Alan Courtis & Aaron Moore – Bring Us Some Honest Food LP (Dancing Wayang Records)
In the discordant, jangly, textural multi-instrumental sounds on this album is a pointed concern with honesty. We’ve got an album title saying “Bring Us Some Honest Food”, and all of the track titles have the word “honest” included. I take it as the artists’ playful injection of thoughts regarding the debasement of art, food, and life activities. We have ice cream cones and hamburgers on the cover, and we’re talking about “pork pie” and “dishonest dessert”. Pork is nasty in most cases, especially when we’re talking about what is probably a greasy spoon sort of restaurant, or perhaps cheap canned pork, or a bag of pork rinds – which is what I’m imagining based upon the titles and the frequent hamburgers and ice cream cones on the cover. Pigs are also very intelligent creatures, so to stuff thousands of them into short, long buildings and subsequently harvest their flesh to make cheap breakfast for the masses seems disrespectful at best.
The food industry takes what could be “honest food”, and debases it through mechanization, monoculture, mass-marketing, and other monkeying. The music and film industries do the same in their own ways. The food industry causes environmental and biological pollution and numerous other imbalances. The music and film industries cause psychological imbalance and other sorts of chaos and squandered human potential. I suggest that these problems stem from various types of dishonesty. These kinds of thoughts are what I get out of the titling. I may not be correct, but I am amused when an artist’s work inspires me to run with lines of interesting thought without making me feel brow-beaten. The titles and artwork of this release speak of open experimentation with undercurrents of political / social topics of concern to the artists. It’s great when an artist overtly takes a stand or makes a statement about something, but to subtly tickle ideological sensibilities through playfully vague wordage and artwork is -in my opinion- often a classier way to make points, if that’s what they’re trying to do.
Aaron Moore‘s name I recognized from Volcano the Bear, a somewhat Nurse-With-Wound-like diversely experimental group whose work I’m not very familiar with but enjoyed much on the album The One Burned Ma. Aaron is a British multi-instrumentalist whose emphasis is in percussion. He has experimented variously with himself and with other artists including A Hawk and A Hacksaw, Tom Recchion, Boredoms, Thierry Muller, Gospel of Mars and others.
Alan – alternately Anla- Courtis is an Argentinian guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who many people may know from the group Reynols, and from collaborations and/or performances with a gigantic number of luminary experimental artists. Anla / Alan has been present on numerous releases across many iconic labels, and was the subject of a Wire Mag. article a while back (July 2014 – Yoshimi P-We on the cover).
About Bring Us Some Honest Food:
The sounds on this recording seem to be derived from lengthy improvised sessions which were edited and mixed with care. A wide breadth of approaches and sounds are present, focused mostly on a consistent shuffle of miniature mood pockets; a feeling or textural atmosphere is established, some variation is sought within it, and it is shuffled away as the next wave sweeps or plops in. Prepared piano, electric/acoustic guitars, percussion, misc. feedbacks, tapes?, coronet/trumpet, and voice are included. The lead track, “Portions of Honesty”, centers around a prepared piano and eerie drifting distant guitar textures punctuated with jittery, pensive percussion. I was surprised at the inclusion of vocal melody, though I struggled to pick out what words were being said. The piece is amorphous but tightly strung together, making it easily the most concise piece of the album. Some of the guitar playing (particularly “The Honest Waitress”) has a rustic, bluesy, western feel to it, which is slanted to the left with an oddness of its own. When the guitars are not utilized as a noise-making device, they are played with a melodic free-form approach which ambles through well-honed wandering-soul themes. “The Honest Waitress” is most representative of this free-form themeplay, spanning 7 minutes of a minor key picked mostly on a down-tuned acoustic guitar. Feedback and other textures sweep in and out as the acoustic 6-string shifts from foreground to background and back again at intuitively scheduled irregular intervals. “Honest Pork Pie” focuses more on strange noises and drones. Accelerating / decelerating delay pedal overloads are set against manipulated samples and other electronic garble, all skittering and noodling through the frequency spectrum at a steady metamorphic pace. Some weird muffled voice mumble-play occurs towards the end, as does some percussive sounds of cymbals. Side B, consisting only of “A Dishonest Dessert”, is a darker piece, and probably the most discordant of all. Hesitant subtle tones emanating from what sounds like reed instruments (oboe?) -OR- guitars played with a bow begin the piece. A chord is assembled between the 3 or 4 intermittent echo-laden random dronings of this mystery instrument. One of the album’s only clearly rhythmical segments starts in at about 5 minutes, with soft tapping on some metallic objects. Bells and other wooden percussion are rattling about in harmonious yet eerie combinations. Tapping drumsticks and hi-hat continue the rhythm as the sounds become weirder and a trumpet shows up. Really this piece wanders all over the place, and is a work of mostly live improvisation with a minimum of overdubs and effects added. There is a lot of open space and attention to the texture and tambre of the individual instruments. Panning is careful and consistent in the mix throughout the album, which adds nicely to the studious usage of reverbs and echoes all fitting to their respective audio elements.
Included in the LP are some humorously absurd / surreal notes written by Tom Recchion about each side of the album, which can add to one’s understanding of it all. These, to me, come across not unlike various non-reviews of albums I’ve read over the years in small online publications. Such non-reviews in the context of a blog work more for the entertainment of the writer and less for the information of the reader. Such things are usually only enjoyable to read when you’re not seeking to learn much about the actual thing they purport to be writing about. They are specifically-inspired random acts of creative writing, just as these liner notes are. The notes here by Recchion could count for whatever purpose you choose, and in the context of liner notes for an LP they are a welcome addition of content.
This is an interesting album in the tradition of live avant garde performance, meaning that it is -to me- less of a studio work and more of a work of instrumental performance relying upon the artists’ abundant musicianship and ingenuity. Though there is evident and consistent studio trickery afoot here, my mental image of this work is of a couple of highly talented improvisers working together utilizing their experience-wrought technical ability right there on the spot.
Listen / buy it here.