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Guerrilla Mosaics
Jason Bivins
Guerrilla Mosaics is from Butcher's 2000 West Coast sojourn, which found him working with Vancouver players such as Dylan van der Schyff and Peggy Lee (documented on Points, Snags and Windings and Intentions as well as with Bay Area stalwarts Robair and Masaoka here. Butcher and Robair are well-matched and have worked together in the past. Your appreciation for this disc, however, will depend largely on how well you think Masaoka's koto (whose tempered, unextended sound is miles apart from the outer-reaches approach of the saxophonist and percussionist) melds with the other two voices.

Butcher is in fine form here, clearly energized by his West Coast visit. The session is an interesting pairing with the highly imaginitive Robair (who uses all his most arch percussion strategies as well as playing a semi-conventional kit with a detuned bass drum) and the tempered koto of Masaoka. Robair meshes perfectly with Butcher's splats and buzzes, but Masaoka has the very difficult task of incorporating this rigorously tempered instrument (with all of its contextual associations as well) into the world of extended technique and non-idiomatic music. It doesn't aways work, unfortunately, and the trio often run into the same corners (Masaoka resorting to drone or to some form of arpeggiating). When it does work, though, the contrast is dynamite. The sudden stops and silences of "The Dodge" are very effective (super-squeaky vs. koto!) and "A Wing" is a superb example of bowing (Robair on cymbals and possibly on styrofoam, which he has been known to bow), while "Dipper" and "Covert" were less effective investigations into simiar territory. Still there's far more here that satisfies than otherwise. My favorite track, "Recept," is a symphony of low moans which evolves into timbral contrasts which suggest expanding and contracting metal. And for those who like their improvisation a little bit more rambunctious (like free jazz, in other words), just dig into "Glyph" - whose whistles, reed pops, clanking metal and gathering clouds of toms are a delight - or "Cae", which builds and builds via rumbling percussion and circular breathing. Though I have some minor quibbles, this is basically another fine release from Butcher and a great chance to hear what sounds are coming out of the under-appreciated Bay Area scene.

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