This album (which bears no filiation with the Amsterdam improv trio Grand Mal) is a beautiful meeting between East Coast and West Coast free improvisers. Technically a first meeting, it is backed by a complex network of previous experiences between all four musicians. The music sounds fresh, exciting, and genre-pushing, and has been beautifully captured by engineer Myles Boisen. The defining personality of the session is Chicagoan Kyle Bruckmann. His double-reed instruments (oboe, English horn, and suona) unfold unusual sounds and he twists them around the other players, drawing a path through the maze of the music. Using circular breathing, he produces long shimmering drones. He occasionally takes a lot of space, eclipsing the other players (in "Shaking Palsy" in particular), but not to the point of disturbing the force. Ernesto Diaz-Infante and John Shiurba entangle their strings (acoustic and electric, respectively). Diaz-Infante provides mostly textures, his quiet playing involving guitar preparations and the use of a small fan at some point. Shiurba is more lively, throwing muffled chords like bumps on the ride or strident cries. Percussionist Karen Stackpole (a member of the Left Coast Improv Group, with Diaz-Infante) plays a delicate role. Sticking to hand-held instruments and cymbals, she flutters around the others, shaking, rubbing, rarely striking something loudly. Her sense of time and place is mostly impeccable -- Grand Mal could be her best session yet. The music sits comfortably on a tension line between maximalist and minimalist improv. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture