Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley
The Duchess Of Oysterville
Styles: minimal-improv, sounds of (near)-silence, quasi-musicque concrete
Others: Nels Cline, X.o.4, Loren MazzaCane Connors
With 97-degree-heat plaguing the outside world as I write this post-listen, I can aptly say that The Duchess Of Oysterville is not a summertime album. With the din of my air conditioner overpowering the distinct silences and copious spaces that pepper this short piece, the chilly and tense textures appear rather out-of-place in the warm lethargy of such July days. Peeesseye conspirator Chris Forsyth's Derek Bailey-meets-Thurston Moore guitar clangs interacting with "downtown" trumpet experimentalist Nate Wooley's disguised-and-disfigured subtleties seem to dissipate into the thick air without a trace. Consequently, what does seep through makes for the feeling of these barely-there sonics gearing up for an unfair fight against its listener, an impeding sense of doom bound to spark equal parts wonder and frustration.
At 24 minutes, Forsyth and Wooley's two-year-old inconspicuous eruption can be seen as either pleasant or inefficient. The two musicians never appear to reach the best possible scenario one would hope for the two, considering their instrumental set-up and pedigrees (Wooley plays in Blue Collar and has performed with Anthony Braxton, Tim Barnes, and others, while Forsyth's before-mentioned Peeesseye has produced some arresting curiosities in recent years), but it's not necessarily a dire blunder. Like most improvisation that exerts its focus on barley-audible tonalities and the distinct acknowledgment of other auditory permeations in the atmosphere that meld and influence the musicians, The Duchess is naturally inhabited with a significant amount of risk in terms of reaching a plane of easy-going enjoyability.
Beginning with a low rumble and hints of Wooley's brass squalls in the back, an eventual bluster of oxygenated static manifests rather heavily until a disappointingly brief guitar-drone is put to rest a little after six minutes in. From here on out, Forsyth scrapes and clatters his strings, much in the way of some of Moore's instrumental solo work or Bill Nace's eccentric sonic renderings in X.o.4. If anything, The Duchess feels a tad too obviously indebted to the SY branch of unclassifiable guitar improv without offering much in the way of distinctness. Wooley feels the most M.I.A. here, with only some slight squeals and atonal releases of air noticeable, while Forsyth takes the more prominent place in the recording. Not that Wooley's unconventional use of the trumpet should be discouraged, but in this particular context, it's all too brief and off-balance to call for closer consideration into his contributions.
With impressively disturbing artwork that admirably works in a "what's wrong with this picture" sense, it's disheartening that The Duchess feels rather slight when it comes to the actual music. It's not completely without merit, but considering X.o.4's magnificent Cataracts LP does similar things much more powerfully and confidently, a backburner curiosity from such esteemed and talented folks as Forsyth and Wooley should have perhaps seen a limited CD-R run with the two using a more realized vision for such a relatively elaborate package. Maybe the eventual bite of winter months will better emphasize the murky touches of this effort, but the suffocating haze outside my door in the present eats such attempts alive.
1. The Duchess Of Oysterville