I met Wendy Eisenberg through one of the causally fortuitous combinations that take place on internet: a video of the youtuber Don Mount, a passionate who with almost fetishist patience built an impressive archive of concert videos held by the characters that crowd the New York underground scene. Don Mount is a crucial figure in the artistic / musical “scenius” that surrounds him.
He is a documentarian and at the same time an evangelist, one of those rare people who, moved by a pure passion, put themselves at the service of others, spreading, as in a positive contagion, splinters and sound fragments of instant beauty. Among these is the guitar played by Wendy Eisenberg. Switching between seeing her playing alone on a New York stage and deciding on the purchase of her latest CD, “The Machinic Unconscious”, published in 2018 on Tzadik was a snap.
“Music with a dialectical form will always sound like sonata form to
me. Subject or thesis is analogous to exposition, contradiction or antithesis
as development, and summation as recapitulation, This kind of organization
can be heard anywhere, from fugues to spectral music, resonating that clas-
sically good organization of material tends to mean that material will be
placed next to other material by some kind of relational or sequential
system. It’s a kind of tautology: music that is organized is welI-organized
musical material. Alternatively, good music that is organized is organized
by a good system that is directly related to the musical material at hand.
The very definition of music as organized sounds in space on a chronolog-
ical timeline, however obscured that timeline may sound, establishes that
those sounds folIow in a sequence. This might be why my favorite music
challenges the dialectical forms. Such music suggests that the way we place
sounds in time-given forms does not have to be concerned with certain
organizationallineages. Post Cage, we can “let sounds be themselves.” We
can also “let sounds meet other contexts.” We can also “let contexts be
themselves,” and “let contexts meet other contexts.””
Wendy Eisenberg, “The Reaches Of Musical Space, Arcana VIII, Hips Road, 2017, pag.78
On this record Eisenberg plays with Ches Smith and Trevor Dunn. It’s a trio, but their combination is very unstructured, their interplay looks much more like a theatrical call & response where the main narrative voice, the protagonist, is Wendy’s electric guitar. Eisenberg expresses a distorted and sharp sound, so kinetic to make the St. Vincent ‘s fuzz seems a matter for well-behaved college students. A closer listening, however, brings together a series of nuances and details that allow us to define this sound as a polychrome collection, a fragmented mosaic of implicit citations, a continuous semantic reference to other forms and styles. In a continuous musical flow Eisenberg unites, glues and sews with her instrument a rich, almost opulent, line of sounds and styles crushing them within her own improvisational reinterpretation. Listening to this record I had the clear perception of finding myself constantly solicited by a continuous game of references. A continuous solicitation that generates an almost euphoric sensation of an amplified sonic déjà-vu.
“Recordings themselves crystallize time. When the music is recorded
is as important as the space where it was recorded. These temporal parame-
ters are as important as the space where it was recorded, deciding whether it
will “last.” Since music is always record ed in a certain historical moment,
music can and should be understood to be in some dialogue with its prede-
cessors and contemporaries. The materials have an actually tangible effect on
the nature of the work. I am reminded here of an incredible compilation
called Music from Saharan Cell Phones. Music fans in West Africa use their
cell-phones to share their own songs, so the pieces on the compilation are
some of the most popular on this underground circuito Their tinny sound
makes the phone as much a part of the song as the musical materials them-
selves. In this way, as it so often is, the medium becomes the message.”
Wendy Eisenberg, “The Reaches Of Musical Space, Arcana VIII, Hips Road, 2017, pag.80
She is very good. They are all great. Because Dunn and Smith work on the flanks with an ultra-precise interplay and a sense of time. Because Dunn, covering the distorted sound of Eisenberg with his electric bass, pumps sound fertilizers into the background carpet, adding the right heaviness. Because Smith builds an outline of theatrical scenes with his rhythms and his kinematic energy, emphasizing even more Eisenberg’s nervous sound. This is not a common record. I would talk about a real musical choreography, carefully cured and maniacally prepared with that Zen taste of the sense of the moment that turns a simple jam into something much more significant at a semantic and aesthetic level. Everything looks simple, spontaneous, like a brush stroke on a canvas. Final expression of a kind of musical gestures that is the result of an incessant and continuous work that is however hidden from the final result. A complex Victorian mechanism hidden by a game of mirrors.
Thank you very much, Don!