Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bill Dixon Weight/Counterweight

Bill Dixon released a couple of recordings in 2009. This one on the Broken Research label, is a two LP set, and it didn't get enough of the attention it deserves. Dixon who is in his 80's performs with two young percussionists Ben Hall and Aaron Siegel. Their contribution on drums and tympani offers a different situation in which to hear Dixon. It is spare, but consistent, intense and supportive.

Dixon has never sounded better. He uses his unique, self-made (and hugely influential) vocabulary to generate an enormous variety of statements out of his horns. They range from blips and blasts, to rich, evocative melodies. Regardless of what it is, every sound Dixon makes is intentional and makes sense how and when he uses it. He uses all of the space that surrounds him as impetus and permission to make every effort result in a unique sound. The percussionists support him with a low, rumbling array of textures that is both elemental and richly musical. The interaction between the players is perfectly balanced and maintains a complex continuity that allows the music to gradually morph through each duration. Equal parts melody, pure sound, noise (helped with some simple contact mic-like electronics, that nicely flatten out the natural acoustic dimensions). You could hear this as ambient, or industrial, energetic or pastoral depending on the section. This is a perfect document to support Dixon's declaration that his work is "always about the sound". Releasing it on LP makes for a really enjoyable listening experience. 17 minutes is the perfect duration for hearing it and then enjoying the silence at the end of the side. It allows you time to pause and contemplate what just happened.

This music reminds me of the complexity of granite and the currents of air that follow a flapping bird wing. The title Weight/Counterweight says exactly that. It's as heavy as core ten steel and as light as air. The amazing stasis/control of velocity, density variable is virtuosic. Truly beautiful.