Noring/McGee - "At Home"
(FDR Recording/HalTapes 2003, CDR)

Uploaded to Aural Innovations: August 2003

Hearing the latest Noring/McGee collaboration hot on the heals of Hal's "My Brain" CD, and having been surprised to hear piano so prominent on that album, the intense ivory basher is making his presence known on this set too (both Hal and Brian contribute piano). The opening track, "The Whole Damn Thing", consists of dense walls of sound, pulsating sandpaper waves, throbbing and screaming tones, assorted clatter and voices going on about "the whole damn thing", all combining with the piano bits to create an electro-acoustic sound-art symphony. On "Stillness In A Vacuum" the piano opens the piece, placing the music very much in the free-improv realm. The piano thrashes away like Beethoven having just discovered Sun Ra, while noisy but not overwhelming radio waves and assorted other voice bits and tinklings of sound noodle about. I really enjoyed the piano work and resulting jazz elements, and particularly on this track the piano takes center stage in front of the electronics, which still makes for a nicely strange blend of sounds and styles. Oh... and there's a vacuum too.

"Bread On The Table" features more jazz chops on the piano and passionate playing, and the crazed concert style is embellished by noise colorings that begin quietly, but then attempt to match the piano for volume and intensity. I thought there was going to be a duel to the death, but both piano and electronics soon find common ground and work cooperatively to create the avant sonic equivalent of a chamber duo. There's lots of intricately detailed playing here, and I particularly liked the avant-garde Mr. Roger's Neighborhood feel in the latter part of the track. "Sticking And Stamping" goes into somewhat more traditional Hal & Brian directions with lots of stream of consciousness spoken word, percussive clatter, recorders, and tinkling story-like piano bits and winding noise waves. Nothing overly harsh and the noise levels can be aggressive but are relatively low-key and willing to make room for the various other contributions. A 27 minute playful parade of sounds, samples and fun melodies.

Overall, At Home was an interesting listen indeed, and very different from any prior Noring/McGee recordings I've heard. Lots to hear throughout these four lengthy tracks. And looking back at my last couple Noring/McGee reviews it seems that these guys do something very different with each subsequent collaboration.

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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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