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30 November 2010

Jon Appleton and Don Cherry - 'Human Music' (Flying Dutchman)

Thank heavens for this vinyl reissue! Because this is an amazingly out-there classic of electroacoustic whackjobbery, and it just sounds so so great on this nice thick slice o' black polymer (and you know I'd never uncover an original). I try to approach recordings like this somewhat critically these days, as opposed to just enjoying the twisted sonic excursions, etc. So what's so great about this? Well, in some ways, it's exactly like Mu, except replacing Ed Blackwell with Jon Appleton. But the same interest in texture and space is here, as this is a very spacious exploration. The vocals are the most intriguing part - and they are sometimes hard to distinguish from the synthesizers. There's murmurs, gasps, and yelps, and the opening cut 'BOA' slips in some layered glossolalia among the synth's many exaltations. Cherry's small wooden sounds are a natural fit for the clean, line-in ambience of Appleton's tools. It's the definitive statement of the record, even though the two musicians feel like they are not even in the same room, due to the cold headspace. But then 'OBA' brings in some traditional trumpet playing, a brassy, back and forth circus that could have come straight from Mu but with whoknowswhat programming around it. Cherry's improvisational style is punchier here, and the dancing synths really work with it, especially when breaking in analogue glissandos, an ebullient outburst worthy of the finest free jazz heads. The two players integrate much more closely on side 2. 'ABO' is a full interaction that uses Cherry's kalimba for a particularly memorable (and somewhat fierce) middle section. 'BAO' closes it out by retreating underwater. There's a flange effect on Cherry's slow, concentrated breaths and everything feels like it's melting. Dartmouth College Electronic Music Studio (in Hanover, NH) is a hell of a place to produce something like this, and I have to appreciate whoever was forward thinking enough to pluck these two out of their respective orbits and get them working together. History has littered our consciousness with many crazy synth freakout records but I do feel this one has some staying power, though I guess this attempt to address it in a critical manner has failed. Because ultimately I like these types of "outer sounds" when they manage to appeal to something beyond my brainspace, which Cherry's worldthrob outpourings certainly do.

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