Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sean McCann - The Truth is Marching In (Peasant Magik CS)

And just had this published along with Graduating from Clocks to Watches over at Brainwashed too...

Although the Roll Over Rover label co-head Sean McCann is a relatively recent addition to the underground experimental scene, he has already carved out a name for himself with fully realized releases on a number of labels. On this album—loosely based on Albert Ayler's work of the same name—McCann uses bowed mandolin, processed banjo, vocals, and a plethora of other techniques to create a work that doesn't so much pay homage to the jazz legend's work as take off from where Ayler's spiritual approach left us.

If McCann's sound is defined by his tools, then his vision is shaped by his approach. Improvisatory as it may be—and surely it has all of the energy and excitement for which spontaneous music allows—McCann's real strength is in his ability to balance this chaotic and kaleidoscopic musical landscape without ever losing a sense of compositional control. The opening piece (all are untitled) opens with an explosion of processed strings and thick synthesized drones that leave no time for mental adjustment; yet McCann's sound is so well honed that the result is exhilarating rather than overwhelming. As everything careens around in celebratory fits, hollow rhythmic pulses echo beneath, giving amorphous shape to the loose fitting flow of the work.

Elsewhere, McCann explores near post-rock territory, bringing in slow and steady bass and drum work beneath drifting vocals and aimless string moves that bend and sway their way toward some beautiful nowhere. That the following side closing track fits right in despite eliminating any overt use of electronics is yet another display of the close attention paid to these works; the lilting bowed string melodies continue developing the same mood without rehashing the tactics that have already proved to work at achieving it.

The second side of the tape opens with the most overtly Aylerian work on the date, though nothing instrumentally would draw that comparison here. Plucked strings mingle between huge swathes of bubbling, choral drone that recall the same cathartic emotional release of Ayler without even a hint of saxophone to be found. That it comes to a stuttering and dark end is perhaps poetically in line with Ayler's own tragic death, but more importantly it infuses the work with a dark shadow that is otherwise largely missing from the rest of the tape. Parts even approach a level of Skaters-like murk, babbling about in confusion that seems the anarchic antithesis to the work's cleansing beginnings.

The next piece's clattered, gamelan-like strings draw on even more comparisons but again, McCann's distinct sound is fully on display. That he is able to garner this much excitement out of sounds too often used for tired ends is impressive in itself, but it's the bigger picture that is this music's greatest asset. No mere collection of "experimental" or "drone" works, the release sees an up-and-coming artist continuing to pursue an already mature musical stance. And that's not something that happens often enough at all.

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