For the new album by Jeremiah Cymerman, he shows once again why he is one of the more innovative musicians and composers of our
time. What may begin as a simple concept of playing the clarinet in front of a microphone hooked up to a laptop can turn into something extraordinary, mindbending, and overwhelming, but if you have come to enjoy and put faith in Cymerman and his work, then Purification/Dissolution (5049) is an album where the reward will be as moving and powerful as the music which came before.
For this one, it seems Cymerman is committed to putting a bit of anger into his music, or at least that’s how the album begins with the title track. It comes off like a modern version of Terry Kath’s “Free Form Guitar” (from the first Chicago Transit Authority album), and for me I wondered if this is meant to be an introductory statement, a mixture of distorted clarinet amped up to sound like a feedback-ridden guitar made merely to create feedback-ridden sounds, or both? The clarinet squeals are played over a solitary drone, and it leans towards the drone metal side of things. One can concentrate on the meditative drone, but the loose distorted clarinet has something else in mind. Does the search for a solid note mean that this is the process of finding purity, or is this the dissolution of purity and solitude? It welcomes the listener into a very uncertain album, but if the first track is a sense of darkness to be explored, one must walk further into the unknown.
“Charnel Ground” now has the monotonous drone moving and vibrating into different things, adn Cymerman’s clarinet work becomes a bit more sensible and fluid, although one can interpret the sounds as uncontrolled sirens. Is this a reference to the nuclear disaster of Japan, perhaps the rapid thoughts of one realizing their fate up to the moment of an ultimate conclusion? Or dissolution? “Secret Refuse (For Adam Yauch)” is a beautiful piece, its calm feel sounds like nothing more than Cymerman on a boat (or on a mountain top, with some of the effects of what sounds like a boat on water, or wind blowing through the trees) playing a composition of warmth, acknowledgment, and perhaps a spiritual passage spoken without words, as if he is merging their shared Jewish upbringing and merging it with touches of Yauch’s Buddhist beliefs. It’s oting, it can be considered a unique means of showing props, but it’s the first moment of solitude on Purification/Dissolution.
The first half of “The Nexus Of Freedom” sounds like someone docking their boat onto shore. Up to this point, Cymerman has already utilized his multi-track recording techniques to create some amazing sounding pieces, but then it seems that he’s playing with the concept of what could be considered songs and what may be sound scapes or sound pieces. It’s more vivid as audio paintings than direct songs, although there is a sense of beginning, middle, and end to this, or at least a sense of continuity not only within each track, but throughout the album. By the time the album ends with “The Grace Of Prayer At The Moment Of Death”, I found myself waiting for the big moment of the album to happen, and it does. If “Secret Refuse” is about the passing of a friend (musical or otherwise), then “The Grace Of Prayer At The Moment Of Death” is the realization of what it might be like when it is your time to pass away. Do all of our worries and concerns go away? Do we go through a gentle mental breakdown, or are we already experiencing that process? Even for those of us who are not overly religious but may be spiritual, is there an epiphany of sorts? Do we pray silently to a being, or is it a simple unheard acknowledgment of the inevitable? There’s a part in this song around the 3:00 mark where the clarinet sounds like a flute, and reminds me of the Meredith Monk samples as used in DJ Shadow’s “Midnight In A Perfect World”. There’s no funky beats in this track, but that dreamy and ethereal vibe that both songs share seem to state something that can mean something if we want it too. It sounds like other means of prayers that musicians like John Coltrane, Paul Horn, Herbie Hancock, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Ustad Vilayat Khan have expressed in their music. The music leads to a point where it goes beyond a belief or concept, when things simply become one. Along with the moment of birth, perhaps the few moments before death is the only time we can ever experience true peace in our awake state. The crackle of surface noise from a record is mixed in at the end, as if it telling the listener that we are about to reach the end of the metaphorical record, and when it does, we can opt to experience it by playing it again. The music then sounds like a mantra, which we can repeat if we believe in it. By then, the album itself as dissolved. Fade to black.
Even if my interpretation of Purification/Dissolution is completely off the mark, Cymerman’s music moves me to think about what it could mean, and allow myself to simply hear it for the sake of hearing something creative. Without a message, the music here shows a lot of emotion, and it may seem like a good portion of it is very dark and fearful. One doesn’t have to fear the dark if they trust the sounds that are coming through, and for me I’ve put trust in Cymerman, knowing that I’ll be taken on an adventure that I had never experienced in that way before. In that sense, his music becomes the purification if one wants it to be, but the reality is that everything goes to an end, and it’s our duty to make sure the path towards it will be one that validates everything that came before, with little time to regret but time to go into the unknown without fear