Jonathan Kane and Dave Soldier – February Meets Soldier String Quartet – [TrackList follows] – EEG Records 0044, 44:43 [2/1/21] ****:
Jonathan Kane – co-producer, arranger (tracks 1-3), co-engineer, drums, guitars, bass; Dave Soldier – co-producer, co-engineer, strings arranger (tracks 1-4); Jon Crider – guitar (track 3), co-engineer
It’s not every album which combines Frank Sinatra, Chicago-based blues, drone music, and European classical influences. But then, Jonathan Kane and Dave Soldier aren’t typical musicians. Kane came to prominence as a participant of New York’s early 1980s Downtown Music scene, working with minimalist composers La Monte Young and Rhys Chatham. Kane—known mainly as a drummer—was also a founding member of NYC noise ensemble Swans. And he leads the minimalist blues band Jonathan Kane’s February. Soldier is a composer and musician in a variety of genres including avant-garde, classical, and jazz and fronts the Soldier String Quartet. He’s also a neuroscientist, and Columbia University Medical Center professor.
The 44-minute February Meets Soldier String Quartet is the second collaboration between Kane and Soldier, following a self-titled 2017 duo project. The four lengthy instrumental tunes—which run from eight minutes to 16 minutes—elongate musical moments into prolonged proportions. Kane and Soldier transform Little Walter’s blues classic “Hate to See You Go” (covered by the Rolling Stones and many others) into a nine-minute, extensively riffing and almost ritualistic excursion. A basic blues connotation is the underpinning for a rising, escalating drone where strings, bass and guitar sustain an inescapable course, while drums maintain a metronomic momentum. The track builds up much like Swans songs tend to do, with intensifying tension and little relief or release.
On the other hand, the eight-minute translation of “It Was a Very Good Year,” a Sinatra standard, has a quieter moodiness. Initially the lowered tempo and guitars—which utilize more effects such as reverb, delay, and distortion—provide a hypnotic reflection, comparable to music floating in space, akin to the softer side of the group Spiritualized. The arrangement—seasoned by more strings—levitates and adds pressure but just as the music turns slightly discordant, Kane and Soldier return to the main theme to bring the composition full circle.
The album’s second half features two originals. Kane’s 16-minute “Requiem for Hulis Pulis” is a stretched form of trance-blues, an intermingling of electric blues and gradual sonic variations. The commemorative selection includes the Soldier String Quartet as a supportive foundation and extra guitar from Jon Crider, who is part of Jonathan Kane’s February. The piece—reminiscent of Rhys Chatham’s minimalism—may seem melancholy, darker-toned, and more dislocating; but the repeating blues motif also espouses a life-affirming quality: after all, blues music can be both a comment on bad times and good times. The guitars, bass and drums are tapered down for Soldier’s 11-minute, orchestral “Vienna Over the Hills” which has been termed as “a gauzy dream-cum-nightmare” where European modern classical meets the expressionism of Arnold Schoenberg; and the stimulus of Gustav Klimt’s symbolism artwork intersects with a psychoanalytical countenance. Harmonics incline toward opposition on “Vienna Over the Hills,” the melodic structure leans toward dissonance, and La Monte Young devotees will probably appreciate this tune’s consonance.
Hate to See You Go
It Was a Very Good Year
Requiem for Hulis Pulis
Vienna Over the Hills
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