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Weary Already of the Way
Squid's Ear
Marc Chénard
Over the last decade or so, Chicago has become one of the hot spots for all stripes of creative music. Previously, the AACM had been the main forum for experimentalism, but nowadays there is a thriving community of musicians located in and around the city’s north side, many of whom are gaining some notice beyond their own scene, thanks to numerous indie labels which have also sprouted up there. One of these, 482 Music, has been actively documenting this scene, and the title under review is clearly one of the more striking sides brought out by this label.

If one’s goal is to seek out things unheard of, Weary Already of the Way is as close as one can get to witnessing a truly unique musical statement. Spearheaded by tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Matt Bauder, this seven-piece drummerless group (with alto sax/clarinet, two cornets, trombone, cello and bass) produces a music that really defies description or comparisons. Not only is it a truly collective music, with no soloists or lead voices, but it is one of the most organically successful blends of electronic sound processing and acoustic playing heard in quite a long time. Two longer cuts (at 20 and 17 minutes) bookend two shorter ones (7 and 8 minutes), making for a concise disc, and all the more effective for it. The opening track (untitled save for the number 1), there are two acoustic sections in the middle (the first one using repeated notes exclusively, the other on sustained tones alone), but these appear to be overlapped and processed in various ways in the opening and closing parts. Elsewhere, as on the last cut, 4, the acoustic playing gradually morphs into an electronic soundscape, but reverts back into a kind of fanfare for wind ensemble only to dissolve into a kind of electroacoustic environment. To his students, Bill Dixon once said: “You guys are good, now play me something I haven’t heard before.” After listening to this recording, it would be hard not to concur that more efforts like this are required nowadays. But for more insight on this undertaking, here is what Bauder himself has to say in an e-mail response to this writer’s queries (the disc having no liner notes):

"In 2000 I composed the four pieces for sextet (two reeds, two strings, two brass) that more or less appeared on the disc. While I was composing, I was aware that I was asking the players to play as if their sounds were being electronically manipulated. We played one concert of the music at the Empty Bottle [in Chicago] with a similar line-up.The music was acoustic except for standard amplification for the cello and bass (Fred used some distortion). The gig was well received by a couple guys who were starting a record label and wanted to record the music for a release. While writing the music, I was concieving of a recording where the before-imagined electronic processes would be actually constructed electronically. The music on the disc was recorded in segments with solos and small ensembles and later edited and layered to construct my compositions. Very little was actually played live with everyone together, actually none. One of my main interests was non-interaction within a specific texture. We did this in a few different ways. one was to give instructions to each player and record them separately while not listening to what the others had recorded, and then layering. The beginning is probably the most electronic sounding part, I think. It was made by recording all of the players separately playing long tones and then I spent quite a long time cutting them into those blips by hand (by cursor I guess) on Protools. One distinction I should make though is that there are no electronic sound sources (well, there's a Hammond organ bass line at the end, but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it by saying that I play organ on the record), and very little signal processing (some distortion on the cello and plate reverb). The sounds were mostly made by editing and layering. I should also say that a lot of the success regarding the flow of the record is owed to the producers, Michael Kandel, Matthew Lux and Mikael Jorgensen."

Now, dear reader, see what you make of it.

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