Uri Kassyanik

Improphonies NN 68 (I, II), 28, 48

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This is a beautifully recorded solo album in which every new sound seems to jump out of the speakers with the grandeur of the 1950s Hollywood Todd-A-O process. However, when a performer presents the concept that any of his hour-long improvisations on multiple keyboards and other instruments might be regarded as a "symphony," some listeners may want to run for their vomit bags, more like what happens in an out-of-focus Cinerama screening. Sure, many improvisers would not be able to pull off such a conceit, unless an hour's worth of random gurglings were to be judged as symphonic in nature. This Russian performer is, however, no run-of-the-mill improviser, and really does create music with the concentrated intensity and extended form development as a symphony. And anyway, this recording consists of four excerpts from longer performances that have been skillfully blended, abiding with a longstanding principle of free improvisation aided and abetted by editing. He has written symphonies, apparently, or used to anyway, but in the '90s preferred the idea of improvising a new one each time he hunched over his instrumental setup, in which percussion is sometimes incorporated in much the same manner a tympani or cymbal player on the verge of nodding off gets drawn into the action. Quite a bit of the playing is on the Korg synthesizer, meaning fruity tones that might be of great appeal to lovers of electronic nostalgia, of which there are more each subsequent decade. Fans of Sun Ra's keyboard odysseys will enjoy this recording thoroughly, but the range of music also includes styles that distinctly present the personality of their creator, such as an extended section with a kind of funky ostinato bass that sounds a bit like a John Carpenter soundtrack playing in a room while someone tries to fix a drum machine and an angry Polynesian native has just run in playing a reed flute. This build-up of sound layers and repetition of thematic elements, ranging from the simple to the ridiculous, is something Kassyanik is a master of. He can keep many different balls flying through the air. Extended sections really have the strength of their length, and the hour flows by quickly -- which is something that is sometimes impossible to say honestly about a solo improvisation.

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