Greg Davis: Midpoint
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With the first of its two long settings opening in wavering drone mode, Midpoint at first sounds like a spiritual cousin to Greg Davis's recent kranky set Mutually Arising. But if the latter suggests an aural analogue to the monochrome paintings of Yves Klein, the former is more akin to Clifford Styll in its inclusion of dashes of colour.

That Midpoint is different from its predecessor is revealed six minutes into the opening piece (recorded live on December 2006 at the Bellingham Electro-Acoustic Festival in Bellingham, Washington) when violin playing and wordless vocals (both by Davis) gradually emerge to thicken the sound mass—not so slowly that the change is imperceptible yet slowly nonetheless. Over the course of twenty-four minutes, Davis's material—generated from bells and computer in addition to violin and vocals—swells and shape-shifts until it briefly submerges itself within a bubbling cauldron before exiting in a sparkle of bell tones. The second piece, a thirty-five-minute live setting recorded in Burlington, Vermont in May 2009, begins more expansively than the first as gongs and various nature sounds (birds, insect and animal chatter) commingle, suggestive of a council meeting being called at the center of a rainforest. Working with analog synthesizers, organ, effects pedals, computer, and vocals, Davis again patiently lets the material develop at its own pace. Recurring gong strikes act as a rhythm anchor of sorts as long, sitar-like tones stretch themselves out for minutes on end, and vocals and organ tones swoop in semi-ecstatic manner. The second piece distances even more from the first when a Middle Eastern percussion section appears two-thirds of the way through, and then goes Tangerine Dreaming in a dizzying episode of analog synthesizer patterning. Forget Clifford Styll: the wild ride which brings the recording to a close is more Wassily Kandinsky than anything else. Davis devotees who found Mutually Arising a tad too austere should find Midpoint much more to their liking, given the degree to which Davis's personality more conspicuously asserts itself.

January 2010