Grappling with the Orange Porpoise cs646









Adrian Northover continues to be involved in a variety of projects that intersect my interests in different ways, and that includes the recent album on Creative Sources, Grappling with the Orange Porpoise from a quartet called The Chemical Expansion League & consisting of Adam Bohman (prepared strings & objects), Sue Lynch (tenor saxophone, clarinet & flute), Northover (here on alto & soprano saxophones, wasp synthesizer & melodica) & Ulf Mengersen (bowed & prepared double bass). The ten tracks on Grappling with the Orange Porpoise were recorded across two sessions in London in August & November 2018, and generally demonstrate a variety of timbral combos & interactions. In this, Bohman was new to me, and appears to work largely with acoustic (pace mic'ing, of course) sound devices of his own devising. Although the other musicians bring a variety of techniques as well, Bohman's activity is thus perhaps the most initially striking.... And so as far as homemade instruments of late, leat me also mention Martin Klapper as paired with Roger Turner in The Croaks & as joined by Martin Küchen on One of the best bears!, recently released by Sluchaj (& sometimes with a similar vibe): Electronic devices are involved, and more than a bit of whimsy can appear in the interactions, but that's generally a more percussive album investigating some intricate & extended sonorities, perhaps with a hint of primitivism at times despite the consumer electronics. (There's also the recent Beaming, as mentioned here last month, almost a grand individual voyage through Tony Oxley's percussive world of electronic interactions.... And the Confront label does have many other albums featuring DIY instruments....) Bohman's "prepared strings" then suggest other reworkings of traditional instruments too, from e.g. Andrea Neumann playing "inside piano" (e.g. on Nashaz), to (also quite recently) Dominic Cramp on lyre amid the extended tapestry of Compassion & Evidence.... And Mengersen had appeared here with the trombone & low strings quintet Discoveries in October 2017, itself with more of a classical (rather than DIY) vibe, but evoking some primitivism as well. Finally, I'd mentioned Lynch with Thanos Chrysakis on Iridescent Strand (as discussed here in January 2019), and although that album comes to rely more on synthesizer (in part so as to erect longer, industrial spans), the dissonant beginning comes off rather similarly to Grappling with the Orange Porpoise, and indeed, Lynch & Northover have both joined Chrysakis for his latest quintet album, Five Shards (which hasn't appeared yet). (Lynch also just appeared with John Edwards — & trumpeter Dawid Frydryk, also from Five Shards — in a "classic free," extrovert quartet on Dial, as released earlier this year on FMR....) So there are already plenty of musical relations in place to start Grappling with the Orange Porpoise, which — per recent discussions around Joe Morris — presents in a series of (European music) paradoxes: Not only do the titles suggest various (often absurd) juxtapositions, perhaps in the vein of Zen confusion, but the different tracks tend to treat the instruments in varying & less usual (albeit not unknown) ways: On one track, horns might squeal escaping resonances to accent harshly rattling strings, and on another, provide centrally paired moods as delicately accented by rubbed strings — adjusting dynamics across the gamut along the way (even so as to include e.g. wailing sirens). Per the Zen remark then, the result can be disquieting in a sort of peculiar way, presumably to shock the system into a new consciousness. (There's thus an affective welding of ritual focus & irreverence.) And I'm not sure that The Chemical Expansion League meets such grand goals here, if in fact they're operative, but they do present a variety of ideas on timbre & interaction within their own rather idiosyncratic two horns & two strings quartet lineup (a formation I've tended to appreciate), and so I'd be interested to hear a followup to what often seems like a tinkerer's album. Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts