On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Liner Notes by PEK
Metal Chaos Ensemble was formed in early 2015 by PEK and Yuri Zbitnov as a working project to explore chaotic rhythms on metallic instruments. I had started to amass the Evil Clown Arsenal of percussion, electronic and wind instruments and we needed a workshop to develop this universe of sounds for the Leap of Faith Orchestra. It was immediately obvious that Metal Chaos Ensemble had a sound to itself and over the last five years has been one of the most prolific Evil Clown ensembles. We have produced over 50 albums covering a wide range of sonority sets, but always with the presence of gongs, chimes, glockenspiel, Tibetan bowls and many other metallic sounds and the horns of PEK. All Metal Chaos Ensemble sessions include at least me and Yuri, along with a whole bunch of different guests.
MCE has had many different configurations over the years varying from duet with just Yuri and myself to sextet. Albey OnBass (a Cecil Taylor alumnus) played the electric bass on some of the more rock oriented larger group efforts in 2018. In late 2018, I was offered the opportunity to do an April 2019 event in Delaware as part of a psychedelic rock show in a nice downtown venue. The original plan was to do a trio with Albey, Yuri & me, but Albey had an opportunity to relocate to New Orleans which was too good to pass up, so Yuri and I looked for another electric bass player to fill Albey’s huge shoes… Basically, we planned to present MCE as a rock Power Trio, with a bare minimum of gear…
We found Mike Gruen, an excellent rock bass player, with whom Yuri had played previously in a very different context. Mike was excited to play improvisational music less regimented than the song-form music he typically plays and Yuri was excited to play with a deep groove bass player. Anyway, we got together a few days prior to the Delaware gig to prepare at Evil Clown Headquarters and recorded Azoth. That weekend we did the Delaware show which was released as Basilisk. Those two releases are the first recordings of the Power Trio Edition of MCE…
The next MCE sessions saw the finalization of the newer sextet lineup of MCE with Yuri, myself, Mike, Bob Moores (trumpet, guitar, electronics), Eric Woods (analog synthesis), Mike Caglianone (saxes) and Joel Simches at the live-to-two-track mix. These 2019 sets include Proteus 4, The Nameless City, and Call of Cthulu. Early in March 2020, we did The Riddle of Steel, just as the stupid virus was taking off. I was really looking forward to exploring this sextet MCE ensemble for many sets in 2020 (MCE has done 8-10 albums per year since 2015), but I canceled everything that we had planned and basically locked Evil Clown down. As soon as I can open things up again, this sextet will have lots of sessions.
Over the year, I focused mainly on producing a huge batch of solo works while I waited for things to return to a more normal environment. However, I did do a Leap of Faith trio session at Eric Zinman’s house in July… In August, Yuri and I did a studio MCE album called Don Quixote with several overdubbing sessions, and in September we did a through-performed duet called Null Hypothesis… Shortly after that, Mike reached out saying he really wanted in on a set. Since the virus seems to be spreading like crazy, I discussed the idea with Raffi (my housemate) and we decided that I could do this Power Trio set called Atomic Tuna…
As of this writing, just before Thanksgiving, it seems like the virus is running rampant and I am planning basically to lock down Evil Clown again until Spring… I will resume focusing on the solo studio construction works. When we can go back to bigger groups, we will come out hard… Don’t doubt. In the meantime, you can check out Atomic Tuna, the third release from the MCE Power Trio Edition!!
PEK – 11/20/2020
PEK Photo tweak
Review by Darren Bergstein, Downtown Music Gallery
METAL CHAOS ENSEMBLE - Atomic Tuna (Evil Clown 9262; USA) Unsure what an atomic tuna is (Fukushima fish?), but Dave PEK and his band of mercurial men sure do raise the temperature hereabouts to radioactive levels. Cursory round-up: PEK features his usual noggin-explodin' assortment of noisemakers, from reeds of various makes and models, to percussives sculpted in colorful tinctures (log drum, xylophone, balafon, chimes, tibetan bells, temple blocks, etc.), and a mad scientist’s lab of analogic van der graafs. Fellow MCE members Mike Gruen and Yuri Zbitnov provide electric bass/signal processing and yet more percussive adornment respectfully, but the whole of everyone’s contributions are engulfed so completely in the ensuing morass it’s impossible to tell who does what. And that’s the beauty of it all. The digipak cover notes this latest MCE missive as the ‘power trio edition’—that descriptor doesn’t disappoint. Waxing and waning, bobbing to and tro, thrusting and parrying, Atomic Tuna is a masterful study in group/sound dynamics, where shapeshifting improv yields a bevy of miraculous gifts for the ear as the trio travels the spaceways. The surprises are fast and furious: roughly eight minutes in, a slinky groove of near-funkadelia escapes your woofers, followed by PEK’s elastic hornswaggle and blurts of tie-dyed moogfog that wouldn't sound out of place on a Musica Elettronica Viva side. Those electronics arise with stealthy menace about half-way through the recording, augmented by the group’s steely interplay of woods, hand-held shakers, crotales, and, yes, metals, the wild abandon of the proceedings recalling nothing less than the 70s heyday of improv-era King Crimson. The Ensemble appear to have a never-ending supply of tricks up their sleeves; for all intents and purposes, even across an already voluminous catalog, this latest is one of their best yet. Pretty fearsome stuff.
- Darren Bergstein
Metal Chaos Ensemble
- Atomic Tuna
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA - 21 November 2020
Audio CD Evil Clown 9262
Metal Chaos Ensemble - Atomic Tuna
21 November 2020
Squidco: CD Mail Order
1) Atomic Tuna - 1:09:40
PEK - clarinet, bass & contrabass clarinets, alto & tenor saxophones, alto, christmas & russian wood flutes, bass ocarina, melodica, diddlebow, upright electric bass, [d] ronin, wood & temple blocks, log drum, xylophone, balafon, seed pod rattle, Tibetan bells & bowls, brontosaurus & tank bells, orchestral chimes, gongs, ms-20, malletkat, moog subsequent, cymbells, linnstrument, novation peak, daxophone
Yuri Zbitnov - Yuri Zbitnov - drums, wood & temple blocks, xylophone, balafon, Englephone, Tibetan bells & bowls, crotales, bells, brontosaurus & tank bells, cymbells
Mike Gruen - electric bass, signal processing
Review Excerpt by Darren Bergstein, Downtown Music Gallery
“…Waxing and waning, bobbing to and tro, thrusting and parrying, Atomic Tuna is a masterful study in group/sound dynamics, where shapeshifting improv yields a bevy of miraculous gifts for the ear as the trio travels the spaceways… The Ensemble appear to have a never-ending supply of tricks up their sleeves; for all intents and purposes, even across an already voluminous catalog, this latest is one of their best yet. Pretty fearsome stuff.” - Darren Bergstein
Squidco Blurb -
Based around gongs, chimes, glockenspiel, Tibetan bowls and many other metallic sounds, plus reeds and horns, signal processing & synths, the Boston improvising core duo of Metal Chaos Ensemble is formed by percussionist Yuri Zbitnoff and multi-reedist David Peck, here joined by guest electric bass player Mike Gruen to create a power trio edition of the band.
Liner Notes Excerpt by PEK -
Basically, we planned to present MCE as a rock Power Trio, with a bare minimum of gear…We found Mike Gruen, an excellent rock bass player, with whom Yuri had played previously in a very different context. Mike was excited to play improvisational music less regimented than the song-form music he typically plays and Yuri was excited to play with a deep groove bass player.
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.