♫♪  Laplante/Dunn/Smith - “Look Behind You”

The roster of NNA Tapes reads like a “Whoa Really?” of the experimental underground, spanning everyone from Pulse Emitter to Oneohtrix Point Never to Jason Lescalleet to Nate Young — but the label’s next release reins in an ensemble of avant-garde heavyweights that tend to orbit a few strata above the underground tape circuit: Ches Smith (ace drummer in Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog and Secret Chiefs 3), Travis Laplante (saxophonist for the criminally underrated Little Women), and Trevor Dunn (bassed god of Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, and a number of John Zorn’s outfits [Moonchild, Electric Masada, etc.]). Zoom out a little, and you can consider Trevor Dunn’s presence here in particular as an example of the wide cycle of influence that spurs labels like NNA into existence. The boundary-shattering discography of Mr. Bungle, who signed to Warner Brothers Records in the early nineties, represented an anomalous apex of “mainstream” exposure for mind-warping sounds in that era, searing the band’s twisted, clown-shaped mark onto the minds of thousands of spastic teens (myself included) and an international demographic of out-there musicians (Laplante and Smith, I would imagine, included). Years of omni-genre experimentation later, Dunn constitutes an integral part of the many-tentacled NYC improv/avant-jazz culture that nurtured Laplante’s and Smith’s projects — along with more contemporaneous NNA Tapers like Hubble (Ben Greenberg) and Hex Breaker Quartet.

In today’s medium-conscious musical marketplace, when articles pop up every week championing or decrying (pshhhhh) the continued existence of tapes, Ancestral Instrument cuts out all the posturing and attests to one of the cassette medium’s greatest strengths: documenting side-long sessions of shreddery. The trio approached their collaboration as a blank slate, stripped of any harmonic or structural stipulations, and the results illustrate their telepathic communication from within the “free”-“jazz” void. Onstage with Little Women, Laplante’s sax assault splinters into cacophonous spirals of extended technique blowing in tandem with Darius Jones. On “Look Behind You,” premiering below, Laplante approaches the session from a more textural standpoint, coloring in the open space with tenuous moans, slow breaths, and the occasional squall. Smith plays it real cool, girding the proceedings with a wash of cymbal rushes, hi-hat missives, and snare accents. Dunn, meanwhile, balances his double bass output on the precipice between lead voice and rhythmic backbone, prodding Laplante and Smith into new permutations of ethereal and/or queasy exploration. Near the session’s halfway point (scope the bulbous node on that waveform), the concoction bubbles over the side of the cauldron as the trio locks into a passage of more animated destruction, with Laplante stretching into an atonal solo and Smith octopus-ing around the kit in a rush of polyrhythmic activity.

Ancestral Instrument lands today on NNA Tapes.

• Travis Laplante: http://www.travislaplante.com
• Trevor Dunn: http://trevordunn.net
• Ches Smith: http://www.chessmith.com
• NNA Tapes: http://nnatapes.com

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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