Polish imprint Mondoj brings together two Americans who met a decade back at Oberlin College for their fresh debut, A Heart From Your Shadow. Electronic sound artist Michael Beharie and cellist Teddy Rankin-Parker have come together with purpose here. These ten tracks open with a nu-classical Intro that is as melodic as it airs just slightly on the suspicious side of sound – especially when it goes from light n’ airy, to a sudden whammy of guitar fuzz + a passing ambulance. Strap in folks and Happy World Listening Day — welcome to the show!
EFFERVESCENT ELECTRONICA: These two big city musicians (NYC + Chicago) offer So Much Trash as an entry point fortified with tropical rhythms of bright percussion and wiggly tones. I most definitely must make mention that two incredible sound artist/collaborators helped work this record – mixed by Jim O’Rourke and mastered by James Plotkin – so this ‘entry-level’ duo are in masterful hands. In the last 30 seconds a digitized female voice talks about cleaning trash from a garden and anticipating a reward for the do-good’r. Throughout there are so many splashes of dramatic flair evoking an urban stage play, and this is especially effective on the incredible Paper Tiger. With stops n’ starts, circular strings in line with some of the best Philip Glass operas, bling-like jangle, quik slap-cuts, and metallic junkyard riveting hijinks. The work is layered with a passionate play of changing temperatures.
On Gully the background to foreground thwack of percussion reminds me of Czech or Irish folk dance, with steadfast stomping precision. The cello cries over the rising voices and falling drone on the too short Smooth Face, which could be the center of a full-length in and of itself. The track reminds me of Italian avant 70s cinema, it just has a certain vibe that is hard to tap exactly. And this leads into Fake Money, something you might hear while walking through villages in Morocco, the twang sets up a melodic ambience that’s bright, sensitive. These short tracks that range from under two to just over six minutes are like short films in a travelogue. Roses is the lengthiest and most psychedelic of the batch. The fast harmony has some in common with the larger-than-life structure of Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre, going full steam, then suddenly punctuated, re-starting with a slow layered echo, contained clatter and subsequent muffling. And the playful 60s-like synth resumes, and it’s like an early multi-directional Pink Floyd record for a few moments.
These guys don’t take any of their kitchen-sink approach for granted as you never feel as though you are listening to a schizophrenic symphony, more like a reordered collection of memories. I’m drawn into the esoteric repetition of wind gusts that cross from the quietude of Promise into the pure musique concrète on Icon – and the transition is somehow seamless. Let’s just say that Rankin-Parker’s instrument is on fire, careening forth into the unknown. It reminds me some of an electric performance of Cecil Taylor I had seen a few decades back, and left trance-induced, covered in goosepimples. The closer, Petaluma, is a woozy theme, a lady in the rain, perhaps Jamaican, illustrating the goings-on aloud, and suddenly it is instantly end scene – leaving you with echoes in its wake, right between the ears. A debut of note.