ContraphonicNever Enough Hope : The Gift Economy (US,2008)****°
Composer Tobin Summerfield, who worked together before with Chicago based instrumental rock band Crush Kill Destroy, as well as the Detroit-based progressive chamber-post-rock band Larval, during the 90s, was also active before within the Chicago improvised music scene. This project comes forth from a close relationship with this 20-piece orchestra which unites energies whenever possible.
For a large part of this debut album, -which is recorded to stimulate and promote more gatherings and perhaps concerts-, the compositions are based upon rather emotional evolutions following often certain fundaments of rhythms (by more than once dual-rhythmic drums, bass and vibes mostly), with repeated rock patterns that build up (by brass, strings, guitars mostly), and layers of cooperative improvisations on top (brass and strings mostly). This can become quite complex, and is always energetic with its tensions.
The most surprising complexity I found is in the opener, “The Banner”. Here (also overlapping) layers are built up, like a tropical storm, with groovy alto saxes as a last additional layer, inhabiting certain minimal themes. Then suddenly, the compositional musical theme is taken over by the strings, which gives this musical theme with this differnt coordination a whole different and very interesting meaning. This builds and recedes again until only one cello remains playing, before a last, complex part is built up anew with brass, heavy drumming, and also with lots of energy.
After such surprising changes, a later, more linear composition like “Two ghosts” was less surprising, but also here it is still nice to hear the communal energy rising in this form. “Grant Park” also is rockier in its big band fundament. “The Light Tilts out” also includes the more common and recognisable blurry free jazz tensions, combined with a stereophonic guitar / drums theme, repeated in a hypnotic rock form, and a brass theme combined with string improvisations within a comparable overtone environment, and also a few more recognisable melodic evolutions, with some other arrangements woven around it.
The Last track, “A gift” suddenly seems to be a song with the band accompanying, and with an emotional moody improvisation outro added to it.
The title ‘gift economy’ was obviously chosen because of the group’s mutual understanding, support and energy, shared into and given to the band.
I prefer to add here that the term ‘gift economy’ marks a significant underlying new and growing tendency made more popular via the internet where especially information-based ideas but also related products are shared with each other for free for the benefit of all, something which might work well for developing ideas, also no matter how reactive early forms of opinions could be, there is a possibility to develop much information-based knowledge with it, if the impulsiveness of reactions does not win the war over the slower communal learning process. For a part there still remains a question whether certain materialisations of products shouldn’t be protected better from this mentality of a too open sharing tendency (things like printed real cds/LPs/dvds which companies, and with the existence of an economic and artist's dependency involved with it, which could be endangered if a certain protection should not be developed with this mentality). The communal development of sharing on its own could eventually turn into new practical forms of how we could live together, but might work only optimally after the state tax and energy dependency will have solved things differently for more independency for its citizens.
PS. In my radioshow I said about this release, and the airplayed first, 15 minute track :
"Big chamber group led by one composer, but with organic individual contributions, that mostly holds the middle between jazz, rock and classical music. This masterly performed and composed first piece might be the weirdest and most ambitious (5 star) track. Other tracks are more organic and improvised."