In the album notes, Andrew Gillman rather genially interviews cellist Okkyung Lee and repeats the question: "What is the purpose of a monster?" In response, Lee advises that monsters remind us that "humans do not own this world," amid other offbeat intimations. And while this trio’s deft improvisational tactics might infer a heady viewpoint, the overall tone of the album notes and monster depictions drawn by trumpeter Peter Evans will suggest more of a cartoon-like sequence of events.
In its natural state, this is not lightweight stuff, especially when we consider the trio’s various trajectories and intense three-way interactions. But on the other hand, we get the feeling that the musicians don’t take themselves way too seriously. In effect, the artist’s digitally recorded concerts in New York and Philadelphia convey moments of innocence amid sequences of brooding mini-motifs, spiced with counterpoint and fluid dialogues.
On the opener "Phacthio," the band conjures up an ominous vibe due to Lee’s fervent arco lines and pianist Steve Beresford’s mammoth block chords. They gradually pick up steam, where Evans helps lead the charge via rolling and tumbling storylines that spark imagery of a mass exodus. Nonetheless, many of these movements offer a set of cataclysmic circumstances akin to Godzilla trouncing all over Tokyo.
They generally abide by an aggressive and prismatic gait. Evans’ occasionally uses his mute to weave around his partner’s swirling overtures and probing exchanges. On the final piece "Gwendol ap Siencyn," the musicians buzz around like bees hovering atop a hive. Here, the trio engages in gut-busting dialogues amid open-ended improvisational episodes and revisit the initial circular theme for the finale, although they don’t recreate anything in exact or literal fashion.
Like our beloved Japanese monsters, the trio inflicts terror into your nerve endings. All kidding aside, this is freely improvised music that intimate waves of emotive attributes and gobs of contrasting musical propostions. (Highly recommended for advocates of free improvisation.... )