Kipple is the brainchild of Aaron Novik, a composer and clarinetist known for his contributions to various contemporary US bands and for his own inventive klezmer jazz explorations. On this (one-off) proposition, Novik restricts himself to the role of composer and arranger, with resplendent results. The retro hues of the adopted instrumentation (electric piano, marimba, theremin, vibraphone) are original, seductive and perfectly coherent.
Novik aligned a crew of young musicians who had studied under such luminaries as Fred Frith, Marc Ribot, John Zorn, or performed in the most exciting bands of the day – Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Trio Convulsant. They are competent, restrained and focused. The CD is divided into two suites, as an old-time vinyl recording would naturally be…
The opening belongs to Ches Smith who single-mindedly produces generous, sparkling overtones from his cymbals. He is accompanied on sustained electric guitar drone, and amplified, bumpy percussion.
This is Kipple’s tour de force. An insolent voice proclaims: “You can’t stop progress”. Snare joins when Mitch Marcus initiates the obsessive, repetitive figure on Fender Rhodes. It will bathe in a cocktail from Moe Staiano’s rich menagerie of dry percussive sounds. The guitar goes mantric, allowing the Fender piano to meander with something of a harmonically constrained solo, while well-suited marimba splutters chromatically. There is no sense of urgency here. The drum section dissimulates the regularity of the relentless beat with the scraping attitude to the skins.The guitar solo unfolds imperceptibly within this structure. In fact, we do not even notice these solos – there is simply so much else going on there. Suddenly, a dubious epiphany. This is actually hornless retro-jazz/rock! This music does draw repeated comparisons to 1970s Miles… Still, Kipple has absorbed all the other lessons of ethno-jazz and rock that Teo Macero could have never dreamed about.
Erik Glick Reiman’s theremin impersonates a mezzosoprano as Graham Connah’s keyboards add splashes of fast receding color. Guitar strings are scraped and the ensemble blurbs, bleeps, clanks and swishes. Not surprisingly, Moe Staiano seems to feel at ease in this abstract environment. .
Infinity Plus One
More potent bass drive courtesy Lisa Mezzaccappa, sizzling cymbal rolls and two drummers (Ches Smith and Tim Bulkley) – create a powerful migratory wind for the guitar and Fender Rhodes. After several minutes, the prattling of four drumsticks disrupt the voyage until a rather Frippian guitar and the electric piano retake initiative. A fragment from a sci-fi novel is being read, apparently reproduced from a crackly vinyl recording. Frictional percussives and the rhythm section will try again to continue blithely, but the keyboards ruminate, increasingly sterile, dissipating into eerie twilight.
The Excess Is Novel
Staiano’s ‘bug’ device emits an unlikely rattle of low resonance, but hyper-speed marimboid tones. Excessively congenial commercial talk about oceanic sightseeing fails to stir our imagination. The vision becomes more all-too deceptively outlandish as high-note synthesizers pierce our ears. The incessant pounding and crashing Chinese cymbals build up an anguished atmosphere. The crescendo ascends further, with hyperactive marimba clucks and uncontrollable clatter from other sources.
Thus begins the second suite. It is initially nondescript and takes some time to rivet our attention. Dahveed Behroozi extracts some otherworldly clouds from his synthesizer, but the 4-people strong rhythm section will keep us firmly on earth, sometimes south of Rio Grande, thanks to the choice of non-pitched wooden percussives. Despite some interesting special effects, this track seems to be circulating within an all-too familiar territory.
Another tape recording from a sci-fi flick (?). Dispassionate female voice sounds the way our typical venusian or martian should sound, i.e. dispassionate. Prepared vibraphone, acoustic bass and bowed cymbals generate glass-like, scintillating, pristine beady sounds.
Why Scat Alone, Ian?
Merry-go-round ambiance is being introduced with Lowrey organ tones and undulating rhythms. This will be a more guitar-based track. John Finkbeiner limits himself to two-three chords, but Myles Boisen joins here to let his instrument purr and squawk. This could be tedious, were it not for the fluidly transmuted polyrythmic framework.
Back and Forth Forever
Kipple’s closing statement begins with a stately intro, largely dependent on the aerial synthesizer. The meter changes when theremin and guitar engage in a unique interplay. Jason Levis on marimba provides the backbone for this unusual duet, while Staiano’s “bug” takes care of the texture. The track ends with street noises – sirens, passing vehicles and, eventually, silence.
Aaron Novik also appears on a number of recordings by Telepathy, Karpov, Transmission and Edmund Welles. I have not heard any of them. But I have heard Gubbish and found its elegant version of klezmer chamber jazz quite appealing. It compares favorably to some of the recordings on Tzadik label, but probably lacks the sharper edge that fans of the genre often prefer.
GUBBISH: “Notations in Tonations” (2004)
KIPPLE: “Flashes of Irrational Happiness” (2006)