Matthew Shipp

Harmony And Abyss
David Dupont, One Final Note

Whenever I hear a pop song, even if it's just a blip playing in a convenience store, I come away with a recurring bit of bass line or background melody stuck in my head. That's the kind of material Matthew Shipp uses as the germ for most of the tracks on Harmony And Abyss, another in his "Blue Series" on Thirsty Ear. It's as if the listener is inside Shipp's head as these melodic bits swirl about in a whirlwind where the line between electronic samples and real-time expression is mutable.

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The material on most of the tracks is simple, and at its best, evocative. "Virgin complex" has the plaintive sound of a folk hymn. While Shipp enunciates the theme on piano, William Parker murmurs on bass, and FLAM provides the electronic atmospherics that place this church service on a dismal moor. That musical weather front extends into "string theory", which is given over to the bleeps, blips, and swooshes of FLAM's electronics. Here and on the opening two tracks "ion" and "new ID", the presence of master bassist Parker and bright young star Gerald Cleaver on drums seems superfluous. The drummer locks in hip-hop beats firmly and Parker thumps out steady underpinnings, but both are about as anonymous as they can get.

So it's a pleasure when on "galaxy 105" the trio has at some hard swinging free bop. Cleaver kicks the trio along mightily, Parker's bass lines set the speakers to quivering, and Shipp plays one piano register off another. The electronic and acoustic elements merge for the most part, notably on "blood 2 the brain", where Cleaver's drumming rises through the circuitry and Parker drives home dark melodic figures off in a corner. All the while Shipp worries another simple theme on piano. The closing two tracks move from the stormy "amino acid", with its propulsive hand drumming and probing piano figures, to the ethereal closer "abyss", which opens with birds singing in the wires and resonates with a low line bowed by Parker.

Though Harmony And Abyss is unlikely to assuage those who question this latest fusion movement, it will fascinate for those willing to immerse themselves in these evocative, electronic soundscapes.

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