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Axel Dörner, Greg Kelley, Andrea Neumann, Bhob Rainey - Thanks Cash

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Artist: Axel Dörner, Greg Kelley, Andrea Neumann, Bhob Rainey

Album: Thanks Cash

Label: Sedimental

Review date: Aug. 18, 2004

Thanks Cash documents performances at various stops of a 2001 U.S. tour by Bhob Rainey (soprano saxophone), Greg Kelley (trumpet), Andrea Neumann (inside piano) and Axel Dörner (trumpet and computer). The four musicians continue to make improvised music that almost completely avoids the melodic counterpoint of most free improv, focusing instead upon layers of unusual sounds. The interaction between the musicians continues to be more like passing clouds than traditional solo/accompaniment relationships.

Still, Thanks Cash differs from most of the music these players have recorded recently, with the possible exception of the album Good by the Rainey-led Boston Sound Collective, which features all four players and was recorded around the same time. (Good was released late last year and not reviewed by Dusted, which makes it doubly worthy of mention here.) Both are far grittier and a bit more tentative than Rainey and Kelley’s Nmperign project or Dörner’s other recent albums with smaller groups. Both Thanks Cash and Good feel less compact than we might expect from these musicians, in that phrases (if their groupings of sounds can be called phrases) seem longer than usual, as if the players don’t feel comfortable enough with one another to change sounds and textures with their usual fluidity.

That might seem like a criticism until it’s put in context. Many of these musicians’ other groups are characterized by the players’ extreme familiarity with one another, particularly Nmperign, which by now has been refined to such an extent that it sounds like composed music from another planet rather than the improvised music that it is.

In contrast, Thanks Cash sounds as if the quartet's interaction is based on intense, in-the-moment listening rather than years of shared experiences. The pace of the album is slow enough for it to occasionally sound like a scary ambient record, particularly if played at a low volume.

At a higher volume the album sounds much more complex, but the sources of its sounds aren't any clearer. For example, it's hard to attribute any one sound to Neumann; any noise that might be from her might also come from Dörner's computer. In terms of timbre, then, Thanks Cash is about what we'd expect from this group. Even so, Thanks Cash and Good form a pair that feel far creepier and more expansive than we'd expect from this group, and both are worthy contributions to these players' discographies of strange and disorienting music.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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