This is a release that bridges a gap of sorts on the continually fertile Chicago jazz-improv axis. On one hand, we have cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, one of the most respected and well-rounded musicians in Chicago. On the other we have Aaron Zarzutzki, who has been seen recently in noisier Chicago outfits like Green Pasture Happiness. Zarzutzki has been working with some of the more jazz-oriented Chicago instrumentalists as well, and that’s an intriguing development. Here, he employs what he calls the “no-output turntable,” which basically uses the stylus as a microphone, with the motion of the spinning turntable exciting strings, Styrofoam, pieces of metal, and other detritus. Hence, the music/non-music bridge is crossed.
These are mostly energetic sessions, and there’s not a lot of downtime. A sense of restlessness pervades, with quiet sections mostly meant for reloading. What’s often most interesting is the surprising blend of timbres, with both cello and turntable employing harsh drawn-out resonances, distortion, and heavy contact. The six pieces proceed with plenty of exciting clatter, with Lonberg-Holm seeming to strain to avoid anything too “musical.” In fact a few of his more musical passages seem a bit out of place, as Zarzutzki can’t really match them, and there’s a disconnect. But when Lonberg-Holm is using his dazzling array of extended techniques by droning weird intervals, plucking, or playing the instrument physically, he and Zarzutzki make some very cool discoveries. At all points, there’s a spirit of exploration continually at play that makes up for any weak moments.