Shedding: What God Doesn't Bless, You Won't Love; What You Don't Love, The Child Won't Know

As enigmatic in sound as it is in album name, song titles (i.e., “GB”), and dedications (its creator characterizes it as a tribute to Eric Dolphy and “the bird sounds that mystify not only us, but all others who listen to our world with a different set of ears”), Connor Bell's new Shedding release pays tribute to jazz by taking micro-samples of the saxophone legend's music and transforming them into entirely new works (Connor contributes electronics and bass guitar to the project and Joey Yates adds drums to the second piece, thereby suggesting that all woodwinds can be safely attributed to Dolphy). On the one hand, the original elements are severed from their origins by being decontextualized, yet there's still enough of Dolphy's presence in the samples for the reference to not be entirely lost.

You'll need headphones in order to hear the distant sax-and-bass clarinet pas de deux in the overture “GB.” Following that, a snake-charming flute line and funereal drum pulse initiate the 14-minute “W” in hallucinatory manner and the hazy vibe only deepens with each passing moment as woodwinds call back and forth like the birds they seem to imitate. The even longer 19-minute “YDK” paints a meditative and oft-gloomy portrait where haunted scrapes struggle to be heard before expiring and creaks echo through the empty hallways of a deserted building.

In respects beyond those already mentioned, What God Doesn't Bless, You Won't Love, What You Don't Love, The Child Won't Know is an extremely unusual release. Challenging convention, it opens at a microsound level and grows ever so slowly in volume thereafter, and when there is a tempo, it's typically funereal. In short, it's a resolutely uncompromising and enigmatic work and one clearly not conceived with commercial potential in mind. Still, for all of these reasons and others, it's also a release that's wholly deserving of a critical recommendation.

November 2006