Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery ...
PEK SOLO - A Quartet of PEKS - Unifications (Evil Clown 9255; USA) Featuring PEK on clarinets, saxes, flutes, double reeds, guzheng, melodica, synths, tons of percussives, etc. As the pandemic/lock-down rages on, more folks are trying to keep safe, busy and healthy in their own homes. Leader of Leap of Faith and various Evil Clown offshoot units, Dave PEK, has done a number of solo sessions at his own Evil Clown Headquarters over the past few months and now has a half dozen solo CD’s out. This is the third one I’ve reviewed in the past month. PEK has quite a collection (45+) instruments here, some common ones and a few rare ones (daxophone, guzheng & Englephone). I like the way PEK has mastered the art of recording by selectively adding layers with occasional effect the live overdubbing and mixing. Hard to believe there is only one person doing everything we hear. First, we hear soft, suspense-filled gongs with subtle electronics, the looping of certain electronic sounds with one or two reed instruments floating in. PEK usually solos on one instrument at a time: bass sax, a double reed, flutes and other reeds or percussion adding another layer of eerie electronics and effects. Oddly enough, this sounds like an organic, electronic score which unfolds in a natural way with short solos or instrumental breaks well woven into the hypnotic tapestry. This sounds like a more restrained version of some tasty, spacey krautrock with Embryo-like ethnic spice. Hard to believe that this is just a solo effort but it is and it is consistently engaging, well-balanced, thoughtfully paced and well-executed. Another outstanding effort from the ever-expanding Evil Clown catalogue. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
PEK Solo, A Quartet of PEKs - Unifications
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA
13, 20 & 21 September 2020
I like this Quartet of PEKs format. On the first track I play 60% to 70% of the album’s duration leaving a silence of several minutes at each instrument change. In many ways, the first track dictates the overall form of the work. The next three tracks each fill in some of that space and play counterpoint to the previously recorded tracks. This is a bit like playing in an ensemble where you are reacting to the other material in real time with a couple of significant differences. The interaction is one-way, since the prerecorded material is already fixed (apart from the relative volumes controlled in the final mix). The waveforms of the previous tracks are visible in the computer DAW program. For an improvisor whose principle technical method relies on phrasing, the waveform reveals a great deal of information helpful to the decisions executed in each subsequent track.
This Quartet of PEKs set, Unifications, uses more electronics than other PEK solo albums. The instrumentation of the first two tracks is mostly synths & percussion. The instrumentation of the third track is strings and percussion with one section of contrabass clarinet. The instrumentation of the fourth track is horns and percussion. I like this electronics heavy Quartet of PEKs and I bet you will too…
Until the stupid virus is over and more normal interactions are possible with other people, I will continue to create PEK Solo new works using the four concepts listed above and maybe some new ones. There will also be some small group Leap of Faith and Metal Chaos Ensemble sets. Evil Clown will resume its normal routines when it is safe to do so.
As usual, the chaos of the universe throws aesthetic problems which require our attention. Expression must be expressed. Music must be made. The chaos of the universe demands it.
PEK – 9/22/2020
Bruce Lee Gallanter Review Excerpt
"… First, we hear soft, suspense-filled gongs with subtle electronics, the looping of certain electronic sounds with one or two reed instruments floating in... Oddly enough, this sounds like an organic, electronic score which unfolds in a natural way with short solos or instrumental breaks well woven into the hypnotic tapestry... Hard to believe that this is just a solo effort but it is and it is consistently engaging, well-balanced, thoughtfully paced and well-executed. Another outstanding effort from the ever-expanding Evil Clown catalogue.”
PEK Liner Notes Excerpt...
"This Quartet of PEKs set, Unifications, uses more electronics than other PEK solo albums. The instrumentation of the first two tracks is mostly synths & percussion. The instrumentation of the third track is strings and percussion with one section of contrabass clarinet. The instrumentation of the fourth track is horns and percussion. I like this electronics heavy Quartet of PEKs and I bet you will too…..."
PEK - 22 September 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
Liner Notes by PEK
Every once in a while, there is a break in the crazy schedule here at Evil Clown and I have some time to do a solo album. Our grand olde pal, the Corona Virus has provided such a break in spades…. At the beginning of the year, it appeared that the year would be our busiest yet… We did a bunch of albums in January, February and the first weeks of March, and then I was forced to cancel a bunch of wonderful performances scheduled for the months that followed. So, I caught up all my old business: web site, social media, distribution, and the other non-musical activity required to drive the enterprise. Then I took a month off… my biggest rest since I started up in 2015 after my long hiatus. In mid-May I started up again, conceiving some new means of producing some of the enormous output normally achieved by Evil Clown.
For obvious reasons, I have been producing a lot more PEK Solo albums than I do in a typical year. As with larger ensemble Evil Clown sessions, the planning involves selecting sound resources from the massive Evil Clown Arsenal and setting up the studio with these instruments to allow rapid changes in instrumentation and therefore in sonority.
The PEK Solo albums fall into four categories:
1) One continuous track (no overdubbing) of PEK playing one or many instruments with or without signal processing.
2) One continuous track of PEK playing one or many instruments with a prerecorded mix of samples drawn from the Evil Clown Catalog or specially recorded at Evil Clown Headquarters. Solo albums from before this year fall into the categories 1 & 2.
3) A Quartet of PEKs – Four continuous tracks of one PEK each playing many instruments on each pass. Two of these albums, Schematic Abstractions for the Clarinet Family and Fixed Intentions for the Saxophone Family use very focused palettes. Unifications and The Strange Theory of Light and Matter use broad palettes comprised of woodwinds, percussion, electronics, and strings.
4) An Orchestra of PEKs – Many tracks of PEKs performing on a broad section of the Arsenal. The last of these, Some Truths are Known, is a mammoth 4-hour studio construction / composition in 3 eighty-minute movements. I list 110 instruments in the notes for this album….
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
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 & contrabass clarinet, sopranino, tenor & bass saxophones, oboe, contrabassoon, bass tromboon, flute & alto flute, large bamboo flute, Christmas flute, wood flutes, Russian 3 hole flute, goat horn, fog horn, wind & crank sirens, electric cello, electric bass, guyzheng, accordion, melodica, concertina, prophet, ms-20, arp odyssey, novation peak with Linnstrument, moog subsequent with mallet kat, daxophone with delay, moog theremin with moogerfooger, [d]ronin, orchestral chimes, gongs, plate gong, Englephone, temple blocks, wood blocks, Tibetan bells & Bowls, chimes, brontosaurus & tank bells, crotales, cymbells, claves, seed pod rattles, castanets, glockenspiel