Nobile: Pelktron

Jair-Rôhm Parker Wells: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

The premiere klanggold release is by label head Andreas Usenbenz (aka Nobile) whose laptop strategies involve the reinterpretation of classical music elements—not that anyone would necessarily recognize them as such after Usenbenz is through with them. The sounds themselves may remain recognizable but the remarkably unusual configurations that emerge within his arrangements sound completely unfamiliar.

In the opener “bahnhof,” chattering electronic organisms incessantly shudder and squirm while softer, recorder-like tones eke out some faint semblance of conventional melody over restless activity churning below. The equally-surprising “durch” pairs acoustic bass lines and tom-tom accents but combines them with croaking tones and glockenspiel tinkles into some mutant variation of a jazz ballad. Each piece explores heretofore undiscovered terrain: an army of trilling percussive rattles streams through “k.rogk”; a funereal two-tone lurch drags “tagtraum” forward while dense bird-like masses overtop threaten to attack; and, like a ping-pong match taking place in some alternate galaxy, gaseous surges hypnotically alternate at both left and right channels throughout “renoise.” Identifiable acoustic sounds rub shoulders with abstract noises in organically unfolding pieces that both command one's attention and simultaneously exhaust it. Unpredictability reigns throughout, and consequently the listener is engaged at each moment, constantly thrown off-balance by the jarring paths the pieces pursue. Though Usenbenz's Nobile material sounds nothing like Oval, the two artists are similar in the degree to which they challenge the listener with entirely alien yet wholly captivating experiences. Pelktron is an auspicious label debut, to say the least.

Amazingly, Jair-Rôhm Parker Wells' electroacoustic experimental collection, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, is as arresting. Recorded at his Stockholm studio (the American bassist moved to Sweden in 1985), the hour-long recording finds the composer merging the recognizable sounds of bass improvisations (produced by a Fichter electric upright bass and Hohner HAB-1 acoustic bass guitar) with heavily-processed electronic manipulations that are considerably more abstract. “A.L.M.” opens the album explosively with shakers-like percussion sounds and sputtering electronics which bleed and belch over the rhythm base. The comparatively more conventional “In Theory There is No Difference Between Theory and Practice, In Practice There Is” is a breezy setting of laid-back jazz swing where the electric bass floats over a dense synthetic haze; ‘fusion' in the best sense of the word, the piece could be heard as a tribute to Weather Report circa Mysterious Traveler, with the fretless bass sound reminiscent of Pastorius and the synth solo of Zawinul. The piece shifts gears halfway through when the rhythm drops out, paving the way for a more explorative space where the bass solos amidst blurry electronic loops, whooshes, and assorted other noises. The processed guitars of Robert Musso and James Plotkin build a lulling drone behind Parker Wells' lead on “The Annexing of Jane.” The album occasionally gravitates toward relatively placid territory during the languorous “Sententia Africanus (for Karl-Heinz Stockhausen)” and “Lethal Beauty,” and also includes two beautiful meditations for solo bass (“Libido Management,” “Dangerous Curves and a Head”) where Parker Wells' technical command is showcased marvelously. The album transcends straightforward definition so handily that calling Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam a ‘solo bass' project is ridiculously inadequate—especially when the genre-defying collection includes pieces like a twelve-minute black hole of writhing electronic wooziness (“To Morning Sea Explore”).

August 2007