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Marcos Fernandes, Mike Pride - "a mountain is a mammal"

In the end, what proves to be key to making a good percussion record is the gear the players have on hand. As with any other instrument, and probably even more so, technical ability and a sense of timing are important. But with the heavy dynamics and limited tonality of drums, the setup can be crucial.

Californian Marcos Fernandes and New Yorker Mike Pride complement their set with modern tools. Recorded in 2005, their A Mountain is a Mammal pits percussion against beds of sounds. The first half-hour tends toward drums with atmospherics. It's an organic and meditative segment, where the electronics and field recordings fall to the background and the light, slow drums dominate. The third track, however, takes a different turn for the final six minutes, layered with alien sounds and buried, guttural vocals. It's a surprising move, an unusual piece of audio work and the best part of the record.

     - All about Jazz New York

Fernandes and Pride are two renowned percussionists who have been active in the free music scene for many years, playing with a virtual who's who of the most inquisitive minds of the "no pigeonhole" areas which include, among the others, George Lewis, Haco, Jack Wright, Anthony Braxton, Eugene Chadbourne, Nels Cline, Otomo Yoshihide (and counting). The splendidly titled "A mountain is a mammal" presents percussive dialogues that accept no stylish compromise, focusing on textural analysis and event-related spontaneousness. Austere if fantasy-gifted, this music offers a lot, ranging through various aspects of an anti-pattern approach that bristles with effervescent energy and denotes scrupulous attention for what the partner has to say. Metal, wood and skin are all parts of a context in which every component weights the same and no influence is noticed. There seems to be a struggle to achieve a controlled structural freedom, a semi-fractal kind of expression that borders on the ritualistic but also sounds rationally well behaved. Muscular playing is also featured, especially in the aptly named "A little more dangerous", while "More than everything" is a great moment of serenity, rippled by electronic processing and rebellious clattering, ending the record in a "dadaist" light, Pride's vocals halfway through a goose and throwing up his cookies. This stuff is made of many hits and few misses, moving with natural compulsion but always remaining extremely manageable as far as the degree of acceptability is concerned; Fernandes and Pride prove themselves to be two competent, keen-eared players with the capability of enhancing a conversational flow. The whole makes for 40 minutes of sober yet often exciting improvisation.

     - Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

You probably know the story about the chimpansee who was given ink and a pen and who re-wrote Beethoven's ninth. Well, this album is something like that. Not that it sounds like Beethoven or that any of its participants ever intended it to. Nor would I want to compare Marcos Fernandes and Mike Pride to monkeys. And yet, at its heart lies a similar process of using the infinite potential of an open mind to create an art free of any kind of pretentiousness.

This in itself is nothing new. For decades, musicians have tried to bring their trade back to life from a coma of pompous artificiality. Marcos Fernandes might not be the most obvious example of how John Cage's philosophy can work in practise (and quite probably the influence of the latter on the former can be neglected), but we're pretty sure he could agree with Cage's thirst for "realness", his strife for an art which sought its inspiration in the events that immediately surround us, as well as with his famous bonmot: "You don't have to call it music, if the term offends you". Of course, only fools would mistake this for a total laisser-faire attitude. For last few years, Marcos has become ever more precise in formulating his distinct style on his own accretions label, mostly in conjunction with others. Depending on the constellation, the results were breathtakingly energetic ("Reverberations from Spring Past") or totally out.of-this-world ("Haco Hans Jakob Marcos"). But the brief meeting he shared with Mike Pride in 2005 must have come closest to his ideal of freely flowing energies. For one night, they improvised and recorded, then reworked the material in a process of constant exchange and what has found its way to this disc is cannily tangible, stormily spontaneous and jumps from one corner of the room to next like a kangaroo inside a cardboard box. Electronics and Fernandes' famous phonographies, which made for an important part of his recent jams, are now reduced to the background and merely reappear for the atmospheric finale "Is anything more than everything", in which Pride counters the sizzling and frizzling frequencies with gurgling vocals. In the 27 minutes of the album's core track, "A little more than dangerous", all kinds of rhythmical instruments, metal plates and a glockenspiel stream from disentangled states into razorsharp grooves, frenzied battles and moments of bliss. It's a daring enterprise and its nerve-wrecking intensity and defiance of any rules besides its own will make this a hard nut to crack for any genre-jugglers. We would like to meet the free jazz band which will allow only five minutes of this into their set.

Of course, neither producing senseless racket nor creating pumping beats are part of the intention. Please note: These two gentlemen are percussionists, not drummers and their art involves just as much physical sound treatment and gauging the sound potentials of their instruments as it does "being rhythmical". Maybe they wouldn't even mind if you thought that "A Mountain is a Mammal" sounded like two monkey beating their drumsticks at random. But much more than that, it sounds like a fresh wind blowing through a stuffy room, like not caring about what others may think. And like friendship.

     - Tobias Fischer, Tokafi

Percussionists Marcos Fernandes and Mike Pride are from San Diego and New York respectively, but they met in Tokyo and then again in the Big Apple for this caterwauling, free wheeling, polyrhythmic feast. It's something like the duet records by Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton, but even those seem tame by comparison. The opener, "Welcome Whom Find It Becoming" hints at how non-idiomatic this is going to be, as the hissing and blowing of tubular objects gives away to what sound like thunderous kettle drum rolls, plenty of scrapping and rubbing, accented by a single strike of Pride's glockenspiel, like one of those annoying customer service bells you find at a hotel. "A Little More Than Dangerous" is a lot more dangerous and industrial. This 25-minute centerpiece finds Pride and Fernandes doing some serious the heavy lifting--hammering on an iron and whacking metallic sheets, snares, gongs and cymbals. Sure, there's a reprieve from snare brushwork and hand drumming in the middle, but for the most part this clamorous, clanging cacophony is like Milfred Graves, Harry Partch and Einsturzende Neubauten leading an gamelan ensemble of steel mill workers. Aside from the wavering test tone that dominates "Is Anything More Than Everything", it's easy to understand why the pair decided to put a collage of monkeys on the cover after hearing Pride's gargling and Elmer Fudd-like intonations. All in all, "A Mountain" showcases this duo in three different sonic contexts that on first impression suggests that anarchistic good time was had by all. Listen closer and you'll hear two improvisers engaged in some stellar interplay.

     - Richard Moule, Signal To Noise

"A Mountain is a Mammal" is an improvised battle between percussionists Marco Fernandes (percussion, phonography) and Mike Pride (percussion, glockenspiel, electronics, voice). Three improvisations that were recorded on november 5th, at the Funhouse Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Fernandes has a long history in the San Diego area as an improvisor, producer, etc. He runs the Accretions label, that was established some twenty years ago. No wonder his name is on many records from this label. Mike Pride is a young percussionist and vocalist from Southern Maine. A very busy musician, as he has several bands going on, and he has played on some 50 CDs. Both gentlemen met by accident, while they were both on tour. Both they experienced chemistry in their collaborations that followed, and so they decided to record a CD. The first two improvisations are percussion-dominated. Great dialogues using an extensive vocabulary! Although this kind of improvisation could easily been practiced 30 years ago, this doesn't matter when it is done musically inspired as is the case with Fernandes and Pride. Very enjoyable and satisfying music when you give attention to it. The third piece has electronics, voice and phonography in the forefront. A great abstract sound poem. Yes, without doubt it was a good idea from Fernandes and Pride for working together. Proving that improvised is still very much alive if it is the work of inspired and intuitive musicians.

     - Dorf mueller, vital weekly

Fernandes and Pride's "A Mountain is a Mammal" is a percussion rooted batch of experimental tracks that are extremely minimal and informed by a certain freestyle jazz structure with hints of math rock without the rock bit. One is given the sensation of a wide open space out of which is emanating the percussion textures. Some will find this boring and uninteresting, others will find fascinating. It's kind of something you have to lean back and soak up to properly appreciate. It's very much intellectual music and if you can't approach it from that angle you may have a hard time appreciating it on a visceral level. This is thoughtful music that functions outside the box using instrumental sounds with which we are all familiar.

     - Kristofer Upjohn, Raves.com

The final trio in this triptych is an album with three tracks. Marcos Fernandes and Mike Pride have joined to record A Mountain is a Mammal (accretions, ALP042, www.accretions.com). I enjoyed the two, shorter panels of this piece - Welcome whom find it becoming, and Is anything more than everything because they are shorter and combine electronics and found sounds with the percussion which is the instrument of choice of both these artists. The central piece - A little more dangerous - is 27 minutes long and falls foul of my previously expressed distance from percussion solos. It sounds like the two had fun playing in the studio employing all sorts of percussion, but jams like this do nothing for me.

     - Jeremy keens, Ampersand Etc.

"Mike Pride è senza dubbio l'unico musicista ad aver suonato con Anthony Braxton ed essere stato in tour con le leggende punk MDC", firmato Bruce Lee Gallanter. M'imbatto in questa citazione cercando qualche informazione sul percussionista newyorkese Mike Pride, che subito incuriosisce e lo rende un personaggio interessante e fuori dal comune. Così come fuori dal comune è la figura, più volte incontrata su queste pagine, di Marcos Fernandes, personaggio di spicco della scena californiana che ruota attorno ad etichette quali Accretions, Pax Recordings, Solitary B e al collettivo Trummerflora. Da un incontro verificatosi tra i due nel corso di una piovosa giornata in quel di Tokyo, nasce questo disco che vede Fernandes cimentarsi con percussioni e fonografie (in pratica field recordings), e Pride, sempre percussioni, glockenspiel ed electronics. Una collaborazione fulminante, perfettamente in linea con le personalità dei due autori, e forse una delle cose migliori in cui c'è lo zampino di Fernandes che posso dire di aver ascoltato. Caratterizzato, com'è ovvio data la strumentazione usata e il background dei due, da una forte componente percussiva, si tratta di un disco all'insegna della totale libertà espressiva, privo di regole, fantasioso e distante da inutili manierismi, ma affatto privo di sottili raffinatezze. Tralasciamo la prima traccia, che fornisce solo un piccolo antipasto di quello che verrà dopo, per passare a descrivere la lunga a little more dangerous. Più che pericolosa, un vero tripudio anarchico, che freme e si agita nervoso. 27 minuti che sanno di acido rigurgito free jazz, d'improvvisazione radicale e di concretismi urticanti. In realtà il modo migliore per descrivere la musica è quello d'immaginare un piccolo esercito di pupazzi di latta che con fare ora meticoloso e precisino, ora disordinato e veemente, smonta e mette sottosopra un'officina meccanica. Riprodotto ad alto volume, l'impatto è notevole, un suono che entra in ogni poro, che si accartoccia e srotola di continuo, plastico e succoso, scala coraggiosamente le vette e si lascia precipitare rovinosamente. L'altro giorno ascoltandolo in macchina c'è mancato poco che rischiassi di sbattere contro un muro, tale è la frenesia che trasmette. Ottimo anche il brano finale is anything more than everything lamentoso, comico, rumoroso, a tratti quasi cartoon (potrebbe essere la soundtrack surreale di Willy il Coyote), rappresenta una piccola sinfonia di rumori ed angoscie urbane, ottenuta con gran dispiego di field recordings, effetti impazziti e note gocciolanti di glockenspiel. "Rattle and Hum".

     - Alfio Castorina, Kathodik

Marcos Fernandes, Mitglied des losen Trummerflora Collective, und Mike Pride sind Perkussionisten. Die drei Tracks auf "a mountain is a mammal" wurden am 5. November 2005 in den Funhouse Studios in Brooklyn, New York, eingespielt. Neben perkussiven Klängen bringt das Free Improv Duo Phonographics und Electronics in das intuitiv improvisierte Klanggeschehen ein. Das 6-minütige erste Stück führt zage und leicht in die melodisch abstrakte Klanglandschaft. Doch auch hier schon sind die zu hörenden Klänge nicht leicht einzelnen Instrumenten zuzuordnen. Fernandes und Pride haben kein Interesse daran, populärer Musik neue Impulse zu geben. Die bereits vielfach und in etlichen Kollaborationen aktiv gewordenen Musiker sind neugierig auf ungewohnte Sounds und freie Strukturen, die ebenso herausfordern wie unterhalten. Einzelne Töne bekommen Gewicht, der Gemeinklang an sich ohne melodisch-harmonische Struktur, frei jeder Form, jedes Stils, jeder Enge, entfaltet sich mit dem momentanen Klanggefühl der beiden Musiker. Das ist kein kopflastiges Geschehen, sondern witziges, freies und neugieriges Arbeiten - und Hören. Wer freies Spiel nicht gewohnt ist, kann gelangweilt oder überfordert sein, doch wer sich mit offenen Sinnen diesem "Hörspiel" öffnet, kann eine Welt entdecken, die ungemein mehr Eindruck und, ja, Unterhaltung bietet, als die nächst beste Popcombo.

Track 2 heißt "a little more dangerous". Die Perkussionisten spielen sich in den 27 Minuten frei, ohne ihr Spiel in gewaltigen Soundkaskaden aufgehen zu lassen. Hier und dort tun sich jazzbetonte Rhythmusmotive auf, hin und wieder geraten die beiden Schlagwerker fast in Ekstase, wenn ihr gemeinsames Spiel wie einst bei Max Roach in krachender Virtuosität aufgeht.

Free Improv heißt nicht, irgendetwas zu Klang zu bringen. Und es heißt nicht, kein Instrument in seiner herkömmlichen Weise bedienen zu können. Technische Höchstleistung ist Voraussetzung, sein Handwerkzeug, das Schlagzeug, bis in die Einzelteile verstehen und nutzen zu können. Punk Rock ist (neben weiterem Schrott) die debile Seite populärer Musik. Free Improv ist in seiner spielerischen Virtuosität, intuitiven Tiefe und technischen Abstraktion das andere Ende der langen Kette (in deren Mitte Massen an überflüssigen und nutzlosen Gliedern stecken) - und doch gibt es Ansatzpunkte. Mike Pride hat bereits in der Punkrock-Legende Millions of Dead Cops musiziert (und einer ganzen Palette an Jazzmusikern sein Handwerk geliehen). "a mountain is a mammal" jedoch hat mit Punk und sonstiger festgelegter Musik nichts zu tun. Im dritten Track "is anything more than everything" kommen die Electronics und Phonographics ins Spiel. Über sieben Minuten sind Puten, Windgeräusche, rhythmische Skizzen, verfremdete Stimmen und das alles verbindend elektronische Sounds zu hören. Ein rundes Bild, das am leichtesten der drei Parts sich aufschließt, vielleicht, weil es am abwechslungsreichsten ist und mit dem Schrei der Pute, schrägen Stimmlauten und elektronischen Brummklängen überraschend witzig unterhält. Wer keine Lust hat, sich überraschen zu lassen, darf auch weiterhin "If You Leave Me Now" von Chicago hören…

     - Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi


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