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Kyle Bruckmann - Gasps and Fissures

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Artist: Kyle Bruckmann

Album: Gasps and Fissures

Label: 482 Music

Review date: Sep. 22, 2004

Kyle Bruckmann's discography paints a picture of a modern day renaissance musician. Like some of his former Chicago coconspirators, like Fred Lonberg-Holm or Jeb Bishop, Bruckmann's musical output is varied in its scope, touching on traditional jazz, modern classical, avant rock, and electro-acoustic improv, all in relatively recent years. The effect of Bruckmann's recent relocation to San Francisco has yet be documented, but there's treasure yet to be uncovered from his time in the windy city. Like Gasps and Fissures, Bruckmann’s third disc under his own name. Unlike And, which featured duets between Bruckmann and a collection of fellow improvisors, Gasps and Fissures finds Bruckmann returning to the solo format of his first album, Entymology, though with a distinct variation. On this release, Bruckmann makes use of multi-tracking and copious amounts of cut 'n' paste editing to skew the art of improvisation and to elucidate the imperfections of the "pure" unadulterated sound. A minimalist, conceptual bent has been present in some of Bruckmann's more recent work (namely And and his work in EKG), and Gasps and Fissures, though recorded in 2001, seems a fitting continuation of this trend.

Gasps and Fissures's microscopic constructions are meticulously built from some of the music's smallest bits. Bruckmann passes over the double-reed instruments’ usual output and focuses instead on the hidden overtones, miniscule expulsions, and otherwise unheard aspects of the characteristic tones. Inhalations and exhalations are woven into a series of uneven, alien respirations, accented by the clicking of the tongue's interruption of the flow of air. Thin tones are layered and staggered to create an almost bagpipe-like drone. Bruckmann renders the emissions of oboe, English horn, suona, and mijwiz nearly anonymous through his manipulation, much like the album's close-up cover art portrays the oboe's hardware as an almost industrial mechanism. The acoustic properties of the music, however, no matter how obscured, remain largely intact, giving the processed proceedings an organic anchor that behooves the music greatly.

The synthesis of man and instrument through breath and resistance, luckily, isn't upstaged by the manipulations of the music. Gasps and Fissures, in this sense, is a much more intricate undertaking that the music might suggest, as Bruckmann's edits form cohesive statements from divergent sources. The percussive pops and clicks of Bruckmann's breath pelt the ears from all sides, singular snippets becoming a complex rainfall. Some of the best work on the disc, though, is Bruckmann's fine-tuned drone exercises. The multi-tracked stream that interrupts "IIA: Gaps and Fictions” and the more subtle undulations that crop up in "IIIB: Rasps and Fractures" are only precursors, though, to "IV: Elsewhere," the disc's 24-minute closer. Sustained expulsions of ascending pitch rise and fall with Bruckmann's breath before giving way to a dense cluster of tones that slowly envelops the quieter sounds like a black hole, droning gloriously for almost 15 minutes. Voices drop away, finally leaving a watery percolation that ends the album. Admittedly, this track contains some input from the contrabass of Kurt Johnson, Bruckmann's former bandmate in Lozenge, but it's still an impressive tapestry of solitary voices.

Kyle Bruckmann's goal in the creation of Gasps and Fissures was (in part), in his words, "...an attempt to inhabit gray areas and straddle dichotomies," and the album does this in an engaging fashion. Bruckmann's classical and jazz influences are stripped down and dissected, resulting in music that's as much electronic as it is either of the aforementioned styles. Gasps and Fissures inhabits the areas in between these territories, not straddling them so much as existing deep in the cracks, where many wouldn't even think to look. Like a slide of single-celled organisms bursting to life under a microscope, this album finds flourishing life in the most unexpected of places.

By Adam Strohm

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