Various Artists – “Rusk”


An intriguing album just got released.  It’s a compilation album, teaming up various artists associated with Brooklyn jazz label Loyal Label and Norway’s Fenetre Records, a label that specializes in ambient/electronica/other-type music.

Most tracks are solo pieces, with the instrumentalists playing live over compiled sounds and beats prepared in advance, and sometimes recordings of themselves playing different parts on their instrument… a dynamic mix of improvisation built on the backs of compositions.  The end result of the collaboration is neither Jazz nor Ambient Electronica, but an odd sound experiment that revels in dissonance and tranquility, without giving free reign to either.

Your album personnel:  Jon Irabagon, Nate Wooley, Eivind Opsvik, Clayton Thomas, Okkyung Lee, Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Ben Gerstein, Toby Driver, Kim Myhr & Sebastien Roux, Svarte Greiner & Kjetil Møster, and Splashgirl.

Opening track “Le Havre” is bassist Clayton Thomas creating a pulsing electro-acoustic drone… low moans sliced in half by high-pitched metallic mewling.  That’s followed by the Jon Irabagon track “Six In One,” with its looped saxophone lines as a flock of bats spiraling up into the sky in tighter and tighter circles, growing more ominous as their individual forms move as a singular fearful mass.

On the third track “4,” what begins as the blip-and-scratch of a post-modern spaceship captained by Kim Myrh & Sebastien Roux, becomes a tranquil guitar lullaby.  Toby Driver‘s guitar on the fourth track “Wet Color” is sometimes peaceful, sometimes spastic, like kicking back in a recliner with a bad case of cabin fever.

On the fifth track “There’s A Crack In Everything,” Kammerflimmer Kollektief is an empty bottle bobbing on tranquil waves in an electronic sea.  This creates an unsettling transition to the subsequent track “Brushed Like A Dry,” where Svarte Greiner & Kjetil Møster create a frantic dirge of twittering woodwinds and creaking strings.  On track seven “Unfolded Rings,” cellist Okkyung Lee channels her inner slasher flick, a beautiful song to murder by.

Eighth track “Winter Blues,” has Ben Gerstein offering a mix of his trombone, warped sounds and effects, and the sounds of children talking.  Ninth track is bassist Eivind Opsvik‘s “Sticks, Eyes, Feet, and Brains,” the most tuneful piece on the album.  An infectious rhythm that elopes with a lush bowed bass, they dash off into the sunset together, mixed feelings of urgency and contentment.

On the tenth track “Quincy-Mayger,” Nate Wooley creates a modern electro-hymn with long droning trumpet lines and effects.  The wall of prayer gains intensity at an inexorably patient rate.  Album ends with the breezy skip-and-hop rhythms of Splashgirl‘s “We Took Him Out To See the Sun,” a cheerful flow of gentle notes.

This is one of those albums that isn’t going to be attractive to a wide cross-section of the music listening public.  That, however, doesn’t appear to have been a consideration in the planning of this album.  What does appear to be of preeminent importance is giving artists from disparate sounds and origins wide latitude in expressing themselves with as much innovation as their hearts could bear.

Unfettered creativity, then sent out into the world for all of us to hear?  I like that.  You might, too.

Available at eMusic.  Available at Amazon: MP3