Saturday, May 8, 2010

Family Treasures - Altars of Ashes [Tape Drift]

Eric Hardiman's (Rambutan/Century Plants) Tape Drift label has been a real powerhouse as of late. This last batch may be the label's best yet and, for me, the ultimate champion is this tape by Family Treasures.
Family Treasures is generally a solo project of Danny Moore but for this tape he's joined by collaborator Jeffrey Shurdut on saxophone and man, oh man, what a duo these guys make. I haven't heard Moore's solo stuff yet so I know I'm making an uneducated statement (but that ain't gonna stop me,) based on the strength of this tape I'd love to see this duo become permanent.
The chemistry between Moore and Shurdut is spot-on. Shurdut's playing is absolute fire and Moore, who mans synth, electronics and percussion, takes a really interesting and effective approach. Moore goes very minimal with effected rumbles and clangs never creating a constant rhythm. He occasionally hovers on a vibrating synth note and Shurdut reaches for about the highest pitches you can possibly produce on an alto saxophone. The duo settles into a rather placid portion of sustained tones that is slowly split at the seams by Shurdut's blares and sinister synth swells courtesy of Moore. The atmosphere is queasily thick and foreboding as Shurut tears into his instrument. There are absolutely no themes here as far as I can tell but the duo definitely create a harmonic unity through (or despite) their tonally disparate modes of sound creation. Shurdut wails away with a seriously excellent free solo while Moore holds down a mellow bed of sound. When he's not being a free jazz monster, Shurdut follows Moore's lead with long drawn-out notes twisting in the wind. You only get sucked deeper in the transcendent black hole as the tape rolls; the sax carves up the proto-cosmic soundscape with texture, control and, most of all, conviction. The tape is a single long-ass 45 minute track split onto two sides, but it immerses you into its world so completely, it's never a chore to listen to. I've been reliving the experience fairly regularly.
With the second side, Moore sets a faster, more standardized rhythm along with washes of keyboard and spacey synth sound effects. Moore's expanded presence is welcome as his increasingly complex orchestrations inch the piece little by little toward a climax. The duo's stark cooperation on the first side becomes more and more interactive on the second side. That is until Moore all but drops out, shining the spotlight on, what is perhaps, Shurdut's finest moment: a squiggly, frothing-at-the-mouth burst of energy. Moore capitalizes on the moment slowly creeping back pushing the jam to the next level with heavy throbs and whirs of electronics. The imposing, stoic thug to Shurdut's flamboyant, psychotic crime boss.
Culminating in dramatic sweeping fashion, this is one of the most thorough and compelling re-envisionings of free jazz I've come across. I don't know what it's limited to, hopefully no less than 100. One of the must haves of the year! Don't sleep on it.

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