If printed, the discographies of guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Peter Evans, and drummer Weasel Walter would stretch out longer than the 120-foot strip of tracing paper Kerouac went mad on. Filled with meetings between many of the most innovative composers and improvisers of the last 40 years — Anthony Braxton, Ken Vandermark, Evan Parker, the list goes on — these ramblers persistently chase sonic encounters with the unfamiliar and have developed the fearlessness required for such dangerous musical pursuits. They have toured the US and Europe over the last few years in trio, but this Thirsty Ear release is their debut recording. It’s a mouthwatering improvised episode, and after the electro-juice drips down your chin once, you’ll keep reaching for the voltaic fruit despite the horror of the fall.
Electric Fruit sounds like what Quantum Leap protagonist Dr. Sam Beckett must have felt as the ground beneath him disappeared. Dashing across time and into unknown bodies and lifeworlds, any possibility of permanence was disrupted. He was forced to embrace the condition that scared the beard off Marx: the historical truth that “all that is solid melts into air.” This is a state to which these musicians don’t simply surrender, but, as improvisers, strive to create. This voluntary rootlessness necessitates adaptability to unfamiliar contexts and, in a group situation, an enhancement of the capacity for dialogue and deliberation. On these six improvised pieces, the trio ignites the Nobel-stick and grins as the floor blasts out from underneath its feet, but the lines of communication remain open and articulate.
Each improviser brings his or her own unique voice to the conversation to create a dramatic landscape of pauses, interruptions, yelps, mumbles, and barks. Halvorson’s inimitable guitar-traces scurry and dissolve, proving amorphous and reappearing as temporary walls of overblown fuzz until they melt back down and jump back up. Walter refrains from all-out blow-out, pockets his history of violence, and quickly alters the percussive textures and shapes like a canvas that self-erases the moment you’d expect the paint to dry. Ripping back and forth like a hurricane stuck between two battling magnets, Evans’ trumpet half-scales, stretches, and splices together slippery fragments of whispering fog.
Though chaotic at times, listeners will locate moments where the instruments shift from libertarian solipsism to democratic cooperation. For example, 1:45 in to “Mangosteen 3000 A.D.,” Halvorson’s darting guitar clears a trail for Evans and Walter to follow. On “The Pseudocarp Walks Among Us,” Evans takes the lead, and then readjusts his posture one minute in, not to dominate the surge, but to beneficently shift its trajectory. Their gestural path is a thorny one to hunt, but the award is well worth the exertion.