Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt - Brace Up!

A Closer Listen

What’s in an involuntary gesture? We’re used to framing it as a loss of control, but we could also conceive of tics and physiological tremors as a bodily effort to take said control back, to call the attention of an ignoring mind to truly direct it towards the present. Meditation can only take you so far, and perhaps it is through this restlessness that our whole persons connect to the strain and the struggle of vitality exerted. Brace Up! with its exclamation points and its hectic pace, moves across this intuitive terrain, sounding like a math-rock record but subverting any abstractions by a racing mind, opting instead for a pre-cognitive communication between two musicians truly at play.

Like the memetic cover image, there’s a pattern laid out in this music that doesn’t come from the usual seriousness of improv, but from its more humorous side, in which laughter joins the company of the stressful tic and the strain of a hand held “still” as an involuntary burst of energy. Every track finds joy in the spontaneity of the destruction of a planned-out structure, each player, like the carelessly dangerous punk pit of the cover, audibly wasting their efforts in a progression of sheer exhaustion. Tics, tremors, and laughter are, after all, also governed by rhythm, an expenditure measured in weird off-kilter time signatures that blow apart the regularity of the mind and make it fail, shattering thoughts to pieces until concentration of any kind becomes impossible. But these strange rhythms innate-yet-alien to our bodies also put emotions into the blender, like an annoying hiccup that comes to dominate a person in such a way that it ends up provoking the most useless of actions (we’ve all been there, trying some silly remedy that’s more akin to games and magical thinking than to any sort of reasonable science).

An involuntary gesture is the basest form of expression, its un-rational nature a grand happy waste, the closest to a free improv interplay we can get, and Brace Up! thrives with a potential ready to be expended; the quick, angular exchanges between Orcutt’s guitar strikes (fiercely expressionist but also just brutal) and Corsano’s machinegun drumming (incredibly precise and yet chaotic) almost inevitably makes the experience of listening one of spastic recognition of flows and sudden changes in direction. You can’t really think or feel through this one (trust me, I had a hard time writing this), because it negates process entirely: it erupts into action, and pulls your listening straight into the blast, the fallout in the aftermath a sense of disjointedness, of having to come back to the realm of cognition, like the moment when you’re cleaning off tears after laughing hard, everything clicking back into place but always at the risk of breaking down once again. The laughter always wants to return – “joy wants eternity” – but cognition holds it in place, our energy saved so as to safely restore the world of seriousness.

It’s too bad this album ends, its “Bargain Sounds” and base spasms stopping all too suddenly, but the subsequent silence does allow us to realize that bracing up, holding everything in to prepare for a coming onslaught, is worth it only if we make sure to spend it all in the most useless ways we can think of. So let’s be good punks, gather all our friends, and gleefully smash ourselves against the walls and each other as this wonderful duo plays jagged cuts at breakneck speeds. (David Murrieta Flores)

 

Fri Nov 23 01:01:20 CET 2018

90

The Free Jazz Collective

By Nick Metzger

I generally buy anything Bill Orcutt releases for better or worse, and I’ve been both genuinely throttled and slightly disappointed by his steady stream of releases. Some of his work plays like an exorcism, some of it feels inane (perhaps the result of being so prolific), but it’s always full of activity and the passion can’t be denied. His unique guitar playing style has become his own distinct language that he’s used to reconstruct punk, folk, and the blues into something else, is own exclusive ‘other’. No one sounds like Bill Orcutt sounds and that’s why I buy them all. His collaborations with Chris Corsano are some of my favorites, as Corsano has a way of ushering out the best in his cohorts (see any of his mind-blowing work with Paul Flaherty for testament) and is one of the best free improvising drummers active (I’d put him in the top 5 without batting an eyelash). This is their fourth release as a duo if I’m counting correctly, and it’s their first studio album, which removes some of the grit of their live recordings and gives a nice hi-fidelity look into their dynamics.

The record kicks right into high gear on the title track driven by Orcutt’s plunky cluster bombs and Corsano’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink rhythms. It’s over before you can even process it. Similarly, Amp vs Drum has the underpinnings of a sonic water-balloon fight; it’s a brief but fantastic display of ecstatic give and take from the duo. On Double Bind the pair allows themselves to spread it out a bit more. Orcutt’s guttural vocalizing shows out a bit here, although it’s not nearly as audible as on his acoustic material. The song takes the form of an abstracted free punk/blues blowout that is pummeled into the red by Corsano, who sounds as good here as he’s ever sounded anywhere. She Punched a Hole in the Moon for Me is next, and takes a more probing stance from the outset and builds slowly in intensity. Orcutt’s free vocals are used to good effect here to ratchet up the tension as is his guitar playing, which goes from bluesy and sparse to full-on shred. Corsano follows his lead,
providing peaks and valleys of roiling percussion for the guitarist to improvise over.

Poundland Frenzy, Clapton’s Complaint, Bargain Sounds, and Paranoid Time are all brief-but-furious bursts of energy, each lasting well under a minute. They are bite-sized morsels of twangy rhythmic goodness that burn a white hot path to The Secret Engine of History, where the duo again takes on a wonderfully varied and extended improvisation. Love and Open Windows is another longer piece and perhaps the most introspective number on the record. Orcutt’s spacious guitar playing takes on an undeniably Americana-esque inflection, reprocessed via his intrinsic jumble and worry, while Corsano takes on the similarly reflective tenor, offering up more open spaces between his rolls and clusters. The bedlam resumes on the wonderfully titled He Do the Police in Different Voices. The incendiary guitar takes to the fore and drives wild riffs and runs atop Orcutt’s spittle-pocked yelps and gut-hollers. The record ends with Paris Spleen, a choppy avant-blues that becomes more and more prickly, culminating in a percussive explosion of worming, wiry guitar and churning drums.

This is by far the most cohesive sounding album from the duo yet. I’m not sure if it’s the studio environment and good mics or whether after all these years of playing together they’ve just gelled on a whole other level (maybe a little bit of both), but it sounds fantastic. Orcutt has exhibited a refinement in his playing on his last two albums (both studio affairs) that has brought a clarity missing from his other electric material. Yes the music is still frenetic and noisy, but it’s much easier now to see where he’s going and the impossible heights he’s reaching for. And here he has Corsano to give him a boost.

Brace Up! by Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt

Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano at Les Ateliers Claus, Brussels, 2018:

Sat Dec 22 06:00:00 CET 2018

80

Tiny Mix Tapes

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt
Brace Up!

[Palilalia; 2018]

Rating: 4/5

It’s obviously getting late. So don’t be reluctant to call this whatever you want. Call it all day. Call it work. Call it a stress test. Call it a call of the wild, wild western value pak, sent pak, pak it in while you still can, braced for impak. Call it thick walls splitting deep seams and big sleeps under a collapse-ceiling duvet. Call it maelstrom. Call it hatch battening. Call it calm in a time of folksy animal abuse analogies on the progressive side of debate. Call its name through a glad din, glad you’re drowned out in red hot spite of yourself. Call it horseshit thru the wrong side of the glue factory exhaust fan. Call it just to hear the sound of its voice. Call it in for the night. Call it in for that endless fucking night. Call it sinister love. Call it one song or a dozen. Call it tight-rolled, close-knit quilted quicker picker-upper. Call it crying. Call it flailing. Call it desperate. Call it on the line. Call it calling out, pleading to whoever’ll listen.

Rough and ready, raw and replenishing, Corsano and Orcutt. The answer to any call worth making and a round repudiation of ordering principles and prescribed prerequisite. They shake out in the middle of the room (your head) like heedless sopping dogs, spraying out some wholesome greenslime smoothie upon all in its muggy circumference. Their sound is stirring in ways both contagious and confrontational. It is the fresh sting we didn’t know we wanted needed. The memetic diagram gracing Brace Up!’s cover is a beautifully succinct summation of what’s inside: human turbine Corsano is the whirling skyward anchor, Orcutt the fearless lunge, and this album the total world destruction they (and we all) precariously orbit.

The former Harry Pussy guitarist, having provided one of the highlights of last year with his self-titled solo album, sounds more p&v primed for the times than ever. He shreds on Corsano’s always awe-inspiring cascades with a grinding rock spirit that seems more 2018 essential than any pedestrian or ironically tender protest song, incidental mumblesing and all. If there are good words for what is happening to us, they’ve all been used and then some. Even those with the sly advantage of being professionally tasked to extol exasperation over the redundancy of everyone else are inescapably stumbling into what they #loathe. The restless exclamations hurled about on this record are onomatopoeias that have yet to acquire their own block letter comic book bubble homes. They are peals of unobservably vast revelations that one can only tilt at like a trepidatious Terry Gilliam fan, looking to see where The Man Who Killed Don Quixote isn’t screening. That there are curious, often funny (“He do The Police in Different Voices” is a fave) titles doesn’t change this. We are all expert mad-libbers now, yes. But — and of course this is a small, small thing — even the most arbitrary of titles beats none at all.

These two still out there doing what they do — with or without the cavalcade of amazing folk (Joe McPhee, Richard Bishop, Paul Flaherty, Okkyung Lee, Nate Wooley, Michael Morley, Mick Flower, Mette Rasmussen, and Tashi Dorji, to name a few) they do it with — is a big, big thing. Hearing them is truly being present when all else is endlessly angling toward some lucrative advantage, most often falling out of frame in mid-pitch. Of course, we’ve all been falling, naturally falling faster as we go. And none can catch or even break this fall when the taken-for-solid ground itself is falling along with us. Best to gasp when there’s no grasp. Incoherent, blurted last words have their charm. The leviathan smiles. The mess says, “well ain’t you cute,” plum plummeting with implausible aplomb. Nice knowing us? Well, that dep….

Fri Nov 09 06:06:09 CET 2018

80

Tiny Mix Tapes

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt
Brace Up!

[Palilalia; 2018]

Rating: 4/5

It’s obviously getting late. So don’t be reluctant to call this whatever you want. Call it all day. Call it work. Call it a stress test. Call it a call of the wild, wild western value pak, sent pak, pak it in while you still can, braced for impak. Call it thick walls splitting deep seams and big sleeps under a collapse-ceiling duvet. Call it maelstrom. Call it hatch battening. Call it calm in a time of folksy animal abuse analogies on the progressive side of debate. Call its name through a glad din, glad you’re drowned out in red hot spite of yourself. Call it horseshit thru the wrong side of the glue factory exhaust fan. Call it just to hear the sound of its voice. Call it in for the night. Call it in for that endless fucking night. Call it sinister love. Call it one song or a dozen. Call it tight-rolled, close-knit quilted quicker picker-upper. Call it crying. Call it flailing. Call it desperate. Call it on the line. Call it calling out, pleading to whoever’ll listen.

Rough and ready, raw and replenishing, Corsano and Orcutt. The answer to any call worth making and a round repudiation of ordering principles and prescribed prerequisite. They shake out in the middle of the room (your head) like heedless sopping dogs, spraying out some wholesome greenslime smoothie upon all in its muggy circumference. Their sound is stirring in ways both contagious and confrontational. It is the fresh sting we didn’t know we wanted needed. The memetic diagram gracing Brace Up!’s cover is a beautifully succinct summation of what’s inside: human turbine Corsano is the whirling skyward anchor, Orcutt the fearless lunge, and this album the total world destruction they (and we all) precariously orbit.

The former Harry Pussy guitarist, having provided one of the highlights of last year with his self-titled solo album, sounds more p&v primed for the times than ever. He shreds on Corsano’s always awe-inspiring cascades with a grinding rock spirit that seems more 2018 essential than any pedestrian or ironically tender protest song, incidental mumblesing and all. If there are good words for what is happening to us, they’ve all been used and then some. Even those with the sly advantage of being professionally tasked to extol exasperation over the redundancy of everyone else are inescapably stumbling into what they #loathe. The restless exclamations hurled about on this record are onomatopoeias that have yet to acquire their own block letter comic book bubble homes. They are peals of unobservably vast revelations that one can only tilt at like a trepidatious Terry Gilliam fan, looking to see where The Man Who Killed Don Quixote isn’t screening. That there are curious, often funny (“He do The Police in Different Voices” is a fave) titles doesn’t change this. We are all expert mad-libbers now, yes. But — and of course this is a small, small thing — even the most arbitrary of titles beats none at all.

These two still out there doing what they do — with or without the cavalcade of amazing folk (Joe McPhee, Richard Bishop, Paul Flaherty, Okkyung Lee, Nate Wooley, Michael Morley, Mick Flower, Mette Rasmussen, and Tashi Dorji, to name a few) they do it with — is a big, big thing. Hearing them is truly being present when all else is endlessly angling toward some lucrative advantage, most often falling out of frame in mid-pitch. Of course, we’ve all been falling, naturally falling faster as we go. And none can catch or even break this fall when the taken-for-solid ground itself is falling along with us. Best to gasp when there’s no grasp. Incoherent, blurted last words have their charm. The leviathan smiles. The mess says, “well ain’t you cute,” plum plummeting with implausible aplomb. Nice knowing us? Well, that dep….

Fri Nov 09 06:06:09 CET 2018