February 1, 2001
As Above (Live at the Lizard Lounge)
(Grapeshot Media/Live Archive)
“One can read Blake and have read Milton, Shakespeare, I mean everything. He can be considered the anthologizer of British Literature. Talk about New Criticism at its finest; how Eliot despised his work remains a goddamn mystery to me.” [Overheard at a recent literature seminar.] Resting between the nascent lines attempting to consciously separate musical idioms, the world’s finest sonic creations exist. Such ineffable formations, while existing on their own grounds, cannot avoid the myths and symbols established around their nebulous core. Acts like God Speed You Black Emperor!, Isotope 217 and Elysian Fields – to name a select few – reside in such tumultuous and enigmatic environments, where Mahler, Bach and Stravinsky often coincide with Mazzy Star, John Coltrane, Radiohead and Jurassic 5. Their music cannot be given a new label, ushering in dialogic and literary analysis to comprehend their esoteric intellectual fortitude, for they construct work “within,” not on a given musical paradigm’s outer rim. However, by choosing such an interesting area of residence and metier the artwork contains vitality and depth, seemingly unrelated to their Foucaultvian established counterparts.
An exemplar: Club d’Elf, who not only practice within such hazy, inexplicable domains, but seemingly add an element of Bakhtin by including a multitude of effervescent, contemporary, psychologically germane voices. Club d’Elf consists of Mike Rivard and any cohorts who decide to embark with him into perilous sonic chimeras. Whether DJs (Logic or C), horn players (Tom Hall, Joe Maneri, Eric Hipp and Tom Halter), percussionists (Brahim Frigbane, Erik Kerr or Kenwood Dennard), guitar (Duke Levine, Ian Kennedy and Reeves Gabriel) and anything else (Dr. Didg, Mat Maneri, Roberto Cassan and Jere Faison) the music portends specific genres but sidesteps any compartmentalization. As the live two-CD set moves through varying electronic movements and reaches specific, mesmerizing crescendos, reggae, Latin, trance, jungle, Indian and Sephoric paradigms float through the musical maelstrom. Dictating which sounds establish a greater precedent and thus supplying the listener with a facile exegesis remains unattainable and even unsatisfying. Considering the multiple voices and sentiments all expressed by the given soloists becomes detrimental to the music’s perseity. Calling the music electronica based on the New Deal-esque “Left Hand of Clyde” would alienate and conceivably obviate Joe Maneri’s holy, Judaic worshipping on “Intro/Beatbox”: a devastating consequence.
Each disc contains musically pleasing tracks, despite their ineffable nature. On the whole album, two tracks will entrance the jamband front: “Actual Smiles” and “Left Hand of Clyde”; both on CD one. “Actual Smiles” yields some of DJ Logic’s more intellectually timed samples and scratches. As the music bubbles along, similar to Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way”, Logic’s turntable antics yield a reggae dub effect, thus forcing the Davis comparisons towards Lee “Scratch” Perry. Languid and sonically inebriating, “Actual Smiles” sounds like previous explorations, but remains unexplainable or even adequately understandable. Equally intriguing, “Left Hand of Clyde” starts off with a plausible New Deal hook, before becoming James Brown funky. After some quick and forceful guitar scratching by Duke Levine, Mark Rivard takes a bass solo, which leads into a enigmatic segment which sounds remarkably similar to KVHW’s “Samba”, except Levine’s guitar playing seems more precise and less soporific than the infamous Bay Area guitarist.
As Above’s unexplainable and neurotic nature can be somewhat understood given the process which instigated these recordings. According to the liner notes, Rivard asked certain people to show up at the Lizard Lounge, a venue so small that ideas of monitors and PAs are irrelevant. After assembling, the group simply played music and followed their capricious fancies. Everyone had to listen intently to their neighbor and reach a quick point of cohesion where rhythms and melodies became intuitive. Certain tracks, which were actually tabulated, still became skewed by the given company, as the two versions of “Last Busine”ss (one dub-like, the other a jazz/hip-hop piece) readily prove. While certain music fans may buy the As Above based on Logic’s inclusion, the album’s 160 minutes worth of music becomes a compendium for the last fifty years of music. Meaning everything from John Zorn to Chemical Brothers to bebop to John Cage to King Sunny Ade sonically exists on As Above, which blasphemously makes Club d’Elf a modern day William Blake.