Wednesday, January 21, 2015

John M. Bennett, Ben Bennett, Bob Marsh, Jack Wright-Ohio Grimes and Misted Meanies; Edgetone Records, 2011

Recent party conversation with improvising dancer, musician, visual artist and all around shamanic community leader Bob Marsh regarding his show with Ben Bennett had him handing Ohio Grimes and Misted Meanies off to me with the suggestion that I try to review it. Often times, Disaster Amnesiac tends to balk at these kinds of suggestions (apologies to Bryan Day for the delays!), but I figured that a juicy, challenging gauntlet had been thrown. Of course, it helps that my admiration for Marsh's work continues to grow, and Bennett's solo work at Berkeley Arts Festival Building was mind blowing to me; that both appear on this disc pretty much sealed the deal as regards reviewing it.
Ohio Grimes features a quartet of Marsh, Bennett, Jack Wright, and John M. Bennett (the formerly mentioned Bennett's dad).
Bob briefly filled me in on the setting in which this 2010 was recorded, telling me of constant drone from Ohio State University Urban Arts Space's HVAC during the dog days of that year's summer. If one listens closely, it can indeed be heard. More worth hearing above the drone are the poetics of the elder Bennett, whose vocalizations veer back and forth between Spanish and English. Disaster Amnesiac finds the juxtaposition of the more Romantic lilt of the former with the utilitarian grit "...huh....huh?..." of the latter to be particularly fascinating. I wish that my grasp of Spanish was deeper. The language sounds beautiful rolling from his voice, pretty much every uttered phrase en Espanol has that feel. John often uses English to simply list things on his mind, but when he spins out phrases such as "...your name a floating crust...." or the surreal description of Throbbing Pencil, the poetic impact is solidly felt. There also seems to be a certain amount of dada effect, with some passages being uttered in a very Tzara-like way, their sounds taking precedent over their "meanings". Disaster Amnesiac also gets a perverse laugh every time the " jerk!" phrase is heard. I wonder who was being derided there? You just have to hear it, very funny. Great cover art by John, too!
Along with the  story of the unwanted a/c drone, Bob told me of pre-show drama in the form of misplaced instruments. It turns out that the electric guitar that he plays so adeptly was not the intended instrument for his piece in the quartet sound. No matter, though, as he coaxes all sort of chiming sounds from it. This, in tandem with Ben Bennett's intensively creative sound world of invented devices and Jack Wright's pointillist soprano and alto saxophone, has the group not so much grooving as throbbing. They move collectively from discrete zone to zone; often quieter, spaced passages, with stippled touch playing, give way to a kind of rising group dynamic, in which they achieve beautifully harsh, scrapyard dynamics or 20th Century Serious Music tones, before floating back to "listening" mode. The music always does a fine job of framing and commented upon the vocalized incantations. Not so much a group freak out as a kind of chamber chatter, the assembled group always sounds as if they're plugged in mentally to what each other are playing, hearing and responding in kind.
Disaster Amnesiac won't say that the Ohio Grimes and Misted Meanies challenge issued by Bob was a chore, but, as it is with all challenges met, I'm glad to have risen up to it. As usual, Edgetone Records offers up some fine Out Music with this one. Alright, whom can I pass the gauntlet to?

No comments: