Vietnamese artist Dao Anh Khanh growls, chants, sings, and ululates his way in, around, and over an improvised backdrop of guitar, percussion and electronics on Meditations in April Green. This is not a disc for casual listeners. The five pieces here have a very raw feel–in press materials, it’s referred to as “meditative journeys using musical experimentation,” with the emphasis on experimental. Khanh is joined by Robert Pepper and Amber Brien of New York-based avant-garde collective PAS and guitarist Brett Zweiman of $50 Doller Trumpet. Pepper adds the various electronics, from drones to squawks, to the mix, Brien supplies beat via the garrahand, a cousin to the hang drum, and the quartet spend 45 minutes varying between abrasive and hypnotic, with the occasional stop at mildly disturbing. Khanh’s vocal contributions often sound simply like a man in great distress. While I understand that the basic conceit here is for the musicians to work off this well-known artist’s performance and build support around it, I found the work more interesting when it was just Pepper, Brien and Zweiman. The music itself is gritty and dense, droning but very active. All in all, something of a miss for me, but only because it reaches too far over the performance art/avant-garde fence for my personal tastes. Edgier listeners, and those with more adventurous ears, may want to have a listen.
Available from Alrealon.