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Tri-Dim + Jim O’Rourke & Barry Guy - 2 of 2

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Artist: Tri-Dim + Jim O’Rourke & Barry Guy

Album: 2 of 2

Label: Sofa

Review date: Aug. 4, 2003

A Mixed Bag

A trio of young Scandinavians – reedist Håkon Kornsrad, guitarist David Stäckenas, and percussionist Ingar Zach (who runs the Sofa label) – are Tri-Dim. They play fairly conventional long-form European free improvisation on this, their second recording. Stäckenas certainly plays his acoustic (his sole axe here) in the Bailey tradition – scrapes, whizzes, muffles, and chokes – and Zach’s percussion is recognizably in the tradition of Tony Oxley and Paul Lovens, concentrating less on stated pulse or conventional accents than on color, texture, and unorthodox momentum. Kornsrad sounds less beholden to early European free players like Evan Parker, and sounds as if he’s listened to a lot of John Butcher or Urs Leimgruber, saxophonists whose approaches are both more lyrical and more microscopic than those of their forebears. The trio together specializes in elliptical playing, favoring micro-gestures that efface themselves as soon as they’re articulated. The recording consists of four tracks, three of which are from separate live performances. The opening trio piece is a 19-minute foray from the Molde Jazz Festival in July 2001.

The basic trio interaction is quite fine, and each of these fellows is a good player. Yet the music failed to compel me, probably because it’s too similar in approach and outcome to stuff I’ve heard dozens of other places. Bassist extraordinaire Barry Guy sits in on the latter two of the record’s four tracks, culled from a later live session. With Guy, they ramble on for 27 minutes or so, with the usual ratio of exciting and dull moments being struck. Guy’s arco wizardry in particular adds a lot of texture, though the basic language is the trio’s, with their rough metallic scrapings, gurgles, and clicks plotting the sonic course. Towards the very end of this track, things get a bit more rousing and energetic. The final track is quite brief and, perhaps because of its brevity, the most focused and subtle. The group plays with extremes of pitch quite nicely; it’s very subdued, and they don’t sound like they’re trying so damn hard to be "out" all the time. By far the most interesting track to me is the second one, a Jim O’Rourke remix of an unreleased track (whose inclusion here is a bit baffling, although welcome). A brief squall precedes a long silence. Then a nice trippy, Fennesz-like sequence begins. It sounds like a chorus of backwards electric guitars playing for some insect ritual. After several listens, I can detect Kornsrad’s hard tone, the brittle attack of Stäckenas, and the shaken or rattled percussion of Zach. But O’Rourke’s done a great coverup mix job. This track alone makes Tri-Dim worth investigating. And if you’re not familiar with European free improvisation, this might be a good place to get acquainted. For longtime fans and adepts, though, this one’s a mixed bag.

By Jason Bivins

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