Inside / Outside are the duo of Santa Rosa, California based musicians Russell Leach and Don Campau, who play a variety of instruments and electronics, including percussion, Moog, bass, guitar and field recordings. Their four previous albums were created by Leach and Campau with occasional assistance from singer Robin O’Brien. For their new album – Rooms – the duo recorded tracks with a different improvising musician in mind and asked the artists to play over the tracks. This is not, however, a compilation of the results, but, rather, intended to be heard as a compositional suite of music.
It all flows nicely. Susan Alcorn’s pedal steel is pure songbird, as it floats along with the acoustic guitar and percussion. There’s an ambient quality to her playing, even as the leads start to get frantic later in the piece. Mike Khoury’s viola and tambura add a tension laden, razor edged droning dissonance to the music that follows. The next section with James Hill’s trumpet is a standout, being a gorgeous ambient jazz groove tune with spacey effects. The rhythm and pace go off-kilter in the next segment, which includes Kyle Bruckmann’s oboe and analog electronics, creating an avant free improv jazz and experimental electronic exploration. Very interesting use and mixture of sounds on this one. Amy Denio contributes soulful vocals to a song with a great lead bass melody and trance like groove, but also incorporates experimental sound collages. Bryan Day contributes “invented” instruments to an avant free improv glom of manipulated strings and sounds. We’re groovin’ again in the next segment, with Tom Djll on trumpet and toy megaphone. This is another highlight, which struck me as a jazzy funky blend of Talking Heads and Discipline era King Crimson with a sound experimental edge. Russell and Don go it alone for a spacey, droning, sound experimental blend of ambience, bells and percussion. Anna Zaradny contributes alto sax to another intriguing blend of space ambience and sound experimentation, bringing to mind the soundtrack to an avant-garde sci-fi film. I really dig the free-wheeling electronic and sound collage fun when Al Margolis joins the fray with his various manipulations. Jon Raskin’s electronic berimbau (a single stringed instrument) sounds cool on a melodic, spacey, avant funky world music piece. Eric Glick Rieman’s prepared Rhodes electric piano bears little resemblance to a Rhodes on his contribution. I like the mood and ambience that is created when traditional instruments are manipulated (“played”) in decidedly non-traditional ways. Finally, Robin O’Brien contributes beautiful vocals that are backed by drones and waves-against-the-shore electronics.
In summary, I enjoyed the combination of ambience, rhythm and avant-garde instrument and sound experimentation throughout the album, and these elements often come together in single pieces. This is music that reveals new treasures with repeated listens.
For more information visit the Lonely Whistle Music web site at: http://lonelywhistle.doncampau.com
For all things Don Campau visit: http://doncampau.com
And I encourage everyone to visit Don’s Living Archive of Underground Music web site, which documents the “Cassette Culture” underground music movement: http://www.livingarchive.doncampau.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz