Hall of Mirrors

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Room is a Bay-Area quartet comprised of Rova's Larry Ochs on saxophone, vibes and percussionist William Winant, pianist and electronic design freak Chris Brown, and computer whiz Scot Gresham-Lancaster. Recorded between California and Holland in 1990 and 1991, this is one of more curious artifacts ever released by Music & Arts. In one sense it is free jazz, and in another it's new music and improv, and in another it's strictly improvisation based on cues -- like a Zorn game piece, almost. But then, it's also none of them entirely. Given the presence of plenty of electronic gizmos, the listener could not be blamed for assuming the worst. But the electronic elements here are painterly and structural more than actual instruments. Ochs is all over this thing, building slowly evolving lines that are shaped percussively and rounded harmonically by Winant's vibes. There are only four tracks on the record, two by Brown, one by Ochs, and a group improvisation, and one gets the impression that there is, despite the apparent embrace of free improvisation, a kind of musical formalism at work. There is an order to the way dynamics are created and the way tonal investigation is breached. Themes appear and disappear, particularly in Ochs' "Still Dancer," which is over 22 minutes in length. Small intervals assert themselves in the center of seemingly spontaneously erected harmonic frames, but then slip off into the ether when the machines do turnarounds with a sound, a series of white noise washes, or a small blip. It gets weird, and yet, like the soundtrack to a Dashiel Hammet novel, it is unmistakably, undeniably compelling and hypnotic. This is what experimental music is supposed to be about, going somewhere -- though you might not know where -- with a few like-minded individuals who agree to check each other if they get too far off the beaten musical path. Bravo -- wave your freak flags high! Hall of Mirrors is musical nerd chic taken to a whole other level.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
2 23:08
3 6:16
4 22:34
blue highlight denotes track pick