On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG

Composer and multi-instrumentalist, PEK, set his sights on something bigger with the Leap of Faith Orchestra's Supernovae. The previous incarnation of the LOFO expands from the fifteen musicians on The Expanding Universe (Evil Clown, 2016) to twenty-one players on this new outing. Another noteworthy element of this project is PEK's use of Frame Notation where the score is seen in written descriptions and straight-forward symbols within Duration Bars. The system provides the musicians with immediate understanding of their own parts and the higher-level arrangement of the music. 

Supernovae consists of a single track composition running just under eighty minutes. The digital download includes a bonus track. Though the extended piece is not broken out by formal movements, there are clear delineations within the score. PEK's ensemble—not surprisingly—includes enough non-traditional and weird instruments to compete with a Dr. Seuss orchestra. Though they are not playing in a vacuum, that group of instruments dominates the first ten minutes before strings and reeds make themselves more clearly heard. Forty-five minutes in, we have the first case of prolonged melody, darker and more subdued than the overall tone of the first half. 

Supernovae gives way to free improvisation overlaying the melody. Eventually the piece introduces a brilliant percussion passage before it reintroduces the non-traditional music elements, but here in a more refined manner. As with all of PEK's compositions, there is—behind the scenes—a painstaking amount of organization that is not always evident in the listening. That is part of the beauty of this album; the non-traditional approach to instrumentation and the lack of adherence to Western structure continue to make the various iterations of Leap of Faith consistently interesting. And interesting look at the written score can be viewed at http://www.evilclown.rocks/lofo-supernovae-score.html.

PEK - clarinet, contralto & contrabass clarinets, sopranino, alto, & tenor saxophones, tarota, bawu, guanzi, alto flute, sheng, accordion, [d]ronin, 17 string bass, spring & chime rod boxes, crotales, glockenspiel, cymbells, gongs, plate gong, hand chimes, orchestral castanets

Jimmy Zhao – erhu, violin, viola, dizi, hulusi, bawu, matoqin, xiao
Michael Knoblach - frame drum, busy box drum, tank drum, enamel bowls, devil chasers axatse, abacuses, African rattles, Fischer Price toys, sheep shears, wooden billiards triangle, tit-fer, bells, sand blocks, antique child rattles, horses-ass-a-phone, basket of rocks, spooky world, noise makers, spinning toy, acme siren whistle, mortar & pestle, lobster pot, gongs, udu drum, hand chimes, hand claps

David Welans – C flute, piccolo, dizi flute, log drums, brontosaurus bell, wood blocks, Englephone ​
Eric Dahlman – trumpet, overtone voice, 17 string bass, brontosaurus bell, almglocken



Review:

Leap of Faith Orchestra performs

Supernovae by PEK

by Karl  Ackermann, AllAboutJazz.com

Expanse Meets the JMDE Quartet - Span

LIVESTREAMED from Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA
14 August 2021


Liner Notes Excerpt by PEK (Full text below) 

“…This ensemble has a very special place in the Evil Clown lexicon since the Chinese instruments and melodic structures pull the ensemble into a different zone where Western and Eastern elements are equally important, and the overall structure tends to be a bit more tonal and melodic than usual.  Like the earlier sets with Expanse, the dynamics are towards the quiet end of the range and the sounds are beautifully subtle in combination…” 


Audio CD                       Evil Clown 9319

LIVESTREAMED from Evil Clown Headquarters

Waltham MA

14 August 2021


bandcamp:  streaming, downloads and CD mail Order 

Span - 1:09:08

On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... ​using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation."   - Squidco website staff

Evil Clown 

2

Liner Notes by PEK


The Evil Clown Empire is comprised of the Leap of Faith Orchestra and its core unit, Leap of Faith, along with other ensembles that feature different cross-sections of the Orchestra:  Turbulence features the horn players, String Theory features the String Players, Metal Chaos Ensemble features percussion and electronics, PEK Solo features my own playing, etc.   The individual bands do not have a fixed set of players, but instead have a central idea which focuses the palate of sounds available.  One of the projects (now dormant while I find a venue to replace Third Life Studios), Leap of Faith Orchestra & Sub-Units, features short improvisation by sections from the orchestra followed by an improv with everyone.  So, Evil Clown performances are credited to Sub-Unit No. “X” when a small format improvisation occurs by members of the orchestra which are not assignable to one of the regular ensemble names.

Just before the onset of the pandemic, I had a first session with a new percussionist, Michael Knoblach entitled Main Sequence…  Although Michael plays the drum set, in recent years he has been focused on percussion.  This duet with the Evil Clown percussion arsenal along with instruments from Michael’s huge collection available enabled wonderful new sonority.  Some of Micahel’s percussion instruments are conventional such as the frame drum, but he also plays many other unusual objects like Fischer Price toys, sheep shears, and wooden billiards triangle.  Michael plays at a quieter mean dynamic than is typical for Evil Clown ensembles.  Leap of Faith, in particular, has stretches of this quieter space in nearly every improvisation, but the mean dynamic is much louder.  It was very interesting to focus an entire set on my lower volume vocabulary.  Following my nomenclature for ensemble names, this first set was released with the band name Sub Unit No.1.

In May of 2021, I opened Evil Clown Headquarters to other fully vaccinated musicians, and the first session of the new age was scheduled to revisit this sound world.  Michael and I both enjoyed the auspicious first set and this will now be an ongoing Evil Clown project, both as a duet for some sets and as a larger unit for others.  As an ongoing project, it needed a permanent name, so after some thought I came up with Expanse which evokes space and restraint, the central idea behind this ensemble.

As of this writing, in August of 2022, Michael has appeared on the original Sub Unit #1 set, 3 Leap of Faith sets in a reoccurring quartet edition with Glynis Lomon and trumpeter Vance Provey, and 4 Expanse sets with different configurations.  One of the earlier sets was Expanse meets the JMDE quartet – Scope, which occurred almost exactly a year prior to Span…  For that performance, Michael brought his entire quartet featuring Jimmy Zhao on Erhu and other Chinese instruments, David Welans on flutes and Eric Dahlman on trumpet. 

Eric Dahlman is an Evil Clown regular and has performed on numerous Leap of Faith and Turbulence sessions.  He originally introduced me to Michael and the JMDE Quartet.  David Welans has appeared on several of the larger Turbulence sets in the last year and a half.  This is Jimmy’s second appearance with the Expanse/JMDE mashup…  The ensemble interactions, IMHO, are both deeper and more sophisticated in this second session by this quintet.

I especially enjoyed playing with Jimmy again since I am a fan of the sounds of Chinese and other Asian musics.  I have quite a few Chinese instruments, some of which, like the Sheng, are among my primary instruments.  This ensemble has a very special place in the Evil Clown lexicon since the Chinese instruments and melodic structures pull the ensemble into a different zone where Western and Eastern elements are equally important, and the overall structure tends to be a bit more tonal and melodic than usual.  Like the earlier sets with Expanse, the dynamics are towards the quiet end of the range and the sounds are beautifully subtle in combination.

I was expecting this to be a great session and I was not disappointed.  In a few weeks, Jimmy and Michael will be back with extra string players and two more Chinese musicians for Leap of Faith – Bounded and Finite Extents.  Stay tuned and enjoy this set!!!

PEK, 14 August 2022