Friday, May 1, 2015

Secret Keeper "Emerge" Review - Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson

For the last five consecutive days I've been listening to the new release "Emerge" by Secret Keeper (Stephan Crump, acoustic bass and Mary Halvorson, guitar) on repeat.  It reminds me of last year's classic Greg Cohen and Bill Frisell album "Gold Coast" but weirder. With the exception of one Irving Berlin tune, Crump and Halvorson alternate writing duties.  This is modern, highly improvisation, avant garde music, yet on repeated listens compositional elements do start to take shape.
Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson, by Reuben Radding
Here's a track-by-track real-time analysis of "Emerge" using the words that came to mind as I was hearing it this evening.

What'll I Do (by Irving Berlin)
Rain.  Gentle open then quickly distorted both guitar and bass.  (1:15) Sparse, welcoming sounds of rain.  (1:34) A little more aggressive.  (2:00) Hints of melody. More distorted sounds. Dog barking, but not on your recording. (2:45) Starting to howl - this is on the recording.  Vibrations.  Acoustics. (3:30) Easing back out then leaving.

Emerge (by Stephan Crump)
Starts suddenly. Chordal. Forceful.  (1:11) Softens. Tune starts to show its face. Repeated phrase/intervals. (1:45) Bass crying like seagull. Animal noises. Water mammal. Smoothness. (2:15) Building to something. (2:40) Rattling of speakers.  (3:00) Tune returns, pauses.  (3:25) Wait for it - cool hook.  Perfect accompaniment by bass. (4:00) Still grooving, growing, morphing. (4:20) Getting totally badass. (4:45) Almost too much.

In Time You Yell (by Mary Halvorson)
Repeated motif starts.  First 40 seconds more open. (1:00) Acoustic properties of guitar. Post rock? Composed. (2:00) Next movement or section.  (2:39) Is this improv now? Some kind of recognizable tease there.  (3:00) Definitely improv now. Then back to something indigenous. (3:30) Grounded. (3:55) Cool chords. Back to beginning but bigger than before. (4:35) Tension > (4:51) Release.  There's the tune at (5:00).  And out...

Disproportionate Endings (by Mary Halvorson)
Plaintive. Intuitive. Quizzical. Relaxed. Patient. (:53) Somewhere Over the Rainbow? (1:10) Awesome Mary Halvorson sound. (1:35) Crump's bass like ship's horn or truck motor. (2:20) Things just got drippy. (2:35) NĂ¼ classical?  Not jazz. Tremolo. (3:00) Over the Rainbow again. Leads to bird-like tones. Asian feel.  (3:50) Inner peace. (4:17) Beautiful bass. Emotional. Could be film score. (4:45) Soft guitar awakens. (5:15) Rounded returns. (6:20) Reverberations, vibrations. (6:38) Rainbow achieved.

A Muddle of Hope (by Stephan Crump)
Playful. Call and response. Conversation. (:58) Speeds up. (1:01) Catchy melody snippet. Bass repeats. Scatting? (1:45) Pulling. Pushing. Landing. (2:00) Letting it out. Not playful any more. (2:33) Tantrum. Close to freakout mode. (3:01) Melody back in a stranger way. Bass mad at melody. Wants to fight it. Stretching. Poking. Twisting. A little idea made good. (4:12) Fully realized clean. (4:33) Love the high finish.

Bridge Loss Sequence (by Mary Halvorson)
"Here I am" says music. "Let me show you around". It's Black Sunday. Hints of metal. What is this that stands before me?  Note begets note. Nice use of intervals. (2:04) Something churning, coming around. (2:20) BIG TIME LOUD. Now (2:40) we're talking. Talk me down. (3:10) Sudden resolve. Heart beating. Can you hear it? Steady pulse. Accelerated. (4:00) Rock n' Roll familiarity. (4:26) Let's go everywhere, man. (4:55) Deep knowledge. Fully there. In control. (5:20) Using the force. (5:36) Rock n' Roll. (5:55) Reminder.

Nakata (by Stephan Crump)
Not rain. Toys. Wind up birds. That was fast. (:30) Sounds like jazz. (1:00) Hey wait a minute! Put some mustard on that. (1:46) Something is on its way. (2:13) Haven't we heard this before? Recall. Toying. No...different. (3:05) What we've been waiting for. (3:35) Here it is for real. It's been there all along. (4:06) Scatting again? Something human. (4:30) How did we get here so quickly?

Turns to White Gold (by Mary Halvorson)
Hello, my name is _________.  Has a theme been established? (1:17) Welcome to space. (1:28) Familiar melody. (1:50) In and out of space. Hello in there. Subtle earth shaking going on. (2:45) Exploration. Other sounds leaking in from outside. Let them in. (3:41) Going dark. Scoffing at that. The tape is rolling. (4:36) Where did that come from, plinky? Roger that. Breaker! Breaker! (5:13) Establishing contact. Hello Saturn. Goodbye.

Erie (by Stephan Crump)
What I meant to say is.  We heard you. Those sounds. Those noises. Embrace them. (1:25) You fill up my senses. Voice. Speak. Say something. (2:50) Sliding head first. Like a walk in the rain. That would be something, to meet you in the pouring meet you in the pouring rain. (5:24) Fluttering. It's morning again. Drops of brandy.

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