Alibi V.29 No.8 • Feb 20-26, 2020 

Sonic Reducer

clara orange (Self-released)

It begins with an extensive rhythmic declaration that in time comes into contact with a separate melody. Brash, disordered and relentless, the two forces walk together for awhile and play games with their contrast, which is less syncopation than it is a study in how things diverge. And they never really come together again. And that’s just the first track, “burnt.” The work then proceeds to eat itself. The second track, “goldenrod,” fuses the two paths tinkered with earlier; it’s rather European, a unifier in this case. The third track, “persimmon,” seems to be searching for a counterpoint and so sounds lonely and just slightly blue. After that it’s back to bleeps and bloops as the sublime symbols of a sweet life under the influence of an oppressive environment and in the company of someone very sizzly—like that guy in the Radiohead commercials, only named “orville.”

Roger Cook Back When The Earth Was Flat (Self-released)

Traditional American folk is often concerned with the simple joys of life. Trout fishing comes to mind and of course this album starts with a rambling, rollicking tune about that very subject, a song called “Greenback Trout.” What follows is always somewhat sweet, even when the subject matter touches on loss. And the singing is plaintive and the guitar playing just slightly jangly, like it came out of California on the Southwest Chief, full of wonder for the desert and headed for Burque. Seriously, this work has all the authenticity it needs to walk calmly and beatifically with readers as it wanders through the life of a man on Earth. Speaking of Earth, the title track “Back When The Earth Was Flat” is the most: It’s thoughtfully composed and presented with earnest introspection interwoven with dragons and sailors and future sight.

Vinesines Colored Over [improvised songs] (Self-released)

This is intensely felt and profoundly performed music. Here the cello functions as the prime mover, while a mournful yet knowing voice travels through it, providing a sort of intense counterpoint that is broken up into sections. Sometimes the cello is played pizzicato; other times an orchestral bow shines and shimmers over it, releasing light into a a dark and wailing world. Finally there are two voices in the distance and the resolution cannot be musical because it’s emotional. And that, as they say, is just the first track, “Dendroglyphs.” Cellist/vocalist Emmalee Hunnicutt and guitarist/vocalist Ben Hjertmann have created something memorable here and this work seems like it floats on air, even though it is made of very heavy things. And it’s full of jazz, too, filtered through the new art music of the millennium's machinery of the night. Favorite track: The solemnly supercilious “Jackson Hole.”