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Weary Already of the Way
Michael Rosenstein
Trying to keep track of the Chicago music scene these days is made all the more difficult by the constant cross fertilization. Matt Bauder makes the most of this on his debut recording as a leader, calling on Rob Mazurek (from the Chicago Underground duo) and the ubiquitous Fred Lonberg-Holm, along with lesser-knowns Todd Margasak, Jason Roebke, and Aram Shelton. Bauder took the group into the studio to record a series of live improvisations and then used the resulting tapes as the basis for an electronic “recompostion.” The first piece starts out with glitched shards of fractured horns semaphored over lush, hovering string drone. These components are layered together for a sonic tapestry that pulses with an understated tension. Tones are at first so totally divorced from their sources that it seems like a pure electronic piece. But slowly, source material is allowed to bleed through, unaltered, creating an organic juxtaposition to the welling backdrop that unfolds over the course of 20 minutes. The second and third pieces use less apparent processing, with contrapuntal horns tossing fragments back and forth over the dark arco of cello and bass. But even here, it is evident that Bauder has tweaked and morphed the improvisations into a stratified compositional framework with odd loops and repeated motifs that shape the motion of the piece. The final piece starts out with Bauder’s solo tenor, and his compositional sensibility is laid bare. Here, he starts with dry reed pops and melodic fragments and builds a propulsive flow by teasing and looping motivic cells into an insistently cycling momentum. Arco strings are added in, and foreground becomes background for the darting interplay of the other horns. The piece see-saws along with an infectious skewed drive as density builds. Gradually, an anthemic melody loops up, richly voiced by clarion brass only to be smeared into a haunting skein of electronics. Bauder stretches this out with a sense of foreboding tension, finally letting things diffuse like echoes in a resonant crypt. This is a stimulating debut and signals that Bauder is a talent to keep an eye on.
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