Nesbitt/Brown/Groven – Play Symbiotic Instruments

6.7.23 by Matty McPherson

There are those Tuesday night dinners, the ones that reek of mundanity. A Monday dinner can be mundane, but the expectations are low enough as is no one will signal to you otherwise. But the tTesday dinner…well there’s something about microwave leftover pasta bake and a re-run of Chopped that sort of signifies a rather a white flag has been waved with an utmost lack of contempt. Then again, these dinners are nice if you find yourself tuned into the whole chopped game trying to brainstorm yourself another dinner, or just enjoying the company and breezy weather.

Of course my mind always imagines what are the basket ingredients of today’s tape? Think for a second, if you’d been given: Blue marble shell. Paper o-card with a plastic protector. Drums, piano, and double bass. & finally, “symbiotic, cermaic instruments.” Exactly what are do you craft here budzo? It all smells of an early pandemic era endeavor sneaking its way into the world! Wouldn’t you say so judges?

Yet, Roxanne Nesbitt at least claims that the endeavor, an ask into “how abstract instruments can make music in combination with drums, piano, and double bass,” had been brainstormed out previous to the outbreak. The whole experiment just happened to adopt easily to asynchronous recordings with Ben Brown and Marielle Groven over the following year. Both Nesbitt and Brown take composition credits on three and four cuts, respectively . The kinds of cuts that intermingle smoky almost-ambient, almost free jazz with outside ceramic rumbling, tumbling, and downright haptic illusions. “Play Symbiotic Instruments” is one of 2023’s more unexpected jazz delights. That kind of odyssey focused on the rollicking downtime and interplay on the fringe of what constitutes jazz and free downtempo beat crafting or wind chime spiritual dirges. It finds am immense level of return in how Nesbitt and Brown take to defining their own respective tracks that incorporate this “ceramic instrument” basket ingredient to its fullest potential.

The ceramic instruments themselves are akin to bowls or percussive instruments that seek to be bludgeoned or mistreated with the finesse of a preschooler on a little tots set or a seasoned xylophone maestro. Both Nesbitt and Brown have particular quirks to their respective pieces that present that. Brown emphasizes haptics and start-stop spurts; moments to test where an improv is going to scurry towards. Often jagged and tumultuous in their rumbling, as “Chauffeur” reveal, if not wind-skipped and floaty, as the spacious “Symbiotic Blues” starts before unfurling back towards the former. Meanwhile, Nesbitt cares about delicacy in the atmosphere. On her side A compositions, “Blues Seas” and “Tangent” Touch, the two are illustrious in their mood; utilizing strings and bells amongst the bass and ceramic keys to create a silky balance. A serenity emerges that feels akin to stepping into a dimly lit jazz lounge jam or almost-dub; all smoke, no mirrors. Both have approaches give the tape a legitimate sense of replayability to its sequencing, as both Nesbitt and Brown’s own respective cuts execute the usage of the ceramics with such opposing outcomes.

Side B sees the trio hitting a particular resonance, with them seeming to come together and lock into genuinely spirit raising rhythmic jamming. You can hear this quite well on “Wild Bell No. 3,” the kind of jam that sounds like a wind gong, or symphony of chimes being clamored at a steady pace by the wind, while a prickly key motif winds itself up every few seconds. That intro to the piece is the kind of atonal music that a toddler (well, at least this toddler) was attracted to making and trancing out to, although with sharper ears these days I could bluff myself into thinking it was a Cage Prepared Piano tribute; it even carries a sharp metronomic tap and reverb to it. “Pitch Police” almost approaches chamber-punk songwriting as its drum fills crash like twenty foot waves (or sawed off shotgun double barrel blasts) against the fickle keys and featherweight ceramic chimes, almost into a pop structure. Our detente, “Bowls,” meanwhile moves to haptic “plop!” mode with snappy rhythms that suddenly gain brass treble and become a hypnotic paean to the exercise of playing Symbiotic Instruments.

Edition of 200 tapes shipping from the Small Scale Music Montreal Bandcamp page!