The Spermic Brotherhood Fathers a Poltergeist
Despite the sepulchral allusions of the title, free jazz trio the Spermic Brotherhood’s new album Ghosts of the Holy Spermic Brotherhood is high-energy and somewhat assaultive. They’re more of an animal poltergeist. Drummers Michael Evans and David Grollman utilize a large toolshed of bangable objects – and balloons – while Andy Haas supplies alto sax as well as piri and hojok. There’s also an electronic component here which doesn’t usually make itself clear, nor does it turn out to be intrusive. Much of this album is a big game of hide-and-seek: who’s playing what, and who’s behind that sheet? What sheet? What do you mean, where did it go?
The album’s eleven tracks are numbered rather than titled, per se. Long sostenuto tones over furtive, muted cymbals and metallic rustle and bustle rise to a squall over a small snowstorm, and then recede to blippiness. Eerie washes of scraped cymbals against rising rubato percussion accents grow to an evil, swirling vortex of keening overtones. A distant moan bobs to the surface and then hovers just above it as a wood flute joins the thicket, receding to an ominous echoey circular riff. Squirrelly clusters with shards of a fanfare, theremin-like wavering tones hand off to an imitation of shortwave radio signals over stately rhythm and then give way to a tense, portentous rattle, wipes of overtones (is that the balloons?) and calm wood flute against an anxious, muted bustle. The suspense is relentless.
Ghostly gamelan allusions pave the way to more of the agitated/calm dichotomy, crescendoing and then quavering for a haunted house atmosphere where Haas establishes the album’s most genuinely ghostly ambience. The ninth track is where the most animatedly sepulchral hijinks take place, followed by a jajouka-ish interlude – the most melodically interesting thing here- and then a more subdued shadow image of the opening theme, such that it is. It’s an interesting blend of the unexpected along with purposeful teamwork that holds the mood together, something for adventurous listeners as well as fellow free jazzers looking for good ideas.
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