Tag Archive for 'Dan Bitney'

(Review) Chicago Odense Ensemble

Chicago Odense Ensemble Vinyl Jacket and Sleeves
In the last year or so it seems that a few groups that I follow have chosen as a template for their recent albums the genre-defining and game-changing 1969 Miles Davis album In A Silent Way. In the Davis oeuvre, In A Silent Way represents his first full-step into electric fusion jazz and the precursor to Bitches Brew. The album itself is two compositions– on the LP, one per side– which are made up of edits of a much longer recording session by legendary recording engineer Teo Macero.

In 2008  musicians gathered in Chicago to collaborate on a new work. The group consisted of Rob Mazurek of Isotope 217 and Chicago Underground, Jeff Parker of Tortoise and Isotope 217, Dan Bitney of Tortoise and Isotope 217, Matt Lux of Isotope 217, Brian Keigher, Jonas Munk of Causa Sui and Manual and Jakob Skott of Causa Sui. A joining of bands from Chicago and Odense, Denmark named Chicago Odense Ensemble.

In Spring of 2010, I started hearing about this album from the folks at the boutique French record label AdLuna. AdLuna makes very-small-run releases with gorgeous packaging– all labors of love. The label had releases by Thrill Jockey alumni, including Rob Mazurek’s solo work Abstractions on Robert d’Abrissel, and Jeff Parker (on Doug Scharin’s Activities of Dust project) and now Chicago Odense Ensemble. The ambitions of the label for the release matched the promise of the recording. This album was going to represent AdLuna’s first venture into vinyl– a media befitting the importance of the album, and would give them the ability to stretch their packaging chops with the larger canvas.

Chicago Odense Ensemble on the Turntable

An undertaking of a project this size was going to be a stress on the small label, so they reached out to the fans with a pre-order campaign in June. By November, the packaging and other details of the release were ready and they were only going to press 250 180g LPs and 500 CD’s making this a very limited release and very desirable for collectors. Today, out-of-print Thrill Jockey titles can fetch around $40, and those are usually limited to 1000 LPs per pressing. I can only imagine the future value of this release!

In April 2011, the album was finally completed and ready to ship the pre-orders. The folks at AdLuna felt especially generous and decided to give away six sets of the test pressings to some lucky fans who pre-ordered the release. These six sets required some special packaging and shipping materials, so the winners had their releases shipped a bit later. As it turned out, I was one of the lucky six! The package included the LPs as expected and also included the test pressings which were wrapped in very special paper and were personalized with a letter of ownership as well as each of the records having the owner’s name written on them. As I write this, I’m still astonished by the effort and personal touch put forth for this!

Chicago Odense Ensemble Test Pressing Wrapped

The test-pressings were wrapped in a special Himalayan paper called lokta paper made from the bark of the lokta bush or Daphne bush. The included letter says this:

The lokta paper has been made in the Himalayan region for over 1200 years. Handcrafted, the paper is made from the inner bark of the bush which grows at a high altitude of 6500 to 9500 feet. It is very strong and is an incredible eco-friendly choice. The Nepalese claim that the lokta paper lasts for 1,000 years if protected from sunlight.

 

Chicago Odense Ensemble Test Pressing Unwrapped

The Chicago Odense Ensemble album is the result of a coming-together of two camps of musicians from seemingly different genres. The album is more about the exploration of groove and improvisation than it is about strict composition. In fact, this album is partially inspired by the aforementioned work done by Miles Davis, if not the resulting proto jazz fusion that followed. In a similar way to the Davis albums Chicago Odense Ensemble was created by marathon recording sessions followed by Monk taking the recordings back to his studio and editing and massaging the recordings into the resulting tracks.

Taken in whole, Chicago Odense Ensemble is an impressively cohesive work, no doubt supported by the very fruitful original sessions recorded in 2008. Considering the improvisational nature of the original tracks, the editing brings these tracks into individual compositions with unique moods and movement.

Here are my listening notes for each of the songs:

1. Parallel Motions (9:50) – dual improv of cornet and guitar  over repeating and building bass, guitar and percussion.

2. Emanuelle (9:23) – almost a dub track with the rolling echo. In the last two minutes of the song it switches to a more organized finish with brushes on the eights and chiming clean guitar chords underneath a trumpet melody.

3. Spirals (1:36) – Melancholy little interlude. Arpeggio clean guitar and coronet with a bell mute.

4. Glide Path (4:30) Bongos and atmospheric guitars. Lots of Isotope 217 and Tortoise influence on this track. Pretty, if a bit incidental

5. Soup (6:19) First song previewed from album. Starts with a marching snare and circular guitars builds in a circular fashion adding in frenetic cornet runs and guitar to the end.

6. Spine Dots (3:20)  Ominous and unstructured, atmospheric and swelling fragments of instruments a lead-in to “Delivery.”

7. Delivery (11:59)  African rhythms – shakers and guitar and bass playing same notes. halfway though the rhythm becomes more loose/more jammy. Becomes more frenzied in last two minutes and cacophonous

8. Pretty Nice (6:35) Appropriately described by the song title which is in-turn inspired by the studio chatter included at the end. Nice bright track. mellow percussion. nice way to wrap up the album.

At the time of this writing there are less than 100 of the LPs remaining. Visit the Chicago Odense Ensemble website for ordering information. You can order the CD here as well. For any order, they have immediate digital download, too.

 

Chicago Odense Ensemble “Soup” by Adluna Records

Tortoise Beacons Bonus Track “Ice Ice Gravy” – Why Waste Time? Import Information

Yesterday Thrill Jockey announced that they are making the Tortoise track “Ice Ice Gravy” available for download for $1.00 from Fina– their online download service. To date, “Ice Ice Gravy” was only available in the U.S. as part of the iTunes version of Beacons of Ancestorship. Outside the U.S. it is available as a bonus track on the Japanese pressing of Beacons of Ancestorship as well as what appears to be a Japanese tour EP release in May titled Why Waste Time?

According to Dan Bitney in this interview with popmatters.com he track “Ice Ice Gravy” is a 13-minute pastiche of some improvisational work Tortoise did to get  inspiration while starting the recordings for what would become Beacons. From the interview at popmatters:

“It was more like experimenting,” he explains, “And we really didn’t get anything out of it. We were doing a lot of improv, just kind of set up a roomful of stuff. It wasn’t focused at all. We weren’t necessarily bringing in song ideas, we were just doing what I would describe as improv experiments. So we started out doing something like that and then we’d say, ‘Oh gee, what the hell are we doing? Is this going to work?’”

According to the article, some of these sessions are in “Ice Ice Gravy.” Ultimately, these sessions were scrapped in favor of the songs that would become Beacons. But, don’t dismiss “Ice Ice Gravy” as a mere toss-away track. It is an interesting view into the creative process that Tortoise works to make their albums.

While I was looking for the interview with Bitney where he talked about “Ice Ice Gravy” I stumbled upon a new Tortoise release titled Why Waste Time?! This is a Japan-only EP released on Commmons Records, which is a label started by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Judging by the little bit of English on the website it appears that Commmons has a relationship with Thrill Jockey to do the Japanese releases of their catalog.

Why Waste Time? contributes the cover art to the download of “Ice Ice Gravy” shown above and is a pretty cool release as it has three tracks not on the U.S. Beacons release (including “Ice Ice Gravy”), one of the Remixes from the recent Beacons Remixes 12″ and has some video content as well! Here is the tracklist:

1. Ruba’iyat
2. Passerine
3. Gigantes Version – Mark Ernestus
4. Ice Ice Gravy

CD Extra Video Content:

1. Charteroak Foundation (Live in Japan, 2009)
2. Seneca (Live in Japan, 2009)
3. Prepare Your Coffin (Music Video)

Updated! Thrill Jockey is carrying the CD for Why Waste Time? for $17! Click Here to order.

Click Here to listen to and purchase “Ice Ice Gravy” for $1.00.
Click Here to see the Why Waste Time? page at Commmons

Members of Tortoise, Isotope 217 & Causa Sui to Release Chicago Odense Ensemble

AdLuna Records is a label I’ve been following for a little while due to their ties with Thrill Jockey artists. AdLuna is a boutique-ish label out of France which has a penchant for free jazz and funk (well, and one folk release). They released their first three releases in 2008. Due to the low volume of releases from the label, they are able to focus on the packaging of the releases. All three CD releases are in a unique 5.5″ x 7.75″ book style cover– printed on high-quality card stock with a matte finish. In the case of Rob Mazurek’s Abstractions on Robert D’Arbrissel (AR001CD) release, there was a 10-page full-color booklet included in the cover. In the case of Doug Scharin’s project Activities of Dust, whose sidemen included Jeff Parker (Tortoise), Bill Laswell and Bernie Worrell, in addition to the CD of their release A New Mind (AR003CDDVD), a DVD titled “Return to the Original Matrix” which was produced by Doug Scharin.

Last week AdLuna announced that their next release would be an album from Chicago Odense Ensemble. Chicago Odense Ensemble is a group made up of Rob Mazurek (Chicago Underground, Isotope 217, Exploding Star Orchestra), Jeff Parker (Tortoise, Isotope 217, Exploding Star Orchestra), Dan Bitney (Tortoise, Isotope 217), Matt Lux (Isotope 217, Exploding Star Orchestra), Brian Keigher (aka DJ Warp), Jonas Munk (Causa Sui, Manual) and Jakob Skott (Causa Sui). Evidently derives its name from the fact that Mazurek, Parker, Bitney, Lux and Keigher all call Chicago home and Causa Sui members Skott and Munk are from Odense, Denmark.

I was not aware of Causa Sui until I heard about this release so I checked them out. They are spacy-stoner rockish instrumental group. Kind of Doors-meets-Hawkwind, I suppose. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit in the last week, and the influence of Causa Sui should make for a really great release! From the press release is a quote from Jonas Munk, “The closest reference for this kind of music is probably early-1970’s proto-fusion jazz that strived for a similar synthesis of jazz improvisation, psychedelic rock, Eastern and African sounds and the use of the studio as a musical tool instead of merely a recording facility.”

The release, which doesn’t have a date yet, will come out in CD and 2 180g LP versions as well as digital download. AdLuna sent me some pictures of the proposed packaging which they are still formalizing. I also included the pretty cool teaser trailer for the release.

Stay tuned for more details as they come.

Click Here for AdLuna Records which will release Chicago Odense Ensemble this year.

Click Here for Chicago Odense Ensemble’s MySpace Page.

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