Acts Have Consequences

Kevin Parks and Joe Foster Acts Have Consequences Self Released

It’s hard to stop gawking at the cover initially. A friend of mine, unfamiliar with the music, commented, “it looks like a Pynchon novel or something.” The multitudes crashing, burning, drowning, escaping, leaping, falling. I don’t know where they found it, but it’s goddamn great. And frankly, the physical production on Acts Have Consequences by Kevin Parks and Joe Foster is a reminder that a cd can still be desirable on a purely aesthetic level. Even if it makes you dream of a gatefold vinyl release.

And dreaming is something I’m reminded of here. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Parks and Foster aren’t credited with specific instruments, but I assume it’s generally the same as on Ipsi sibi somnia fingunt, Parks on guitar/electronics and Foster on electronics/trumpet (maybe more, maybe less). The more I listen to releases in this area of improvisation the more I realize it’s less important who does what or how. One becomes more fascinated with the means rather than ends, the how rather than the why. I’m as guilty as anyone — sign me up to hear that dude who plays electrified diaphragms as soon as possible, or, better yet, the guy who plays a his sax through his asshole (wait, that‘s not that new), or that… Never mind. But it does seem like a smoke screen sometimes. Isn’t failure what we should be worrying about? Or possibly success? Or that more interesting area where those two things happen nearly simultaneously?

Acts Have Consequences seems interested in this question, as well. And the album is like an investigation of boredom, excitement, sloth, invigoration, punctuation, reflection, provocation, delirium… peace. The easy answers and the hard.

It can be difficult for me to see a double album in this area to be a unified statement sometimes. And I’m not sure why. I can accept it in other areas of music, in rock, jazz, classical, etc.. But in this area it’s harder to see the connective tissue, the tendons between the muscle and bone. It’s hard enough for me to see single albums as unified statements, where songs/pieces/tracks have some relation to one another, or that there is a path leading somewhere, anywhere into the next 70 minutes. But Acts Have Consequences succeeds in as an entire album, and a large one. It’s an album where the music, while sometimes moving differently on one disc compared to the other, always seems to be going in the same direction. It’s as though while Ipsi sibi somnia fingunt appeared to have more varieties of approach, Acts Have Consequences seems to explore a similar group of sounds and moods, albeit with diversions and speed bumps along the way (it also has a title that’s easier for me to remember which is a plus…) This could be seen as detriment in a scene sometimes addicted to the constantly new, but I appreciate the connective vision, and it seems to be a more complete statement, perhaps.

“A” starts unassumingly enough. A singe: breath or fuzz or both. A long tone. And then the grit becomes more surging, like a tide coming from somewhere far, away. A repeated pattern of electronic tones are like light patterns behind the eyelids. It’s a strange track, and stops exactly where it should even if you don‘t know why, as though establishing setting or place. The second track, “Somehow or other, order …,” leads to an elbow scuffed in the garden. Knees that ache. To a trowel that hits stones, pink, grey, threaded with ochre. An upward progression of notes, roots snapping under a trowel onetwothree. There’s an odd resonance to these notes, even though they are played as dryly as possible, unamplified, a one off in a practice space or a provocation or a distant thought …maybe it’s just that it’s the first clear guitar notes on the album. But they ring out almost shockingly. They remind me of a sudden realization. A sudden realization that maybe you‘re actually dreaming you’re in a garden and you shouldn‘t be naked, more forgetful than usual, but still managing to call your ex who somehow now lives in Cairo. Flashes of trumpet or breath noise or something, something interrupting. The guitar ringing out delicate dry pings and twangs in an almost complete dislocation to the electronic bursts. It’s as though you are trying to wake, but are unable to, and flashes of the outside world are seeping in. And you’re alone, cut off. A beep repeats, like the end of a message on an answering machine, messages you can’t understand but are on the verge — another beep — cut off again. A new message emerges, no less opaque. You repeat. You repeat.

This music creates dislocation and tension… while at the same time coveting a sort of listlessness. It’s jerks, heaves, splits, but is never loud, or too acidic. Like a feverish state or that urge to keep asleep when you know you can‘t and your cat keeps mewing in your ear. Throughout, the control of Parks and Foster is apparent. The sounds all seem studied and thought out, not shot off at the hip, or blurted out, even if so many of them are abrupt and truncated. And if the first couple tracks are being asleep, the third is like emerging to the day. Tones bleed across the carpet like the morning sunlight. The guitar sounds, while once truncated and cut short, are now allowed to breathe, to twang, to shudder. The bursts of static or electronics are allowed more space, a little more time to stretch. And while you may not be welcoming the world, at least you’re awake now, a little bored, peeling the linoleum back on the counter. A crow outside the window pane, only for a moment; coffee stains on your sleeve, caffeine playing chopsticks on your nerves. Stretches of spearing feedback fray and fall apart. A clanging guitar swordfights with disembodied tones, there’s a fumbling in a dank Billings, Montana bathroom stall. There’s dirt on the tiles.

When things get a little rowdier towards the end of “Enisl‘d” it’s surprising. Welcomed disparate crowds of noise, wrong, but well placed. It runs a little long here, there. But this letting loose is wonderful– Parks’ guitar fuzzes out at one point, becomes slipperier, harder to attach some Experimentaloso guitar lineage to, the ol’ talking guitar bit perverted in a couple seconds, filtered through grimy backwoods AM channels — proselytizing womanizers, children yapping in tongues, UFO sightings reports (well, not really). Even so, there’s nothing overly dramatic here, no showy gestures really — no overt virtuosity, Events happen. They engage momentarily. They expire.

On disc “B” I feel as though there is a calming, that the original elements from the previous tracks are allowed even more room. It’s where it seems where a more conventional intimacy between the playing of Foster and Parks seems to really emerge. Not to say I know when these tracks were recorded or how they were sequenced but… something is leading us on from the more fragmentary early tracks to this day that has emerged. And maybe this day is when you’re hung over… or just tired. Parks’ guitar pokes and dallies over elongated resonances. The music is exploratory but fragile, like frost creeping across glass:

Let’s speak forever. No? The let’s keep going just for a little while then. We’re so close. So close.

Disc B seems reminiscent of other things but never beholden to it. It’s drier, spikier than a similar but lesser album by Gunter Muller and Taku Sugimoto’s, I am happy if you are happy, or Tetuzi Akiyama and Jason Kahn’s duo on for4ears — I hate to compare these things, as it’s so rarely cogent, and it spills over into a packaged easiness. There’s too many road blocks thrown up compared to those albums; bits of clatter, racket, hum and crackle all spike the sound field. These sounds rise up or degrade in quick interceptions in an otherwise clear field on the first two tracks on B. It’s as though Foster and Parker decided to never let any of it get too easy. Over a nearly placid and quite beautiful guitar rumination, a burst of static, a bit of clatter, a sine tone strangled off. This approach is alluded to throughout, but becomes more apparent somehow. As one listens on “The light they give… “ (no way am I writing this one all the way out) and “Change by Means of Blood…” these moments become more expected and questions can arise. Why these sounds rather than others? Why here rather than there? Do they have meaning beyond the compositional one — that is, does the bursts of static, sine wave, clatter and rustle in this context only serve as a noisy spot to throw you off, the patch of dirt on your lp, the salt grit on the otherwise smooth table, etc.. Do they have meaning on their own, or are only tools of dislocation. Their entire notion of these sounds ephemeral and not to be thought on. It’s a curious thing. It’s a small, maybe entirely personal, issue for me in this context. Maybe it’s harder to make the sounds sound like anything more than themselves, their meaning only apparent when placed next to something else in this context. And if there’s a slight, I hesitate to say, formula on Acts have consequences that would be it. But that said, as soon as you think you may have a handle on these now expected sharp turns, they throw something in totally unfamiliar, like the groaning feed back at the end of “Change by means of Blood” that leads into trumpet wheeze of the third track, “Much can be hidden…”

There’s a slight Old West melancholy to Parks’ more tonal guitar playing throughout disc B. I get flashes of dust storms and arches of crimson sand stone more than Japanese Lilly ponds or floating marbled coy. And while it sounds like Sugimoto and Rowe are influences (and in this area how can they not be), it doesn’t really seem to make any more sense than saying his playing is like Morricone filtered through a prism, which I had written in some early notes. Either way, his playing is striking throughout, and with Foster’s electronics and trumpet it can be both entirely beautiful and baffling.

“A Shelter from Sadder things” on B is stretch and hum, Parks plucks spare, delicate notes, while sine waves flit in the rafters. Not to come back to an overused analogy, but it’s like a return to sleep. It’s a fitting bookend, not in itself satisfying, but entirely fitting at the end of such a reaching and vibrant… thing. And this one plays often around here. It transforms itself in small ways every time I hear it. Moments I didn’t notice emerge, and while the sharp turns become worn down, other aspects become more defined. And more importantly, it sounds as much like a music that was thought long and hard on, but not without sacrificing a vibrancy, a dirt under the fingernails. That’s rare. Acts have consequences, will be one I live with for a while. I’m glad for that, because it’s hard to find albums that repay your attention, that allow you into another place, a time. And if that place and time is somehow relateable, however oblique, then even better. So, here’s to that.

Check this out through:

Erstwhile’s distro

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