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MUSIC Album reviews

Latest releases from Nate Wooley, Derek Bailey and Mototeru Takagi and Michael Formanek

Nate Wooley
Seven Storey Mountain V1
(Pyroclastic Records)
⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

 

IN THIS insurgent album, Oregon-born trumpeter and composer Nate Wooley creates a harrowing musical tableau as an accompaniment to the lyrics of Peggy Seeger from her song Reclaim the Night: “If we choose to walk alone/For us there is no safety zone.”

No music could be more relevant to the mass protests after the murder of Sarah Everard. Wooley uses synthesisers, pianos, organ, drums, guitar and women’s choral voices to create a powerful overtone of defiance. “I was fucking angry watching the government attempt to wrest control of women’s bodies and black people incarcerated and killed with impunity,” he attests.

The final repeated Seeger stanza ends with the spurning phrase from Bobbie McGee’s Union Maid above a boiling ocean of turbulent sound: “You can’t scare me!”

This imperative listening experience is an open provocation to protest and resist for “the right to live, the right to walk alone.”

Derek Bailey/Mototeru Takagi
Live at FarOut, Atsugi, 1987
(NoBusiness Records)
⭑⭑⭑⭑

THIS 1987 tryst at the FarOut venue in Atsugi, Japan, has Sheffield-born guitar innovator Derek Bailey meeting up with bird-like Japanese improviser, the soprano saxophonist  Mototeru Takagi.

It was a chance recording, described on the sleeve note as “an album that was never meant to be.” Yet such is the music’s instantaneous power of surprise and sheer audacity, it is vitally compelling.

The two faraway musicians show such empathy, mutual challenge and unchained artistry that the encounter radiates the most obtuse of creative uniqueness.

Takagi blows the final notes of the first track as if he has found a lifetime’s release and, as Bailey strums and chinks out his notes at the start of track two, he sounds like bluesman Robert Johnson stranded at some samurai crossroads.

A momentous sonic meeting, with the union of disparate cultures brought together by internationalist volleys of pure, free improvisation.

Michael Formanek
Imperfect Measures
(Intakt Records)
⭑⭑⭑⭑

ALTHOUGH US bassist Michael Formanek’s new record Imperfect Measures is a solo album, he acknowledges in his liner notes that it is in truth a duo effort, due to the extraordinary series of drawings of him while he played during the recording by artist Warren Linn, reproduced in the sleeve booklet.

Sound and image brilliantly cohered and Formanek’s bass was blissfully recorded in a Baltimore studio, with the lucidity of his sound superbly crystallise on tracks like  On the Skin or the bowed virtuosity of A Maze.

Formanek’s formidable artistry makes his strings sing, with their voices vibrant and dancing, on Full Frontal or Wisp.

And what about the album title? Formanek was trying to invent one when he saw a newspaper comment by a New York infectious disease expert: “Against Covid-19, imperfect measures do the most good.”
Music and real life, never to be separated.

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