Tender Buttons | Forbidden Symmetries
Rastascan Records (LP/DL)
The Bay Area has an afterglow with the latest minimal abstractions from Tender Buttons, Forbidden Symmetries (Rastascan Records). The trio creates an intersection between post-jazz and nu-classical, but bring their own blend of silences and cosmic effects to this record that includes two lengthy tracks, one per side, timing out at a bit over twenty-seven minutes for run time. These guys (Tania Chen, Tom Djll, Gino Robair) are so far out there, they even got their name from the 1914 Gertrude Stein novel. These three are who some of the grand-heirs to the Cage-ian throne.
Recorded in 2015 and released earlier this year, I wanted to ensure to cover this one-of-a-kind recording before we turn to the next chapter. From my past dalliances in the avant garde world of out jazz, when I saw this was on Rastascan it brought back a lot of memories, however, this is much more in the world of contemporary electronic music than it is jazz, per se. Chen’s piano has an unmistakable jazz timbre, scaling up and down the keyboard while Djll and Robair turn out some fierce electronic sleight-of-hand. Though they all meet fairly quickly into the first part of A Red Hat. A Blue Coat. A Piano. The atmosphere is a contemplative video game arcade with sparse bells and whistles when you least expect them.
At one point a simple engine-like rev flares as a sudden series of keystrokes comes and goes only emphasizing the motorized purr. They seem to be using tone to punctuate silence, and it’s this peculiarity that runs right through this. Slight flickers and twangs that sound like casting fly fishing rod permeate the quiet. Their momentary abstractions are colorful and playful.
Moving right on to Go red go red, laugh white they add a high pitch tone and low-end percussion. As they tune into what can only be described as a cosmic frequency, they allot plenty of blank space to paint a minimalistic canvas of sonic scribbles, chords and other sudden acoustic bumps in the night. There is ample breadth in what they do, and though their sound is quite asymmetrical it is in no way clouded, they offer sound almost in the same way you might explore the wonder of a bento box, neat and tasty – with a side of strange flavors that in combination are that thing called umami.