Monday, August 14, 2017

MONAS "Freedom"
(Astral Spirits / Monofonus Press)




Side A:  "Visible Spirit"

Side A adapts and mimics the paramount free jazz of Sun Ra, where the electricity of instruments are exploited to create cosmic sounds that conjure up images of the depths of space. But instead of Sun Ra's contorted organ being a prime instrument, "Visible Spirits" instrument of choice is a rock 'n' roll classic; the electric guitar.  At its best moments, Monas' Colin Fisher gets his guitar to sound like a Godzilla death cry.  It's "awakening" is accompanied by the appearance of a bass guitar which rattles out a fuzzed out escalating, doomy melody. The guitar transforms into spacecraft bleeps and back to cyborg bear groans.  The drums are feral and anti-socially bubble about in the background, like a boy in his diapers splashing around in a puddle of mud.  Monas is performing some bad behavior for sure.  At times the guitar becomes recognizable as it performs endless metal scales which seem to not be in rhythm with anything but an inner monologue that is occurring inside the musician.  Side A ends with the musicians embracing the fundamentally punk nature of this session; a crescendo of the themes priorly described in this review followed by the acceptance of the void - broken speaker feedback.

Side B: Invisible Nature

Side B, "Invisible Nature", trades in the electric guitar abuse for a saxophone which expresses endurance by playing improvised virtuosic melodies until what feels like physical breakdown.  The drums go in and out of rolls that respond to the saxophone in real time.  Philosophically, the drummer seems to be treating this session as exercise as well, testing his physical abilities while pushing the sonic boundaries of no wave-free jazz. The clashes of symbols scatter the improvised composition like fireworks crackling a fourth of July sky.  The Bass remains uncommitted, gradually dictating and establishing a rhythm before abandoning it, drunkenly positioning itself between 3 or 4 notes.  The bass is strongest sonically when slid, as the distorted amplifier exaggerates the instrument's primal core; hyper picked Dick Dale single note freakouts - Miserlou attempted by an unchecked Existentialist just in time for their mid-life crisis.

By the time the bass has found its groove, the saxophone has hit staccato pitches which mimic a cat in heat, a dying rabbit or perhaps a science fiction type robot short circuiting.

The music's unhinged, endless freeform produces both sensations of catharsis but also fear. The music suggests an unsettling situation in which the listener, accustomed to looping vaporware and television commercial jingles with the sole purpose of getting stuck in your head, cannot know what will happen next.  There is simply no relief from the imaginative on-slot which purposely dismisses harmony, pattern or order for freedom.

Invisible Nature ends with the Saxophone spiraling around nonsensically, with no direction but still with the same level of passion and energy ... the saxophone's volume fades out, unresolved, implying it never ends.

Fans of Sun Ra, Lambsbread, Mothmus and other Ecstatic Peace noisemakers will dig this release.

-- Jack Turnbull