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John Wolf Brennan / Christy Doran / Patrice Héral - Triangulation

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Artist: John Wolf Brennan / Christy Doran / Patrice Héral

Album: Triangulation

Label: Leo

Review date: May. 16, 2004

Some years back, Irish expats John Wolf Brennan and Christy Doran recorded a pretty subpar date (Henceforward) that was reissued on Leo. Brennan, an obscenely talented pianist whose occasional lapse into quasi-New Age music is more than made up for by his killer work in Momentum and Pago Libre, and Doran, a true fret magician whose trademark electronic looping typically catalyzes insane cosmic flights, lacked an edge that day – momentum, maybe – and to me, it was just a collection of too-pretty arpeggiations and chordal architecture. For this release, while the pair still seems at times obsessed with fractal-like patterns and repetitive minimalism, there is an earthiness and a messiness which is altogether more pleasing. Chalk a lot of this up to the wonderfully bizarre playing of newcomer Patrice Héral. The young percussionist is adept not only at the kind of skitter/splatter approaches familiar to devotees of European free improvisation; he is also resourceful in his use of gentle electronics and vocalizations (singing into drum heads, often while simultaneously rubbing them). This creates a pleasantly skewed backdrop for the sometimes romantic sounding duo, while also wrenching them from some of their customary patterns.

Fans of the long, spooling, lyrical lines to which Brennan and Doran often resort in each other’s company will not go wanting here; but I prefer the slightly menacing tracks like the series of miniatures entitled “Tribal Link,” where Doran’s highly processed guitar sounds like a chorus of additional percussive devices. Sometimes the trio opens up the sound into an atmospheric space free of pulse, while elsewhere they explore the fractured rhythmic territory that suits Doran so well (even when he switches off his trademark delay devices, he phrases as if he’s knee-deep in a groove, as on the drunken elephant march of “Throng Song”). There are 13 improvisations in 70 minutes, so there’s not a whole lot of fat to any of the pieces. Most of the time, the trio concentrates on a single space, a single idea, or even an elusive nuance; and best of all, it’s done without the dour seriousness of many an improv recording (just listen to Brennan rage on the organ on “Envelope Generator”). Overall, they strike a fine balance between dense, multi-level interplay and in-your-face robustness. An invigorating date.

By Jason Bivins

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