Gizeh Records puts out a wide range of interesting music from the border between ambient, jazz, and modern classical. Their release Noplace is "an improvised collaboration" between Aidan Baker, Simon Goff, and Thor Harris.
I have reviewed ambient noise from Baker on EvilSponge before. Thor Harris was the percussionist in Shearwater and, later, the final incarnation of Swans. Simon Goff has performed with Molecular and Bee & Flower, but neither are familiar to me, making him the unknown in the collaboration. Apparently he plays violin.
The music on Noplace is instrumental, strange, quiet (at times), flows at weird angles, and can be noisy and/or beautiful.
It also seems kind of sterile and overthought in that way that both a lot of modern jazz and modern classical music feel. That is, these musicians have a LOT of knowledge of musical theory and how sounds work and have thought and talked a lot about the nature of sound, and music. They do not just play from the heart, instead this is music that comes from the head.
Sometimes i find that sort of thing to be too sterile. At other times, i find it nicely meditative. Your experience may vary, of course, but i think that Noplace has a good bit to offer.
Noplace I is the appropriate name for the first track. Harris taps scattered drums and Goff's violin whines above odd electronic noises from Baker. This track seems almost cinematic in the way it slowly unfolds, like watching one of those slow nature documentaries.
Noplace II carries tension in the tightly wound violin, gently tapped drum, and wavering drone.
On Red Robin, a guitar tinkles like something from a late-era Pink Floyd tune while Goff pulls an angry screeching out of long trebly notes from his violin. Harris keeps an insistent rhythm that hovers just before the moment of release. But this song never releases, it just builds tension.
Instead of releasing that tension per se, the trio head off into dronier waters on Noplace III. The droning synths are a faint wash and the violin pulls long slow notes as Harris drums nervously, tapping and shaking the percussion. This song is like a tenser Auburn Lull tune. The inherent nervousness that Baker, Goff, and Harris bring to their music never allows the drone to fully achieve the peaceful dreaminess of Auburn Lull, but this song gets close. I like the contrast between the nervous drumming and the wandering drone. This is nicely done.
I love what Harris is doing on Tin Chapel, his barely restrained drumming coupled with Baker again riffing on David Gilmour as Goff saws like crazy, his violin all over the place. But it is Harris that pulls this one together. Another strong tune from the trio, despite its progishness.
On Northplace Baker adds in some deep synths that sounds like Tangerine Dream, an old reverberant electronic sound. Harris plays a nervous shuffling, and Goff's violin whines like a dying whale. This is nice, but odd.
And finally we end with Nighplace, all whining synths and violin and a shuffling beat. It is a nice fade out to the album.
The music on Noplace reminds me of Tanakh in a way, and also of some of the mellower work of Ken Vandemark or Rachel Grimes. All of those acts are making intellectual music for reflection, and it all moves in odd ways.
This is actually pretty engaging, for what it is.
However, afterwards i still feel the need to play something loud and passionate. Something where the band played from their emotions and not their brains... I appreciate what they are doing here though, even if i sometimes find it a little devoid of emotional meaning.