Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Album review: B.C.F.W., barragemirage megamultifurcation


-Originally published in the Wire magazine, Dec 2020-

B.C.F.W., barragemirage megamultifurcation (Radical Documents, 2020)

Album review by John Pietaro


To denizens of New York’s music underground, the name Daniel Carter conjures images of a downtown that was and, as far as he is concerned, will never cease to be. Carter, the saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, poet, activist, and free jazz guru, has been growing this scene since the early 1970s, in a career spanning the decades and in the company of many of the music’s beacons. As of the 1990s, he’s recorded some 50 albums as a leader and many more as a supportive player, through a dizzying array of performance with Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor. Sabir Mateen, Roy Campbell, David S. Ware, William Parker, Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Jaco Pastorius, Anne Waldman, Matthew Shipp, Test, Cooper-Moore, DJ Logic, Other Dimensions in Music, Gunter Hampel, Dissipated Face, Yo La Tengo, and Medeski, Martin and Wood. Approaching his creative journeys as spiritual growth, Carter makes little distinction between roaring free jazz, primal scream poetry, meditative explorations or the avant gardes of post-punk rock or performance art. In fact, he’s happiest when ensconced in an amalgam of all.  

B.C.F.W. is one of many ensembles Carter has been central to and surely one that rates with his most intriguing. In the opening selection, “Butter Boots”, the ensemble casts a soundscape with his tenor saxophone out front, emoting in the comfortable language of both film noir and ‘shock of the new’. But throughout, electric guitarist Pat Foley and synthesist/cellist Andrew Barker paint the aural ground with the care of art-house cinema scenarists, while drummer Fritz Welsh uses his expansive set of percussives for color and shading as much as accentuation and drive. This is a unique quartet within our rapidly aging New Thing. Even when the band stretches out, moving through four-way contrapuntal segments (“Planet Escape” or “the Veil of Lights Obscure”) the music never turns too heavy for the ear to carry. Carter tends to bring a variety of winds to sessions, though here only saxophones and trumpet. No flutes or clarinets for this recording, but fully unleashed, he is as likely to move to piano or percussion as he is a horn. For barragemirage megamultifurcation, his improvisations whirl and dance poetically and in union with every sound crossing his path. By side two, his muted trumpet sings softly over “Re-Ghoster” as Foley’s blue-tinged guitar drops chords and languid fills.

As he is wont to do, Daniel Carter seeks out magical moments in the most unexpected of places. The “B” in B.C.F.W., Barker, is a free jazz drummer whom Carter has been working with in recent years, though here in a very different guise. Who knew the man also played cello and synthesizer? On the former, he rides contoured lines, as the latter splashes thick atmospherics which thread the band together. Likewise, guitarist Foley, whose career has been dedicated to straight-ahead rock music, including performance with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and touring as an opener for names like Dave Mason, Leon Russell, Marshall Tucker Band, Bad Company and many more. Liberated from any confining standards of music theory, he offers a loose sense of tradition within his free playing, something grounding but far from simply anticipated. Bringing these disparate forces together with adventurous drummer/percussionist Welch (who has worked alongside Evan Parker among many more, and currently resides in Glasgow), is the genius of Carter. Knowing where to find such agents of sonic change is one thing, recognizing the need to pull them together to document the moment is another talent altogether. And Radical Documents, the relatively new label out of Los Angeles which focuses on “unique, experimental, and often obscure transmissions of sound” has turned out to be another surprise of the Carter pantheon. Releases of boundary-shredding L.P.s (er, that’s“vinyl” to the youth) of ensembles like B.C.F.W. and others, is very much in order in this time of fear, loathing and internet overkill.

Andrew Barker-synthesizer and cello

Daniel Carter-tenor and soprano saxophones, trumpet

Pat Foley-guitar

Fritz Welch-drums

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