Kyle Bruckmann rises out of the seething pool that is Chicago experimental music. He plays accordion and Moog in the avant punk band, Lozenge, and to make ends meet he freelances on oboe in classical ensembles, where he has performed Cage, Crumb, and Ives, among others. Wrack arose from Bruckmann's desire to compose themes for improvisation with four specific players in mind. He brings together Lozenge-mate Kurt Johnson on bass, drummer Tim Daisy and trombonist Jeb Bishop of the Vandermark 5, and violist Jen Clare Paulson.
In the liner notes Bruckmann explains that there's not much room in his current projects for "slow motion, subtlety, introspection, melancholy." How apt to open with "Rather Dour," a piece that initially delivers on solemnity and gloom, but Daisy's already waxing for a rush and Johnson clearly agrees. Bishop, Bruckmann, and Paulson decide to join the fun just as the beat slows down for Paulson's dour solo. They quiet down to low extended techniques before the theme returns, almost a fanfare. Bruckmann introduces the slightly deeper English Horn on "Elegy for a Boiled Frog." Daisy kicks the mystery exotica mood out, though Bishop, Bruckmann, and Paulson still play lethargically. Bishop shakes it off for a solo on Daisy/Johnson time. Paulson harmonizes sliding lines, and the group returns for ensemble interplay.
"Extenuating Circumstances" has the front line play the simple theme, breaking for active percussion intervals. Bruckmann plays a dark solo on oboe with tribal rhythm section accompaniment. Paulson and Bishop support and end up in duet. Daisy hits some languid percussion, then an extended period of counterpoint unfolds. A pensive tune unravels on "Sins of Omission." After the mournful start, Bishop heats things up with a wild ride on trombone.
With a tentative beginning, "Mitigating Factors" plays it slow and spacious. Bishop mutes the trombone and everyone keeps it low-key, all colors and textures. With Daisy's metallic percussion setting the pace, "Gearshifts and Parentheticals" sounds like an old engine turning over with difficulty. Paulson scrapes and flies solo, then the band returns for the group improvisation that finishes the piece. A bleak and tender reading of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" closes the set. With minimal percussion and Johnson's reluctant bass the tune's inherent despair becomes its centerpiece.
Bruckmann successfully vents one side of a multifaceted musical personality on Wrack. In his quest to expand the double reed repertoire, Bruckmann creates strong improvisational springboards with roots in European art music.
Personnel: Jeb Bishop: trombone; Kyle Bruckmann: oboe, English Horn; Tim Daisy: percussion; Kurt Johnson: bass; Jen Clare Paulson: viola.