Out of My Face
The Micro-East Collective is an avant-garde improvising ensemble based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Due to the wildly fluctuating membership of the group (it’s hard to get 22 people together for anything, let alone a recording session), their stylistic signature is hard to pin down. While their first CD, 062099, was very narratively cohesive, both Fabric and Out of My Face are broken up into smaller pieces. This allows for a variety of ensemble groupings with divergent results.
Out of My Face was recorded in two different places, with two different line-ups. At Tonic in New York City, 15 members of Micro-East Collective collided with five members of Doctor Nerve. In Carrboro, 17 Micro-Easters filled the Go! Studios with sound. The resulting mash-up is filled with plenty of humor, virtuoso playing, and complex group interactions. The pieces are loosely scored, and do have a discernable structure, but they’re often hard to follow. With as many as 20 strong instrumental voices playing at the same time, things are bound to get hectic. Case in point: “Acme Allusions” alludes almost directly to cartoon composer Carl Stalling’s massive blocks of sound that abruptly slam into each other. The title track, “Out of My Face” has a similar feel. It sounds like a theater game for ex-serialist musicians. Out of My Face is easily the more overtly humorous of the two CDs, sometimes slapstick, sometimes subtle, always interesting.
Fabric is a better representation of the collective’s ethos, because it focuses more on the compositions and the smaller groupings. The pieces are very fluid, large swells of sound rather than jarring blocks of it. Some of the tracks are downright beautiful; amongst which are is “Mumble-the-peg,” with its gamelan-esque shimmer. The title track however, is seasickness inducing in its weirdly phasing drum/horn patterns. The strongest tracks on the CD are those where the players keep a strong, continuous line going through the piece; the disjointed chatter tries my nerves, because of the huge number of things happening each of the tracks.
Both Out of My Face and Fabric are enjoyable documents of a seriously idiosyncratic ensemble. Out of My Face is strongly recommended to fans of Eugene Chadbourne’s projects; he was instrumental in arranging the Tonic date that much of Out of My Face was recorded at.
Umbrella Recordings, http://www.umbrellarecordings.com