock than that number might suggest. Reed player Matt Bauder, bassist Zach Wallace, and percussionist Aaron Siegel first convened when they all lived in Ann Arbor in 1998, and they’ve stuck together through various separations, relocations and affiliations. Bauder once made trenchant contributions to the Chicago improv scene and now does the same in Brooklyn, Wallace does the drone thing with Greg Davis in Sun Circle, Siegel’s compositional aspirations have taken him to the corridors of Carnegie Hall. And they’ve all played with Anthony Braxton.

Elements of their collective experiences guide In Former Times’ ceaseless flow, but it’s the synchronous rapport that comes from improvising together that brings the music into sharp focus. For most of the record, they eschew their debut album’s measured melodies and dig deep into two essentials – texture and activity. This is no great loss, because the way they melt tones together here is much more compelling than Memorize The Sky’s somewhat unassertive tunes. This music seduces you into reverie only to stage an ambush. Wallace’s bowing morphs so gradually, you won’t notice its changes on “I’m The Founder Of This Place,” only sense them after they’ve happened. It’s easy to get lost in the woody richness of his playing, which hovers over Siegel’s vibes like heat haze over desert sand. But fall into it and you’ll find yourself tangled up in the dopplering lines of Bauder’s tenor sax.

They reverse that gambit on “Treat Me Like a Picture.” Siegel’s tumbling sticks and crashing metal goad Bauder to suck Donald Duck-like absurdities into his horn, then his fluttering keypads and Wallace’s jagged string-tugging writhe and sink into a pool of glassy sonorities. It’s a bit of a shock when the brief, closing title track resolves into mournful air – a requiem for fallen leaves.

By Bill Meyer

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