Wooden Wand CD reviews [5RC]

Music Reviews
Wooden Wand CD reviews [5RC]
May 9, 2006, 17:38

WOODEN WAND + VANISHING VOICE Gipsy Freedom CD WOODEN WAND Harem of the Sundrum & The Witness Figg CD

Ya gotta love any competently done drone-jam, this indicating a session of extended improvisation around one chord—or at best a handful. And when you add relatively unconventional factors like doing it all acoustic or adding novel textural and textual elements, it ups the ante.

On Gipsy Freedom Mr. Wood Wand and his Vanishing Voice band do just that. The bulk of selections are hovering fogbanks of noodle-de-doodle-de done with a diverse assortment of plucking, strumming and banging upon mainly unamplified thangs. Moreoever, the playing tends to the minimal—each musician intently repeating the same note or short riff ad infinitum.

This is all well and good on its own, but where WW + VV excel is in the melodic imagination and strength of those few notes they deploy and bolstering it with canny choices of timbres and instrumental sounds. They weave the metallic tang of kalimba, raspily resonating string instruments (abused banjo perhaps, or something more exotic) into the mix. Further, their individual performances are all slightly out of tune with one another, generating subtle but pleasant dissonances ala Balinese gamelan.

Within this we find a surprising amount of variety achieved with the opening track “Friend That Just Isn't So” being a dialogue between an a capella female voice and free-jazz sax while other tracks are driven by tidal movements of small melodies massed together, and others are numbers that are primarily percussive.

The re-issued Harem of The Sundrum & The Witness Figg is Wooden Wand's solo debut and the artist's love of monotone is even more pronounced here. Limiting himself to a palette of acoustic guitar and voice to perform songs with scant chord changes and simple, narrowly drawn melodies, Mr. Wand creates a very stark, monolithic and pointedly restricted effect. This is the sound of one man absently picking at one guitar at 3 AM with no particular end in mind, deliberately not seeking to create or define anything particularly distinctive. I grant that ya can always make a philosophical argument that even a refrigerator's thrumming is “distinctive “ in some sense; Socrates, go pick yourself up a copy. [5 Rue Christine]

-Howard W.

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