Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Thank You, Andrew Culler, for this thoughtful review at brainwashed.com...
Empty House Cooperative, "Painted Plane"
EHC started, essentially, as a casual outlet for an undefined number of active, Boston-area musicians. Boasting current and former members of the Thalia Zedek band, Willard Grant Conspiracy, The New Year, Molasses, and even Godspeed You Black Emperor, EHC enjoyed a humble genesis, organizing around brunch dates at the home of central member David Michael Curry. Since 1997, the group has attracted over 30 contributors in the creation of moody, improvisational music that bridges the gap between the potent emotional directness of its parent groups and the recklessness and vulnerability of the live setting. This session, selected from the many hours of EHC tape archives, is a particularly melancholic trio performance from 2000 featuring Boston guitar-champion Chris Brokaw, cellist Jonah Sacks, and Curry, who plays primarily viola, but contributes splashes of horn, guitar and live sampling to round out what is still a rather sparse affair. Curry's viola owns each of these six extended pieces, and his style will be familiar to fans of The Dirty Three or Godspeed, with enough of a studied, melodic base to cover for his frequent drifts into trance oblivion. He sets himself apart by rarely locking into a repeating structure or calling on too "easy" or explicitly emotive phrases. Brokaw's and Sacks' strings make up a grounding layer of droning interplay, a seamless shuffle between quietly plucked harmonics, tempered feedback, and swooning runs that rise to match Curry's more exultant moments. The songs borrow from the drifting, autumnal chamber style of Willard Grant, and from Godspeed's anthemic surging, but any references are never more than suggestions in the music, its intimate character leading always back to an unpredictable present. EHC's improvised doctrine places them in a territory as complex and difficult-to-reduce as anything I've heard from their closest comparisons. The feeling, throughout this disc, is an ultimate trust in the players' intuition, and when a track ends, miles away from where it began, never does a certain section feel neglected or the song led through aimless motions. This is a record for the new winter mornings, a treasure of golden amplification, rich string resonance, and playing that is powerful without wearing out its welcome; my hope is only that this debut signals more to come from what is surely an impressive stockpile of recordings.
- Andrew Culler