Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Featuring PEK on clarinets, tenor & bass saxes, tarogato, melodica, Moog, Mallet Kat, EWI & tons of odd percussion; Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice and Eric Woods modular synth, Tibetan bowls, balafon & Englephone. A few times a year the Evil Clown label releases around a half dozen offerings from Leap of Faith, PEK solo and assorted offshoot projects. A new batch just arrived at DMG on Monday of this week (8/31/20) and all but one was recorded at Evil Clown Headquarters where Mr. Peck resides. All five releases are either solos, duo or trios, probably due to the fact the pandemic has made live gigs and larger units nearly impossible to pull off. Hence, this version of Leap of Faith is a trio with two original members, PEK & Ms. Lomon plus a newer member, Eric Woods. When this disc begins we hear just Ms. Lomon’s distant voice, a bit of cello, some eerie synth and subtle cymbal work. Everything evolves slowly here, the musicians often playing one instrument at a time. The trio concentrate on slow yet assured interaction, taking their time to improvise and expand. I like the overall sound here and that the trio are in no hurry to get anywhere, but it does take quite a long while before things start to happen and the interaction gets more interesting. At 70 minutes, this disc is pretty long, the second half is much more interesting than the first half. Patience is required to get there so…
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.
Liner Notes by PEK
Leap of Faith is the core duet of the Leap of Faith Orchestra (LOFO) comprised of PEK on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice. The ensemble is based in Boston and dates back to the early 90s. We utilize a huge arsenal of additional Evil Clown instruments to improvise long works featuring transformations across highly varied sonorities. At times, the core unit has been a trio or even a quartet. The longest running core unit was comprised of PEK, Glynis and drummer Yuri Zbitnov, who played for the last couple of years of the archival period and the first 5 years of the reboot starting in 2015. The ensemble has always been highly modular and our many recordings (well over 100) feature the core unit in dozens of configurations with a huge list of guests and occasionally as only the core unit with no guests.
Eric Woods, our guest for this performance, is Evil Clown's resident expert at analog synthesis… He has appeared on 9 Metal Chaos Ensemble albums and 5 Leap of Faith Orchestra albums. Two of his LOFO appearances have been on my graphic notation scores for the full orchestra and three have been with the LOFO & Sub-Units shows at Third Life Studios. This is his first set in a small ensemble format Leap of Faith performance.
You can go to Eric’s Evil Clown bio page for links to his performances with LOFO & MCE along with other cool content… https://www.evilclown.rocks/bio-eric-woods.html
Originally, this set was supposed to occur at Outpost 186, where Evil Clown has a 3rd Saturday residency dating back 4 or 5 years now. Although I have cancelled a few sets there over the years due to adverse winter or extreme summer heat conditions, this was the first time that the venue has needed to cancel… Rob is having some conflict with the city of Cambridge that he needs to resolve… Anyway, one advantage of having built out Evil Clown Headquarters to be a LIVESTREAMING YouTube venue, is that it is always available. That’s great for scheduling recordings / streaming performances, but occasionally really great for an instant venue change!!!
The instrumental resources available at Evil Clown Headquarters far exceed what I can transport to Outpost 186 or fit in their small space. So, the debut of this trio LOF lineup had access to the heavy percussion and electronics gear which is too much to move for a live performance in a small space. This is equipment that I always use for Metal Chaos Ensemble which typically contains more rock elements than Leap of Faith. For this set, we use the electronics and percussion without the rock elements of groove, electric bass and the drum set, suitable for Leap of Faith. I think this was a fantastic set and am already planning for more sets in the future from this very different new Leap of Faith trio configuration.
Subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClfRlTeeHnSxRsJTkFakiJw/videos for notifications on future LIVE STREAMING events.
- PEK 2/16/20
Audio CD Evil Clown 9241
Leap of Faith - The Observed Present
Squido: CD Orders
The Observed Present - 1:30:32
Evil Clown Headquarters
Waltham MA, 15 February 2020
PEK - clarinet & contrabass clarinet, tenor & bass saxophones, tarota, bass tromboon, Christmas flute, melodica, game calls, moog subsequent & prophet synths, Malletkat & Akai EWI midi controllers, [d]ronin, gongs, orchestral chimes, brontosaurus & tank bells, Tibetan bowls, bells, trine, Englephone, castanets, rattles, crotales, cymbells
Glynis Lomon - cello, aquasonic, voice
Eric Woods - modular analog synthesis, Englephone, Tibetan bowls, balafon, log drum
PEK tweak of a raffi photo
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
Excerpt of Bruce Lee Gallanter Review
“…The trio concentrate on slow yet assured interaction, taking their time to improvise and expand. I like the overall sound here and that the trio are in no hurry to get anywhere…”
Liner Notes Excerpt by PEK (Full Notes Below)
"... For this set, we use the electronics and percussion without the rock elements of groove, electric bass and the drum set, suitable for Leap of Faith. I think this was a fantastic set and am already planning for more sets in the future from this very different new Leap of Faith trio configuration. …"
"The debut of this reconfigured Boston-area trio drawn from the Leap of Faith lineup, starting with the core duo of PEK on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice, with guest Eric Woods on synth and percussion, the trio using heavy percussion and electronics gear in a unique journey of extended freeform improvisation." - Squidco Staff
Leap of Faith - The Observed Present
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA
15 February 2020
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG