Chantal Acda
The Balustrade Ensemble
Ten Favourite Labels 2015

Chantal Acda
The Balustrade Ensemble
Basic Soul Unit
Bersarin Quartett
Bing & Ruth
Wil Bolton
Ian William Craig
Cryo Chamber Collab.
Dikeman Noble Serries
Paul Ellis
Ensemble Economique
Reiko Füting
Jim Ghedi
Hakobune & Dirk Serries
Mary Halvorson
Chihei Hatakeyama
Iskra String Quartet
Mano Le Tough
Deborah Martin
Lubomyr Melnyk
Multicast Dynamics
James Murray
Mute Forest
New Order
Ø [Phase]
Post Office
Nadia Reid
Max Richter
Will Samson
Time Is a Mountain
Michael Trommer
Tuxedo. / Cult W. No Name
Understated Theory
Zero T

Compilations / Mixes / Remixes / Reissues
Sylvain Chauveau
John Foxx & Harold Budd
Mathew Jonson
Le Freak

EPs / Cassettes / DVDs / Mini-Albums / Singles
Mr. Bios
Zero T / LSB / T. Prose / FD

Dikeman Noble Serries Trio: Obscure Fluctuations
Trost Records

Artists from three countries pool their respective talents on this forty-six-minute set from the Vienna, Austria-based Trost label. Laid down at Sound Savers, London on April 2nd, 2015, Obscure Fluctuations pairs American tenor saxophonist John Dikeman, Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries, and English drummer Steve Noble on two long-form improvisations occasionally capable of peeling wallpaper and shaking foundations (apparently the three recorded the two pieces without ever having played together before).

In the liner notes, Guy Peters contrasts the open-mindedness, trust, and respect exemplified by the free playing of the three musicians to the diametric qualities of fear and distrust that different countries' leaders bring to their interactions. Peters' point isn't without merit—there's certainly room for such a socio-political reading, especially when each musician hails from a different country—though it probably won't occupy your thoughts for long once the musical storm hits. And it doesn't take long to do so: two minutes into the opening “From Assent to Refusal,” the three already are operating at full throttle, Dikeman rapidly squealing and honking, Noble violently battering his kit, and Serries unleashing shards and splinters into the air alongside them. The music alternately lurches, wails, and combusts as it works its way through twenty-three minutes, with the guitarist often acting as a stabilizing center that allows the others to play with abandon. At times one of the three drops out and the musicians gather themselves into different configurations in keeping with the improv's development. The less-tumultuous “The Heart Strips Bare” opens quietly, the three quietly painting the scene with restrained textural gestures, Serries generating creaking noises and Dikeman channeling ghosts, until fourteen minutes along, the saxophonist briefly amps up the energy level before returning again to the subdued pitch.

As loud and noise-laden as the recording sometimes is, it's not an unrelenting free-for-all. Episodes of contrasting mood and design appear, the music evolving from one sequence to the next at the behest of its creators. I won't front: the style of music captured on Obscure Fluctuations isn't entirely to my taste, nor is its first piece the kind of playing situation I most prefer for Serries. I've been listening to recordings of his—solo and otherwise—for years now, and this setting, in certain moments, is the most ferocious of all the ones I have on which he performs. That being said, I have the utmost admiration for the guitarist for constantly putting himself into new playing contexts and continually exploring new musical directions. One imagines that a world leader or two could certainly learn from such open-mindedness.

November 2015