subota, 29. lipnja 2013.

Big Farm - Big Farm (2013)

GMO kontradikcije, čaj se sudara s biciklom, muha s Jupiterom, povijest rudarstva s trubom, nestali dio rekvijema s oštricom trave... Svojevrsni prog-rock, ali u kontradikciji s vlastitom šećernom bolešću.

It answers a call to each of these musicians to a place where the rules normative to the hard genres of music (classical, jazz, folk, pop, blues, and world, for example) are set aside.  Under the banner of ‘prog-rock’ it becomes possible for the group to express the eclecticism of its members, a place where serious counterpoint can meet burlesque, earnestness meet abandon; a place where we can kick it or take it to tea, reflect, attack, mourn, dance, pray, or mock with ease or determination, joy or fervor, using any and all means necessary.  This world is a big farm – lots of different crops, changing weather, livestock, and a duck pond for good measure. -

NYC-based four-piece Big Farm will release their self-titled debut album May 28th on New Amsterdam Records. "Something like a Blind Faith–style supergroup for new-music cognoscenti" (Time Out New York), Big Farm features four of today's most revered and vital composer/performers: Grammy winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist vocalist-lyricist Rinde Eckert; in-demand electric bassist Mark Haanstra; Grammy winner and pioneering composer/guitarist Steven Mackey; and celebrated percussionist Jason Treuting (So Percussion). The band will premiere songs from their new album on March 20th at NYC's Ecstatic Music Festival® in a collaborative set with JACK Quartet. The album will be available for purchase at the performance. 
After years of various collaboration, admiration and respect for each other, the members of Big Farm finally banded together in 2009, answering a call to a place where the rules normative to the hard genres of music are set aside, making it possible for the group to express the eclecticism of its accomplished members. 
The band explains: "Big Farm is a place where serious counterpoint can meet burlesque, earnestness meet abandon; a place where they can kick it or take it to tea, reflect, attack, mourn, dance, pray, or mock with ease or determination, joy or fervor, using any and all means necessary. This world is a big farm – lots of different crops, changing weather, livestock, and a duck pond for good measure." 
The album was recorded, produced and mixed by Lawson White and and Todd Whitelock at Avatar Studios and Good Child Music Studios in New York City. The album was mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk. Album guests include Alexandra Sopp (flute), Mary Jo Stilp (violin), Kiku Enomoto (violin), Christina Lberis (viola), and Rubin Kodheli (cello). 

"Call it art rock if you must; what’s clear is that the fascinating tension between Mackey’s wild flights and Eckert’s arch stylings serves both halves of that description." — Time Out New York 

"Big Farm uses the term 'prog-rock’ to describe its sound. But don’t assume this band sounds anything like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, or other bands from decades ago that are associated with the term. Big Farm defines the genre in its own way."  Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone

The temptation to over-intellectualize Big Farm’s self-titled debut is hard to resist.—which isn’t to say that it’s not an intellectual record. They clearly want you to think, and the album ranges far and wide over some esoteric musical landscapes. But while you’d expect a dense, nigh-impenetrable album from four luminaries of new music, the glory of Big Farm is the sheer exuberance that permeates every complex passage or heady lyrical idea. You’re welcome to dig in, searching for the compositional complexity and hidden meanings, but you’re also welcome to sit back and rock out.
Big Farm
Big Farm
Big Farm could be called prog rock, but that term comes with all kinds of baggage. “Progressive” rock became “prog” when the pretense of progressiveness fell by the wayside. For every King Crimson or Henry Cow attempting to fuse rock with modernist forms of classical and jazz in a genuine effort to create original music, you can find ten Dream Theaters playing in 17/16 just because it’s flashy. (Dream Theater may, in fact, be the only band in the world whose entire fanbase consists of members of Dream Theater sound-alike bands). Prog, really, is about reconciling the intellectual stimulus of classical and avant-garde music with the undeniably primal power of the riff. Whether it starts with a classical musician hearing Sabbath for the first time, or a metalhead hearing Stravinsky, the result is the same: music that yearns to stimulate the mind while melting the face with awesomeness (in technical terms, at least).
Of course, it’s 2013, and all this is an old hat by now. Punk rock realized long ago that John Cage was the punkest motherfucker of the 20th century, Meshuggah is basically Penderecki with screaming, and Bryce Dessner sits at the previously unfathomable nexus of indie rock, modern classical, and fantasy television. Musical boundaries only really exist as tags on YouTube, and most modern composers interact with rock music in some way or another. Big Farm are emblematic of the modern wave of rock-influenced new music that, while technically a sort of fusion, doesn’t sound like a fusion. Instead of self-consciously contrasting seemingly incongruous elements, the music is an organic outgrowth of eclecticism, something that can’t really be called a fusion or a blend because the disparate elements are too tightly interwoven, too deeply connected, to be separately identifiable.
Upon first listen, there does seem to be some self-conscious subgenre allusions. “She Steps” and “My Ship” are outright Zeppelinesque, “Lost in Splendor” ends in a punkish inferno, “Break Time” sails on Radiohead/Sigur Ros slow-groove clouds and includes a clever reference to “Revolution #9”. The destructive angles in “Like and Animal” and “Ghosts” step foot into jagged, off-kilter noise rock territory, although no matter how abstract the music gets, Big Farm maintain a sense of clarity and control even in the most chaotic moments. Every note feels deliberate. And this is what saves them from a gimmicky “this is our punk song, and this is our blues, and this is the angular one, etc.” kind of vibe: each piece maintains a logical, organic flow in which every style touched upon feels natural instead of clever for cleverness’ sake.
Big Farm Album ArtVocalist/lyricist Rinde Eckert’s background in opera and new music make for a unique interpretation of the high-pitched frontman archetype. A Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist, as well as an Obie winner, Eckert eschews vague poetry for short narratives with an emphasis on death and the passage of time. His opera cred is evident in the way he juggles recitative and pointilist melodies with aplomb, but when the music calls for him to slip into the guise of a rock singer, he does so with grace. He never imitates the style; even on “My Ship”, the most direct reference to straight-ahead blues-rock on the record, he inhabits a theatrical character, half soul-man pentatonic and half experimental-theater operatic. Jason Treuting has a similar approach as a percussionist, as likely to bang on a bike tire as he is to sit at a drumkit. He stays in a mostly traditional mode throughout the album, anchoring the music with familiar grooves, which makes the occasional arrhythmic flurry or spacey cymbal wash that much more jarring. Electric bassist Mark Haanstra locks in with Treuting to create a fantastically satisfying rhythm section, but he is no more bound to his role than his cohorts. Guitarist Steven Mackey flits about stylistically more than the rest of the band, moving from soundscapes to crunching riffs to airy chordal textures in a span of seconds, always unexpected but never disruptive. Which is also a good way to sum up Big Farm’s sound in general.
That…didn’t really sound like “not overthinking” the album, did it? Like I said, the temptation is too great. There’s too much going on for me to not be drawn in, but I’m also the kind of listener that goes hunting for obscure details. What’s important about this record is that it’s not gratuitously inscrutable. Big Farm is as willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves as they are happy to obscure their intentions, often over the course of a single song. The intellectual depth of their debut should be recognized, but it’s nice to have a work of challenging, thought-provoking music that’s also a great rock record, with even a few catchy hooks amidst the drama and dischord. -  

Put on your sturdy boots and let us walk the rows, turn the soil and delve deep into the fertile loam that is the highly diggable Big Farm
Big Farm is both album title and band name, the band consisting of Steven Mackey (guitar), Rinde Eckert (vocals and accordion—stay with me now), Jason Treuting (drums and percussion), and Mark Haanstra (bass). In other words, a quintessential rock ensemble. More to the point, an ensemble that closely parallels the two great quartet versions of King Crimson. The sound worlds of Larks Tongues/Red-era Crimson (Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, John Wetton, Ian Wallace) and to a somewhat lesser degree of theDiscipline period (Fripp, Bruford, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin) provide a good if imprecise reference point in thinking about Big Farm which, yes, unapologetically embraces many of the attributes of the oft-maligned (and oft-unfairly maligned) genre of "Progressive Rock." (Other sidelong touchstones might be Frank Zappa, albeit stripped of the juvenile potty humor he embraced, or perhaps Gentle Giant, a band deserving of reassessment and of a better defense than that offered by Rick Moody a few years back.)
In contrast to the original generation of Prog Rock musicians, who were fundamentally rockers looking to import elements of classical, jazz, and avant-garde musics into a rock idiom, the members of Big Farm all bring maximal New Music/cultural credibility to their band project. Steven Mackey played guitar in bands in Northern California in an earlier life, but embraced more formalized composition training and now, as his day job, heads the Music department at Princeton. He has collaborated regularly withRinde Eckert, who sings, acts, composes, writes, and has earned (among other honors) an Obie award and a Pulitzer nomination in his own right. Two Mackey-Eckert projects—Dreamhouse andSlide (aka, on record, Lonely Motel)—have been nominated for or won Grammy awards in recent years. Jason Treuting is a founder and core member of modern percussion ensemble Sō Percussion.Mark Haanstra is a much admired, jazz-based electric bass player headquartered in the Netherlands. All of Big Farm's songs are credited to the members jointly, though investigative work can trace at least a few of them to individual composers.
Big Farm begins, in "Like an Animal," as life itself does: lost in the dark, on the edge of panic, wondering at every stray sound, searching for the way out to someplace else. Things lost and damaged—love, dreams, identities, lunch—are present or missing in profusion in Big Farm songs. Time passes. Time "has mustard on her hands" in "Break Time." Time comes between us and those irrecoverable "Salad Days." Time creates the illusion that it is not passing while we are "Lost in the Splendor" of belief in love. And in "She Steps," the charming woman with the purse and the dog and the thoughts of Provence is, all unbeknownst, mere moments from death at the hands of speeding drunk.
The elves and spaceships of old school Prog are nowhere in evidence. Oh, there are ghosts—even an entire song called "Ghosts," drawn from Mackey and Eckert's Slide—but they are made less of ectoplasm than of angst. The protagonist of Jason Treuting's "Margaret Ballinger" is something of a ghost in her own life, a contemporary Eleanor Rigby, sinking into her bath at the end of a day with "nothing left to lose," possibly not planning to rise from it again. "My Ship"—not the Weill-Gershwin tune, more like "Dazed and Confused" with lyrics by Burroughs or Bukowski—introduces a correspondent from "the land of spoons and needles" who hits us up for food or a ride and shares a lame joke or two and wanders off in a haze. Big Farm ends not in death but in a stasis of maturity as Eckert enters into countertenor range, sweet and bruised as a Britten choirboy, to share what "John Knows": that you can't quite trust the face you see in the mirror.
And, other than some quiet times with Margaret or John or a fixedly contemplated piece of rice paper, Big Farm rocks. Steven Mackey's guitar is everywhere, flinging power chords, crying the blues, deploying prickly harmonics, prowling and striking. Jason Treuting never met a polyrhythm he didn't like, apparently, and is ably joined on the bottom by Mark Haanstra's fluid bass. Rinde Eckert, meanwhile, floats and dives and lurks through the hubbub, as much actor as singer, shifting on a dime from sneer to croon to falsetto to patter/rap to bellow and back again. It is riveting stuff, embracing the full range of modern unease.
For me, the big story on Big Farm is how much pure pleasure I have been deriving from it. I have had the benefit of a review copy since early spring, and it has rarely strayed far from whatever device I am listening with at any given time. The performances, the writing, the recording, the sequencing, the pacing, the eccentrically meshing gears of rock and art song: it is all seemingly effortless and seamlessly satisfying. The first half of 2013 has seen a string of very fine new music releases, more of which I hope to get round to writing about here, but even in that strong companyBig Farm stands out. At midyear, it is an almost prohibitive favorite to top this fool's "favorite albums" list come December.
Highly recommended to anyone with ears and a soul below 'em and a brain betwixt 'em. -

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