Sonic Youth / ICP / The Ex

In the Fishtank

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Many of the collaborations in the In the Fishtank series have worked surprisingly well -- see numbers six, seven, and eight for examples. But this one, with four-fifths of Sonic Youth (Kim Gordon is absent, but Jim O'Rourke is present) with percussionist William Winant; Terrie and Luc Ex; and Han Bennink, Ab Baars, and Wolter Wierbos of the ICP Orchestra (you didn't think we meant Insane Clown Posse, did you?) is a wonder. Label Konkurrent Records, located in the Netherlands, usually asks touring artists to select someone they want to collaborate with, which results in a half-hour or less of music. This wild set is comprised of eight numbered (not consecutive) pieces. What is so interesting about the entire recording is how much everyone participates in creating something fresh and new, without anybody getting in anybody else's way. The spirit of cooperation and the excitement of discovery here are both prescient. The result is neither rock nor jazz, but a free-form music that dispenses with formality and ego and goes for the heart of the thing itself. Here are languages and interactions in a dialect that is so secret that it doesn't even make itself known to the musicians until the moment of articulation. Wierbos and Bennink are particularly canny in the way they work with the varying tonal dispositions of the various guitars. Winant follows Bennink's lead and plays under him as a way of accenting what can only be called chromatic rhythm. Dynamic ranges are wide and gradual, filled with the twists and turns that conical tonalities and shifts in timbral consciousness reveal when they are offered as ideas rather than statements. For nearly a half-hour, the listener gets to eavesdrop on the purest kind of music-making by those dedicated to nothing else than the pursuit of its creation.

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