R E S S B O T :
"Open Mouth, O Wisp" CD
The harmony of nature consists in symphonious discord. -D.K. Mavalankar
Fans of rock and jazz music can be a lazy bunch. I’ll never forget seeing Branford Marsalis in front of Ken Burns’ camera, with venom in his tone, accusing Cecil Taylor of spouting “self-indulgent bullshit.” The ignorant are always the quickest to judge and, similarly, within days of the Gorge Trio releasing their masterpiece, "Open Mouth, O Wisp" reviewers and listeners claimed that, “They don’t mean anything; it’s just a series of sounds made by meaningless concoctions,“ and that “'Open Mouth, O Wisp…' will leave you perplexed. Not for the fact that it’s groundbreaking or touching on genius status, but because you will fail to pinpoint this music simply because of its derangement.” While it’s true that the group could leave any listener perplexed, it’s misguided and presumptuous to assume that the band has no meaning or purpose. On the contrary, the Gorge Trio has made an album that intentionally refuses to comfort the listener. This is not to say that the band has gone out of their way to be difficult or esoteric but that they make music that can be valued on many levels, many of which require a kind of listening not present in the vast majority of music being made today. The album denies the listener any level of comfort in favor of uncompromising, thought-provoking compositions that straddle the increasingly blurry lines between rock, jazz, and experimental music. "Open Mouth, O Wisp" might be one of the very few albums this year that will reveal new and exciting things upon each hearing.
Not the least bit improvisational, the Gorge Trio move swiftly and erratically through a seemingly endless amount of musical material ranging from free jazz piano to dissonant double guitar attacks to Asian-tinged percussion solos. This is, however, not an example of genre-jumping or post-modern appropriation of cultural music. One of the brilliant things about this album is the way it all sounds so clearly like the same band despite the stylistic twists and turns. Despite the constant and disorienting variation, there is a harmonic and rhythmic language of the band’s own creation that separates the music from any discernable genre. Composed mostly without the precious backbeat, moments of rhythmic clarity and stability are carefully chosen and never last long. The feeling is one of constant unrest.
On first hearing, "Open Mouth, O Wisp" sounds unfocused and disjointed, but more careful consideration reveals an album that is undoubtedly unified and shockingly well-conceived. Despite its many inherent ambiguities, the amount of detail and scrutiny given to this album by its creators over the last three years is painfully evident. While ideas and sections are disjointed and seemingly unrelated to one another, the longer the album plays the more clear it becomes that it is leading to its finale – the epiphany that the above quoted reviewer failed to notice.
If we consider "Open Mouth, O Wisp" as a search for unity (and in this kind of music there is no right or wrong interpretation) then the music achieves its goal in the final track, “Treasure House in Amber.” During the album’s first 21 tracks, we’re presented with an enormous variety of material but when you get down to it, the only instruments used throughout the album are guitars, piano, drums/percussion, synthesizers/electronics, and some strange harp or zither-like instrument (a koto?) heard in “The Spa Bird.” However, even with this small amount of resources, at no time in the album are all of these used in the same piece. Combinations and permutations happen but these disparate elements are never used together until the final track. As each instrument slowly begins to melt into the others through subtle changes in voicing and rhythm, a human voice emerges, singing wordlessly. The CD ends with all instruments playing together in complete harmony. It’s a gorgeous moment in an even more gorgeous track, vaguely reminiscent of Presocratics’ version of “Moon River,” though perhaps even more powerful since “Treasure House in Amber” is free from any perceptible irony or sarcasm.
"Open Mouth, O Wisp" proves to be perfectly titled in that it’s a collection of small pieces: a wisp. On the surface it is a mess of incongruous music haphazardly thrown together like a pile of leaves. Beneath its formless exterior lies much more. The wisp is there, waiting to be explored and savored; waiting to be, in a word, opened.
- Nick Hennies
By Eric Hill September 02, 2004
Like other Skin Graft acts before them, Gorge Trio are a rock band playing jazz prize fighter-style: equal parts pummelling power and fancy fretwork. The band, three-quarters of the dismantled Colossamite, has an arsenal that goes beyond its power trio past to include more acoustic instruments as well as occasional electronic flourishes. The 22 tracks consist of brief spasms of full out rocking/computer distress, surprisingly tender acoustic sketches that fade out gracefully, while other longer ideas toy with elements of both of the above. “Intimate Addition” resembles George Shearing’s Peanuts themes played simultaneously by a metal band. Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich both have guitars strung too tightly with barbed wire and they often seem to tangle together in lacerating battles for supremacy, as on “Paris Trap.” Recuperation comes in the form of “That Pilot Set,” a gently shifting acoustic pastoral that Loren Connors would be proud of. In essence the trio seems to be updating the interplay pioneered by such ’70s jazz units such as Brotzmann/Benink/Van Hove, who polarised their work with dexterous complexity and elbow-in-the-ribs humour. Open Mouth, O Wisp outshines the like-minded, more narrowly focused albums by the Flying Luttenbachers and Don Caballero. The band is not interested in boundaries, seeing only lines they can cross at high, noisy speeds.
JUST ADD NOISE
Imagine a casino's house lounge act at the peak of an acid trip and the absolute manic height of their bi-polarism joining the stage with a surreal folk guitarist, a classical pianist and the members of Primus at which point they struggle for the spotlight in an all out sonic melee and occasionally come to a point of consensus for a pleasing improvisation set. That comes close to describing the experimental acoustic-electro-rock-clash territory whose borders are defined by the members of Gorge Trio which include former three quarters of Colossamite and members of Deerhoof, Natural Dreamers, Sicbay and The Flying Luttenbachers.
Much like Deerhoof, (but with only one track having any type of vocals) all tradition musical patterns and theories fly out the window like an old cigarette cellophane as your cruising down the freeway with all your windows wide open. On one hand, this music is grueling to listen to. It is not easy or soothing although momentary clips of "pleasing" melodies exist sandwiched among the hysteria. But on the other hand, it is always engaging and never gives you a chance to rest - kind of like a boxer keeping you on your heels through the entire bout but never really deliver the uppercut needed to finish the job. hmmmmm.
was once asked a list of questions in a email - I can't remember by who, but that's beside the point. One question that I recall was "What band would you like to punch in the eye?" - or some body part on the face, maybe it was the mouth. Anyway, I had just finished listening to Deerhoof's Milk Man so I answered Deerhoof. Sorry guys, I take it back...
Let's all give Gorge Trio a round for going against the grain. Thanks.
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
Past Gorge Trio releases found the New England threesome stretching out for extended improvisations that had a lot in common with the moves of the U.S. and European free improvisation communities. With Open Mouth, O' Wisp, the group moves from the broad strokes of the past to a series of densely packed miniatures, all 22 of which clock in at a running time that just breaks the half-hour mark. There have always been Russian egg constructs within their previous lengthy jams, but here some of the layers are given markers, allowing listeners to step into the fractured crossfire as well as enjoy this as a well-constructed whole. The more constructed pieces here, like "Intimate Addition," recall the Gorge Trio's other incarnation as Colossamite stripped of the heavy rock gestures (screaming vocals and two volumes: loud and louder) that aligned that group with the math rock of Don Caballero, placing the trio closer to the source, Captain Beefheart. There are other moments worth calling out, too, like guest Keiko Beers' flute turn on "Invisible Student," but they all amount to points on a very busy map that begs to be taken in as a whole. And the whole is quite marvelous, an epic in miniature that encourages repeated listening.
The Gorge Trio are drummer/percussionist Chad Popple (Colossamite), guitarist Ed Rodriguez (Sicbay, Flying Luttenbachers) and keyboard player / electronicist John Dieterich (Deerhoof, Natural Dreamers), and their long-awaited, three-years-in-the-making third album satiates their creative impulses with a dazzling set of pranksterish, off-the-scale improv-rock mayhem. Essentially an album of intricately textured sketches, Open Mouth, O Wisp is both tremendously heavy-going and oddly accessible. The album's more tautly-structured pieces verge on surgical precision. The cardiac musicological flurry of "Intimate Addition", for example, immerses the trio in a stop-start jerk of dizzyingly symphonic math rock. If the "song" lasted any longer than its appointed 92 seconds, musicianly injury would almost certainly ensue. The similarly disorientating scree of "Paris Trap" fuses a multi-layered screech of guitar wail, hyper-caffeinated poly-drum spazz and subtle electronic caterwauling. If you're looking for comparisons, an epileptic fit at a Melt Banana show is about the best I can offer. On "Health Seekers", however, The Gorge Trio seem to embrace a dirty, Zep-like funk, augmented with dainty, skippingly joyful keyboard. Only when the song crashes into a hellbound, spasmodic noise assault are its aims laid bare. And yet, melodies and rhythms that could be categorized as "recognizable" are presented almost as fleeting thoughts amid more pressing, deliriously scatty improvisational concerns. The album opens with "A Comedy In Sun", a discordant, arrhythmic piano clatter that soon explodes into a bluster of dual-guitar fiddling and sporadic, disjointed drum taps. The subsequent "Memo To An Apparition" is ten (count them!) seconds of spluttering electro-static. Even in the form of tersely brisk sketches, the sheer volume of ideas being subjected to unrecognisable butchery are too vast and scattered to effectively annotate. With this in mind, Open Mouth, O Wisp really needs to be experienced in order to be fully understood, or at least grasped. A confusing, confounding riot of the trio's haywire imaginations, it is essentially a found-sound patchwork, littered with innumerable moments of fragmented, transitory genius.
Quite an intriguing album from Gorge Trio this one. On first listen it just sounds like a bunch of people tuning up their instruments and you wonder if just they’ve just recorded the bits before and after the actual songs. But on repeat listening it shows a greater depth than you’d first expect with moments of quite delicate beauty. A purely instrumental release and the third album from the self proclaimed "self-organising future intelligence" which includes members of Deerhoof and the Natural Dreamers. There are 22 tracks here but only one of them is longer than three minutes and ten are sub-60 seconds. Like a sound track to a movie you’ll never quite understand, 'Open Mouth, O Wisp' screeches and strums along rapidly, changing direction, pace and volume just when you think you might have it figured out. Eventually the listener is just forced to sit there and accept it on its own terms which do then prove rewarding. Frustratingly however, it never quite breaks out into the full-blown songs you can’t help but feel are somewhere just below the surface.
I’ve just listened to Open Mouth, O’ Wisp, the latest release from Gorge Trio (Skin Graft Records), and I’m still in shock a bit. This power trio (comprised of members of Deerhoof, Sicbay, The Flying Luttenbachers, and Colossamite) has managed to take an already splintered approach to making music, and shatter it even further. Opening with a piano arrangement that’s as playful and precarious as a child in a 1981 Sesame Street skit, Open Mouth... quickly rambles into the random. Jumbles of guitar and drum strip and stir over each other. Samples and effects step in to round out the musical scenery. The pacing becomes furious, and the listener is soon engulfed in a bottomless well of sound. At times quiet and wistful, these 22 tracks play like random noise in the open city air. Long periods of silence are sporadically broken with jabbing bird call riffs and collapsing high-rise thuds. Minutes of calm, experimental buildup are suddenly derailed by sparse moments of a more tangible, not-so-broken harmony. Soothing and mind-grinding all at once, this album plays less like a rock LP and more like a brand new take on free jazz. A thorough listen to Gorge Trio brings the title track of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew to mind, just because so much of this album involves a methodical rise of the music in one direction, only to be demolished and start up again on a brand new path. Add to that the softly tongued closing track, featuring the cooing moans of Deerhoof singer Satomi Matsuzaki (the only vocals on the whole album), and you’re totally left wondering exactly what you just listened to. At the same time, you just can’t wait to press "play" and do it all over again.
Piano! How refreshing! It turns out that Ed Rodriguez’s little doodle of harmony on the opening track of the latest from San Francisco–Minneapolis binaries Gorge Trio is the first of many small surprises. The out-jazz-rock trio’s third release is rife with sketches as evocative as unfinished conversational fragments. Chad Popple’s vibes on "The Age of Almost Living" play as an answer to John Dieterich’s whining guitar on "Paris Trap," while Rodriguez’s snare echoes the synthetic beats found on "The Lurker." Open Mouth is a playful listen, which you might expect since Dieterich’s principal group, Deerhoof, has built a Candyland cottage industry of artful, messy punk rock. Here, Dieterich’s guitar indulges in fuzzbox feedback, yet often skips a beat or two in order to accommodate Rodriguez’s polyrhythmic tones ("Plum Sign"); "Intimate Addition" could score a slapstick cartoon. Dieterich weaves his jagged guitar like pipe-cleaner spirals, relaxing into "Roof Halves and Dew Drop Gems" by tickling Sun City Girls–style mono-riffs, then teasing them into blooming feedback. Gorge Trio’s 22 instrumental vignettes appear assembled as haphazardly as their acid Mad Lib song titles, and like an ad hoc score to a Hal Hartley flick, Gorge Trio can be chatty. But they’ll slow down just enough and let the picture do the talking.
Tiny Mix Tapes
Maybe you go for this kind of music. Some guy smashing a piano with 6-month-old babies really gets your musical boner popping. Gorge Trio and their North American debut, Open Mouth, O Wisp, have all the qualities of your favorite noise-rocking experimental bands. In fact, they're actually in some of them. Gorge Trio's resume reads like a laundry list with bands like Deerhoof, Sicbay, Collosamite, The Flying Luttenbachers, Natural Dreamers, and Ice Burn. So bust out the books, this album is best enjoyed with a bachelor's degree in music. Open Mouth, O Wisp sounds something like noise rock lite. Imagine a band warming up, only they get hit by a tornado every couple of tracks. That's Gorge Trio. It runs that line of being good artsy and bad artsy. Either way, this isn't something you're going to play at a party, and it's useless for making out with anyone except the nerdiest music geeks. Still, this album is interesting in an academic way. Every guitar pluck and drum hit is crystal clear and isolated. When the noise breaks through, it scrapes at the teeth. It can be grating and violent. During the 22 tracks, little shards of music occasionally poke out and bring the listener back to old familiar territory, but then fall back into pieces broken on the recording room floor. It's a strange mix when the easy stuff is the exception to the rule. If you're the sort of person that loves your music difficult and you've taken a music class or two, then maybe the Gorge Trio is the right trio for you. But if you want something a little easier, then you probably shouldn't have read this far. Seriously, who reads a music review to the bottom anyway? Crazy art lovers who like stuff like the Open Mouth, O Wisp, that's who. Get a life music nerd.
Where Y’At Magazine
Hailing from the California Bay Area, Gorge Trio is a side project featuring members of Colossamite, Sicbay, and Deerhoof playing intricately structured compositions with punkish energy and improvisatory zeal. The guitars are of the angular twang persuasion – a school of guitar sound extending from Captain Beefheart to Gang of Four, Marc Ribot and U.S. Maple – of which I’m particularly fond, and they widen the palette with acoustic guitars, piano, and even guest spots on flute and koto. The drummer sounds like he’s spent equal time listening to Bill Bruford, John French and Milford Graves, walloping and pushing the band with manic energy tempered by taste and restraint when needed. The 22 instrumentals are short and packed with interesting ideas, with little time given over to grooves or soloing, so don’t be put off by the jazz-ist "Trio" moniker – this is still rock music, kids. Gorge Trio just differ from your average rock instrumental outfit in that they’re more ambitious and smart (take that, jam bands), but also more ready/willing/able to break a sweat and go a bit berserk in a way that Trans Am and Tortoise definitely do not. Get your skronk on.
From the first track of Open Mouth, O Wisp, it is plainly obvious that this album is anything but typical. With most tracks clocking in at around a single minute, Open Mouth, O Wisp appears to be a quick feeling, light record. However, upon further listening, this is obviously not the case. The jazzy piano played on the opening track, "A Comedy in Sun", while chaotic, is obviously planned and based on musical theory. On first listen, one might assume that Gorge Trio stepped into a recording studio, placed small, musical robots by each instrument, turned them on, and instructed the engineers to record the outcome. Utilizing musical dissonance in a strangely aesthetic manner, Gorge Trio has created a record that breaks musical boundaries. Gorge Trio is an extremely talented band. The jazz jam of "Intimate Addition" proves this fact: the dueling keyboard and guitar solo, later joined by the bass and drums, is strangely catchy. "That Pilot Set," a slightly -- although not much -- more traditional track features a beautifully played acoustic guitar. Gorge Trio's previous effort, For Loss Of, is mostly longer, more chaotic pieces. Released in 1999, it is clear that Gorge Trio has matured musically. While maintaining a similar feel, Open Mouth, O Wisp is much more listenable, and can easily live beyond the novel concepts of the artistry. This album is minimalism (and, at times, a sort of 'maximalism') used at its strongest. The use of each instrument makes sense -- the bells on "Bitter Drum", the piano in the closing track "Treasure House in Amber", the driving electric guitar in "Health Seekers" -- the list goes on. Drawing from influences that seem to range from Parker and Guaraldi to Portnoy and Gabriel, Gorge Trio has managed to create an album that entrances the mind with the innovation and rule breaking Gorge Trio manages to pull off so well.
If I were to tell you that this three-piece consisted of members of Deerhoof, Colossamite, Natural Dreamers and the Flying Luttenbachers what would you think? Well, there could be a number of thoughts to cross your mind about their sound. One for surely would be that Gorge Trio uses a wrath of instruments and discordant sounds. Others can be left to your own imagination. With their third release and first non-import for the U.S., Chad Popple, Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich offer twenty-two tracks of mostly noise that I'm sure to be missing the point of. Only on a few songs do I find enough to salvage including "Intimate Addition," "Roof Halves and Dewdrop Gems" and "Youth Island." I dig some of the things that this massive collective of artists knock out (e.g., Deerhoof, Natural Dreamers, etc.), but other projects seem simply like exercises in noise. Gorge Trio seems like an exercise. It is a case of hands in too many cookie jars.
COLOSSAMITE "Economy Of Motion" CATALOG LISTING
COLOSSAMITE "Frisbee" CATALOG LISTING
COLOSSAMITE "All Lingo's Clamour" CATALOG LISTING
MP3: ARKANSAS HALO (size: 2.6 mb) from the album "Economy Of Motion"