Live in Japan cs623









Continuing the improvising vocal theme, now with a four-voice ensemble (instead of a mere two!), I want to note the latest from VocColours, Live in Japan (recorded in Tokyo in September 2017). I didn't take note of VocColours myself until their previous album, Ganglia (recorded in April 2016 in Köln & mentioned here in the extended, April 2019 discussion of Braxton's GTM Syntax choral collection) — also on Creative Sources, which continues to feature so many vocal albums... — there with a pianist as fifth member, but they have at least three prior albums (two on Leo) with different guests. (Perhaps I should also note that this is an older performance, relatively speaking, and that their website has vanished....) Four voices provide various opportunities to move between foreground & background, i.e. to vary the texture around vocalizations, and of course simultaneously to vary timbre, attack, etc. The result is often a rather mysterious atmosphere of shifting textures, made only more mysterious by the participation of Yoichiro Kita (who is otherwise unknown to me) on trumpet & laptop on Live in Japan: Sometimes the trumpet is very noticeable as a trumpet, sometimes it fades into a general vocal murmuring or even an evocation of crickets, and sometimes the electronic contribution is critical to the texture by supplying very high or low (or even percussive?) pitches.... The result is even more mysterious as to who is doing what, including some (natural) indeterminacy between voice & horn, sometimes quiet & sometimes raucous, as momentum comes & goes, seemingly moving across scenes.... Indeed, Live in Japan also seems to emphasize a sense of staging — not so unlike Speak Easy @Konfrontationen, as just discussed — with the different vocal personalities surely being more apparent (i.e. differentiable) in person. And the quintet with trumpet & electronics is also far more flexible, timbre- & intonation-wise than their prior, piano-supplemented albums, so this is the more intriguing VocColours release for me. (It's perhaps over-weird too, but why not?) After the relatively lengthy first track, then, three more musicians join the quintet, in what becomes a rather large affair for the shorter second track, including a dramatic Japanese vocal intervention, amid a more lyrical-melancholy (yet noisy) orientation. It's not that identifying who is doing what, at least vocally, becomes any easier, but the ensemble does come to sound a little more "traditional" in its interaction, i.e. less radical, simply on account of its size & volume (or so I suppose). In any case, Live in Japan invents new textures as it goes, including via sometimes subtle electronics, and so is very worth hearing for its development of choral (I guess?) improvisation. (The basic sound of a crowd is also invoked at times, and that seems to be an increasingly appropriate image in our times.) Actually, few contemporary albums present anything like this degree of textural novelty. (And the potential for extended collective vocal improvisation, more generally, likewise seems only to have begun to be realized....) Todd McComb's Jazz Thoughts