Olivia Block/Kyle Bruckmann TEEM either/OAR

This shit is composed, friend. They make that apparent from the beginning. Although there are sections one could be fooled, I s’pose. Not to say that’s a bad thing, in fact one may agree that it leaves an element of suspense to TEEM, which is “co-composed” by Olivia Block (field recordings, piano, organ and editing/mixing) and Kyle Bruckman (oboe, English, horn, suona, accordion, field recordings, editing/mixing) from 2003-2008. And this is one of the best explorations of this juncture I‘ve heard in a while. It works purely as sound, as music; it has nothing to do with the conceptual art piece, of the ruse and compositional overcompensation that the kids are flinging. Hell, that shit’s burning in a paper bag on your porch right now, but just don‘t stomp it out. It’s what they want.

No, no, this is music that makes sense in all it’s improbable cohesion and it bristles from the opening moments in “I.” This initial movement reminds me of an orchestra finding it’s footing in a tomb full of cockroaches, flying ants and centipedes, Temple of Doom style; once in a while an oboist just has to brush that shit out of his hair, but the walls are still moving and that door just won‘t open. And while there is that feeling of the improvised here, the results never sound like two people fumbling with sweaty palms behind the coat racks, but indeed more like an ensemble, an orchestra that knows exactly what it wants, even if you don’t — sepulchral banging in the dark, cracking-thorax field recordings, lilting Scarriano-like oboe and French horn lines twinning and pulling apart. And that’s just the first track; it’s probably hard for “I” not to seem simply like a warm up, albeit a beautiful one, before the opening salvos of “II.” What appears to be Bruckmann’s oboe and French horn are overlaid into a pure, bludgeoning blast of frontline horns, like an antiseptic version of Brotzmann’s Machine Gun’s opening battery, but elongated into a distinct and shifting smear. It’s a disorienting effect and a powerful follow up after the first section. It eventually sinks away to something less defined, plosive breath noises, an reed organ plaintively sounding. Then gone. Here things emerge and disappear like so much of this kind of music but the sounds themselves are beautiful, interesting, ugly, depressing — fuel for fleeting visions, imaginative gambles… And what becomes apparent is the obvious skill of the editing and mixing, the attention to delicate detail and that momentum that keeps it going, moving on, positing the new and unexpected in welcome, fascinating ways. This thing moves and breathes. It never appears to be the herky-jerky mud fling which I can find in some musique concrete, even though it’s nearly always shifting gears– just never slipping them.

But if there is a fault with TEEM, it could be the clinical nature, it’s nearly perfectly edged and smoothed make-up, that reflects the obvious time and care put into it’s 5 year gestation. Nah, not really a problem when the results are so joyful in their strain. And gestation seems an adequate analogy to some of the music here; the first part of “III” conjures a maggot nestling into rotten flesh that is veined with tin foil. It’s all feasting and gorging in dark and sticky places until emerging with protoplasm hanging from it’s wings. “III” of course moves on (how can it not) to fun house mirror accordions, and white noise slag; again this merging of the planned with the unplanned, the ugly with the beautiful, the mundane with the fantastic — this teeming. Ah, yes.

“IV” seems like a fitting coda. Less hyperactive and more minimal, what sounds like Bruckmann’s oboe courses through the jet trails of overlaid French horn(?). While an accordion asserts itself again, but with none of the baggage associated with it– none of the greasy table Italian joints, the balls of dough sticking to the ceiling, your ma and pa yelling for you to get out of the ferns. You little creep… No, it’s more of an ethereal meander from the scene, but a superbly placed one after what’s come before. I’m not a huge fan of the ethereal most days, but here it works just fine, more than fine– it’s like a surface tension so frail that it could burst and collapse back into itself. Back into the muck, the mud, the myriad. Jeez, it’s a beautiful world sometimes, isn‘t it?

I’m glad the excellent either/OAR put this out (and for such an affordable price), as it’s a personal favorite for the year. And as long as you’re checking this one out, Bruckmann’s work in EKG should be looked into, as well as Block’s solo’s on Sedimental and Cut which are essential if you’re into this sort of thing. And I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this far. So get to it.

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