Animul

The Fell Clutch’s core consists of Ned Rothenberg (bass clarinet, clarinet, alto sax), Stomu Takeishi (fretless bass) and Tony Buck (drums). Slide guitar master David Tronzo is featured on three tracks, while bassist Joe Williamson plays on the last. Those conversant with the technical dexterity and circular-breathing virtuosity of most of Rothenberg’s catalogue will find much to like, but they’re also in for a few surprises: this trio’s exquisite playing is often quite understated – but no less effective. Rothenberg’s inventive, ever-changing spirals are given an unusual context on a couple of groove-based tracks, which move with the elegance of a cat jumping from a tree. “Life In Your Years” offers a concentrated, slow-motion labyrinthine minimalism, propelled by Tronzo’s David Torn-style lines and Takeishi’s bass figurations. In “Food For A Rambling”, sustained sax harmonics and deceptive bass-and-drum intertwinings construct a transfixed masque of obsessiveness. “No Memes, Mom” couples Tronzo’s wahwah-tinged guitar with the trio’s magma of clarinet snippets and fleeting quasi-motifs. “Brainy And Footsy” is what you get when you put Brand X (circa Product), a snakecharming bass clarinettist and a bionic belly dancer in a washing machine. The second half of the album is more oriented towards undefinable cross-pollinations of ritualistic shamanism and self-conscious inspections of timbral expansion. The CD’s best track is “Epic In Difference”, in which Takeishi and Buck create a tapestry of dismembered ornaments – at one point, an engrossing 21st century gamelan – while Rothenberg pulverizes your brain with a couple of truly dazzling clarinet solos. The final track, “Ashes”, pairs scattered convolutions and incohesive regularity in a final declaration of anticonformism, as if in revolt against the unstated rules of free improvisation. Overall, this is an excellent outing that requires repeated visits to unpack all its enigmas.

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