Second album from Tim Berne's rather wonderful trio has our reviewer combing the...
Peter Marsh 2002
Tim Berne's music isn't to be taken lightly. Like Anthony Braxton and even Steve Coleman, Berne's muse is dense, exhaustive and occasionally exhausting, packed with incident and invention; slip any one of his albums in your CD player and you know you're in for a heady ride.
Like Braxton and Coleman, Berne works in a bewildering variety of contexts, but this trio (completed by long term collaborators Tom Rainey and Marc Ducret) is one of the best showcases for his (and their)unique virtuosity.
Berne likes to work without a bassist, and it's hard to imagine how one would fit in here.The low endis implied by the combination of the resonant thump of Rainey's kickdrum and the occasional growl of Ducret's lower strings.Berne's fruity alto spins cerebral, funky patternsand hot, atonal blasts.Often the result is arestless,airy funk, multi-limbed, firing off rhythmic clusters in every conceivable direction, topped off with lithe, acerbically lovely melodic lines. But of course it's much more than that; how many jazz records can you think of that open with a mandolin solo?
Ducret is up there with any guitarist you might care to name (plus he contributes three of the tunes here). I can't think of a more complete player offhand; fuzzy, post bop soloing, woozy atmospherics and dense, proggy eruptions spill from his fretboard with bewildering ease. Like all the others, Ducret is present in every note, at any minute of this music's creation. There's no sense of anyone slumming it or relying on their old licks, though fans would be unlikely to mistake this album as the work of anyone else.
Rainey is remarkable too; last year I watched him play from a distance of around two metres, and still had difficulty reconciling what he appeared to be doing with what I was hearing coming from his kit. On "Rampe" he and Ducret sound like multidimensional beings having a go at recreating something off Led Zep's Physical Graffiti without ever having heard it. Berne is relentlessly inventive. I was reminded a bit of Lee Konitzat times; there's a purity to his construction of line, but there's passion and beauty there too.
To finish things off producer David Torn gives us" Plantain Surgery", a hyper-performance digitally glued together from fragments of realtime playing. Exhilarating though it is, it's a timely reminder that software is no match for brain, blood, breath and bone, at least where this lot are concerned. Record of the year, or pretty close.