Elliott Sharp/Bernhard Lang – Donaueschinger Musiktage 2007 – SWR2 NOW Jazz – War Zones – Neos Productions multichannel SACD NEOS 40808, 63:48 [Distr. by Naxos] ***:
(Elliott Sharp – 8-string guitarbass, electronics; Bernhard Lang – keyboards, electronics; LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs – text, mixmastertodd, electronics, vocals; Phillip Jeck – turntables; Hans Koch – reeds; Fredy Studer – drums, percussion)
Experimental music in the new millennium is often complex and difficult to categorize. With elements of jazz, avant-garde, hip hop and electronic, the thematic content often embraces socio-political narratives. Multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp has been a pioneer in this genre, heading up groups like Carbon, Orchestra Carbon, Tectonics and Terraplane. He has been involved with several commissioned projects. Additionally, he played with improvisational artists like Arthur Blythe, Jack DeJohnette, Fred Firth, Billy Hart, Oliver Lake, Sonny Sharrock and various electronic specialists. Bernhard Lang has garnered attention for his compositional works (for musical theatre and most notably “Differenz/Wiederholung”) in avant-garde classical, electronic and jazz explorations.
Donaueschinger Musiktage 2007 (War Zones) consists of two politically charged works, commissioned by SWR. At the core of the project is the effect of contentious global foreign policies by industrialized nations that have impacted relations with the Third World. More than simple finger-pointing, it is an uncompromising analysis of the causal effects of arbitrary international doctrines on the world.
The opening piece, “Ripples From The Bang” (Sharp) is a reflection on chains of events (political, natural disasters, etc.) and how they spiral out of control. A barrage of electronic sound paints an often bleak landscape. LaTasha N. Nevead Diggs delivers a riveting free-form vocal. The musical context varies from pre-produced electronic sound files to improvisational edgy jazz. Transitions to jagged guitar, bleating saxophones (Hans Koch) and steady funk drums (Fredy Studer) underline the cataclysmic nature of world events. Electronic, sonic assaults sketch a tension-filled agenda of hate that has reverberated back to its origins. References to Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, miners in America create the sense of helplessness toward the inevitable aftermath of personal and social consequential actions. Toward the conclusion the narrator intones “…I hated you once, let me reach you…” to call out the need for a different cataclysmic solution: rational thinking.
“Paranoia” (Lang) is a sequential “semi-improvised” suite, taken from Act III of the musical theatre work, Der Alte vom Berge. Utilizing text groups and scratched loops, “damage beats” (Phil Jeck on turntables) has a very definite shadowy political message. There is a plethora of abstract jazz. Diggs stretches out on vocals with jazzy vocal phrasing, often in counterpoint to altered rap. The sax lines and drum rolls are reminiscent of early seventies progressive jazz bands like The Flock. Text groups include “Justifications” (Internet research on paranoia as political function), The CIA Protocols Of Political Assassination and the content page of Paranoia Magazine. A fatalistic caution permeates this track. The inclination of society to power assertion is regarded as a natural accelerant to violence.
War Zones is a piercing, thought-provoking essay on contemporary society. [The lyrics opposing the Iraq War may resonate with many who cannot stand the music, and some for whom the music is exactly their thing may not like the political messages…Ed.]
TrackList: Ripples From The Bang; Paranoia
— Robbie Gerson
A 10-year anniversary of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society gets a welcome vinyl upgrade.