Brazelton/Naphtali - "What Is It Like To Be A Bat?"
(Tzadik 2003, TZ 7707)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: February 2004
Kitty Brazelton and Dafna Naphtali are new names to me, but the promo sheet reveals both to be longtime improvisors, computer music composers, music professors and more. What Is It Like To Be A Bat? features Brazelton on voice, computer soundtracks, electric bass and sampler, Naphtali on voice, max/msp processing and electric guitar, Danny Tunick on drums, voice, electric bass, sampler and soprano recorder, and Paul Geluso on voice and filtering.
The CD consists of two multi-segment suites that bulldoze through a gamut of stylistic territory. "She Said - She Said, Can You Sing Sermonette With Me?" opens with a brief but aggressive thrash rock assault that quickly transitions to an avant-operatic bit, that soon segues into a harsh electro freakout dirge, abruptly swinging to a rhythmic bop-bop-de-dop groove, and then on to a sort of Laurie Anderson electro music robotic monolog segment, followed by a brain blistering avant-rock space lobotomy.... all within the first 10 minutes of the set!!! Yesiree... Brazelton and Naphtali are everywhere at once, upside down and crawling like worms through the cavities of your cranium. But after a twisty turny maze of styles we settle into the 16 minute "Trance", in which they take a single idea and let it develop for a while. This is aggressive stuff indeed... avant-rock with a razor sharp metallic edge and continually evolving theatric theme. The second suite, "5 Dreams; Marriage", begins with an ambient and opera combo intro that reminds me of Laurie Anderson replacing Mr Doctor in Devil Doll. We soon get into territory that brings to mind Art Bears, 5UU's and the like, and a Nina Hagen style serving a kind of Dagmar Krause vocal function. But we've also got catchy rock songs peppered about in the latter part of the CD.
In summary, What Is It Like To Be A Bat? is a roller coaster ride and a fun one at that. Some might think Brazelton and Naphtali are covering too much territory in one go, but the transitions are mostly seamless and confident throughout the CD. Fans of Naked City and aggressive avant-rock will find much to enjoy here.
For more information you can visit: http://www.whatbat.org.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz