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Goodman/Kaiser/Ligeti - Heavy Meta

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Artist: Goodman/Kaiser/Ligeti

Album: Heavy Meta

Label: Ecstatic Yod

Review date: Aug. 5, 2002

Greg Goodman, Henry Kaiser and Lukas Ligeti’s new release, Heavy Meta, is an intriguing but somewhat frustrating meeting of three talented improvisers who don’t quite sound comfortable with each other. Kaiser’s nervous, choppy playing on guitar and bass sounds like that of a virtuoso whose Alzheimer’s causes him to struggle to find the right notes. His thin tone and idiosyncratic phrasing on guitar sound a lot like Derek Bailey, while his skittering, high-end electric bass runs sound like a prog musician trying his hand (and succeeding) at playing free jazz. Ligeti, a drummer and the son of the brilliant avant-garde composer Györgi, plays more insistently and propulsively than most free improv drummers would, while pianist Goodman mostly offers dense, busy free playing that recalls Cecil Taylor.

The ensemble runs into problems when Goodman starts plucking the strings on the inside of his instrument, as he does on the guitar/piano feature “Riddled.” Goodman and Kaiser’s playing on this track is pointillistic and emotionally opaque—their improvising on the rest of the record is strong enough to convince me that the emperor’s probably wearing clothes, but the logic of this track is very difficult for me to follow. This may be my problem, not theirs, but the more pointillistic moments on Heavy Meta bother me nonetheless.

Fortunately, Goodman is more engaging throughout most of the rest of the record, playing tangled, percussive bursts and dancing lines that are as logical as they are asymmetrical. But even then, neither Kaiser nor Ligeti is forceful enough to keep up with him. Kaiser plays an acoustic guitar throughout most of the record, and his sound is so puny in comparison that he’s often lost beneath Goodman’s thick polyrhythmic clusters. Curiously, on “Tasurim,” the only track on which Goodman doesn’t appear, Kaiser picks up an electric guitar and plays a buzzing, feedback-drenched freakout reminiscent of Nels Cline at his craziest. If Kaiser had played this way throughout the album, he and Goodman would have made more sense together. Ligeti’s drums are, similarly, a bit too thin-sounding to match with Goodman’s dense, aggressive playing.

Throughout most of Heavy Meta, each of the three players is compelling enough on his own—the problems with the album have to do with their interaction. The album makes me want to listen to other recordings by each of these three musicians, but not necessarily other recordings of them playing together.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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