Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
METAL CHAOS ENSEMBLE with PEK / YURI ZBITNOV - Null Hypothesis (Evil Clown 9256; USA) Featuring: PEK on tenor sax, clarinets, oboe, nagaswarm, flutes, accordion, malletkat, percussion, bowls, etc and Yuri Zbitnov on drums, gongs, crotales, cymbals, bowls, balafon, bells, etc. The last we heard from longtime founding member of Leap of Faith, Dave PEK, their original drummer, Yuri Zbitnov, had retired from Leap of Faith and all their offshoots. This seems to not be the case since Mr. Zbitnov is back and playing with just one LoF offshoot: the Metal Chaos Ensemble. Along with PEK, Mr. Zbitnov was a main member of the Metal Chaos Ensemble. This time, the MCE is just a duo with PEK & Yuri. During the pandemic, which began in March of 2020, all Leap of Faith & PEK sets were recorded at Evil Clown Headquarters, this one in September of 2020, not very long ago (now: 11/4/20). Like many of the Leap of Faith projects, the Metal Chaos Ensemble changes on every disc, due to personnel and instrumental selection. ’Null Hypothesis’ starts off with what sounds like space-rock or kraut-rock like synth, throbbing slowly… then tubular bells, slowly, one by one other percussion, assorted reeds & double-reeds. The sounds move slowly, the frame is filled with measured silence and suspense-filled sounds. Mr. Zbitnov is a master drummer and always balances great grooves with spacious percussion. Yuri plays a long solo with mallets on drums and it is an inspired rhythmic jam. There are some weird electronic sounds which are hard to describe, diverse percussive sounds and unexpected twists and turns. Instead of the often intense eruptions on many of the LoF discs, this one is more spacious, more measured, less dense and quietly fascinating.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Audio CD Evil Clown 9255
Metal Chaos Ensemble - Null Hypothesis
Squidco: CD Orders
Null Hypothesis - 1:10:22
LIVESTREAMED to YouTube & Facebook
From Evil Clown Headquarters
Waltham MA, 26 September 2020
PEK - tenor sax, clarinet, alto clarinet and contralto clarinet, oboe, nadaswaram, alto flute, large bamboo flute, wood flutes, 3 hole Russian flute, goat horn wind & crank sirens, fog horn, accordion, malletkat with moog subsequent, [d]ronin, daxophone, ms-20, novation peak with linstrument, orchestral chimes, brontosaurus and tank bells, Englephone, wood blocks, temple blocks, balafon, log drum, daiko, gongs, plate gongs, crotales, cymbells, Tibetan bowls, castanets
Yuri Zbitnov - drum set, orchestral chimes, gongs, crotales, cymbells, glockenspiel, Englephone, Tibetan bowls, brontosaurus and tank bells, balafon, wood blocks, bells, log drum, daiko, sequencer
Raffi & Yuri Photos & video grabs
PEK Tweak of a Yuri Photo
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.
Metal Chaos Ensemble
- Null Hypothesis
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA - 5 March 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
Review By Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
“…The sounds move slowly, the frame is filled with measured silence and suspense-filled sounds… this one is more spacious, more measured, less dense and quietly fascinating…”
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Null Hypothesis is a return to the birth of Metal Chaos Ensemble 5 years previously with Null Theory, the duo of David Peck (PEK) on reeds, winds, percussion and other unique percussive elements, and Yuri Zbitnoff on drums, chimes, and other percussion - no spoken words accompaniment tracks, or overdubs, simply Zbitnoff and PEK and a room full of percussion, horns and electronics tearing it up live to YouTube for 70 minutes; epic.
Liner Notes by PEK (full text below)
“… Yuri and I are going to explore two very different methods for producing MCE albums while we wait for a healthier environment. Null Hypothesis is a return to the birth of MCE 5 years ago, Null Theory. No spoken words, no prepared accompaniment tracks, no overdubs, just Yuri and PEK and a room full of percussion, horns and electronics tearing it up live to YouTube for 70 minutes. This is old school for us, and similar to Leap of Faith’s process, even if the music is more groove oriented than LOF ever is..."
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
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 a bunch of 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.
The many MCE albums (49 as of this writing) have developed significantly over time. The first set, Null Theory, was a duet between PEK and Yuri. The second session, War Tuba, included guitarist Catherine Cappozi and added a rock element that was repeated occasionally during the early period. A series of albums followed where the guests were mostly percussion players. There was an early trio, Intermetallic Compounds, with the amazing vibes player Andrea Nicodemou… There was an early trio, Chrononauts, with electronic and gadget wiz Bill T Miller.
In 2018, we started down a slightly new path combining the heavy percussion, electronics, rock/groove elements with some prepared mixes created from samples in advance. Multi-instrumentalist Bob Moores appears frequently on trumpet, guitar and electronics, Albey OnBass (a Cecil Taylor alumnus) did about 5 sets, and Eric Woods shows up with his fantastic analog synth concept. Due to the increasingly complicated mix, I engaged Joel Simches to be the Evil Clown House Engineer. When Albey split for New Orleans, we found the extraordinary bassist Mike Gruen to replace him. We started to feature various text sources on each album and have more groove elements and settled on a sextet comprised of PEK, Yuri, Bob, Eric, Mike Caglianone (saxes), Mike Gruen. Of the last 4 albums, the first two are quintets in this format, and the later two add Mike C to complete the sextet, all with Joel in the live-to-two track mixing and live electronics chair.
So along comes our pal the stupid Corona Virus. Typical for MCE, Evil Clown Headquarters is jammed full of gear and 7 performers (plus Raffi on the video mixing) for these sets – way too many and too close for safety. I had to cancel all kinds of terrific scheduled sessions including the next MCE set… The sextet will be back as soon as it is safe, but in the meantime, I’m doing solo projects and very limited Leap of Faith small ensemble sets and MCE projects as a duet with just Yuri and me. For some of my recent solo works I have done extended prerecording/overdubbing in advance of a final solo pass over the full duration of the work. I am very proud of Some Truths are Known, a composition comprised of 3 eighty minute movements for overdubbing PEKs on 110 instruments.
Yuri and I are going to explore two very different methods for producing MCE albums while we wait for a healthier environment. Null Hypothesis is a return to the birth of MCE 5 years ago, Null Theory. No spoken words, no prepared accompaniment tracks, no overdubs, just Yuri and PEK and a room full of percussion, horns and electronics tearing it up live to YouTube for 70 minutes. This is old school for us, and similar to Leap of Faith’s process, even if the music is more groove oriented than LOF ever is.
The other path, exemplified by the last MCE set completed in August 2020, Don Quixote, is in some ways a culmination of the entire MCE history. It is a duet constructed in the studio with overdubbing, comprised of Yuri and me, it contains lots of percussion in the overdubbing, it contains rock/groove elements, in features electronics, it contains narration from Don Quixote, and it includes the studio overdubbing techniques of recent PEK Solo projects. This method approximates the activity and density of actions of the more recent sextet Metal Chaos Ensemble sets (The Riddle of Steel, Call of Cthulhu, The Nameless City & Proteus IV) performed in the second half of 2019 and the first couple of months of 2020.
The results are something special… Check it out! Look for some more MCE sets with these general approaches while we wait for this crazy virus crap to go away.
PEK – 9/27/2020