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Artist: On Fillmore

Album: On Fillmore

Label: Locust

Review date: Nov. 18, 2002

Inebriated Improvisation

This is the sound of a very drunk man. He’s carrying bottles around, smashing them against his neighbors windows. He's so drunk, in fact, that he doesn't realize these “bottles” are actually various percussive instruments. Moreover, his buddy is in the back tearing an upright bass apart in a vein attempt to create some sort of incidental sound.

Well, maybe not…but On Fillmore knock around the usually sober realm of improvised music with a few pairs of pliers. Drummer Glenn Kotche (Wilco, Jim O’Rourke Band), and bassist Darin Gray (Dazzling Killmen, Grand Ulena, Jim O’Rourke Band) take to improvised music like two Jakes – one good, the other bad – and press the perp (popped on charges of being too serious, lacking soul, and being full of hot air) for answers.

On Fillmore focuses solely on rhythm, atmospherics, and soul; with or without the moniker, Kotche and Gray have been playing together for several years so their ability to lock up is expected. It’s a nice change from, say, two guys that just got off flights from other corners of the globe, whose show begins after shaking hands for the first time. On Fillmore's talents reside in their charge, and their statement of intent; if anything, the group is equally inspired by Indonesian Gamelan and Steve Reich, just as much as their experimental/post-rock roots.

The album is made up of four different pieces, and is broken down into eight tracks. The first three tracks make up “Cave Crickets.” The piece itself is circular, starting with a vibraphone pattern by Kotche, which is complimented by Gray’s strong plucking. Gray’s pluck leads into a fantastic, almost Brazilian bass run, which leads into a wobbling dance between the two. All the while, layers of bells, shakers and various pieces of hand percussion rush in and out to give the cuts a sort of invisible thread. The second and longest piece, “Captive Audience,” is a restrained duet for upright and vibes again. It starts off bluesy, then works its way into an Eno-like setting of rich harmonies and fluid spaces. It’s here that you realize (thanks to techniques in recording and two very creative minds) that On Fillmore is two men masking as 10. The album closes with its third part, “Beautiful Funeral,” which closely resembles the rhythmic chug of composer/saxophonist John Lurie’s Men with Sticks project. From the elegy of the “Preparation” cut to the pastoral “Forever on 46,” the piece itself closes with the dark, backwoods groove of “Accidental Chase.” The album then revisits its “Captive Audience,” only to say goodbye once again.

It’s nice to see a stuffy scene like the “avant/experimental/improv” party crashed by two dudes in tuxedo shirts, who start spilling wine all over the cravats. At least they know how to cook up a groove.

By Stephen Sowley

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