Boomkat Product Review:
Top drawer material from the most prolific artist of our era, "Cicada Lite" is an evocative outdoor recording that finds the Los Angeles jazz shapeshifter duetting with birds and insects. RIYL Jon Hassell, Gonçalo F Cardoso, Lieven Martens.
Only Sam Gendel could release a 34 track album and have it described as "compact" (its predecessor was 52 tracks). On "Cicada Lite (Live in Texas)", he continues the onslaught, but trust when we tell you this one's worth a closer look. Here he introduces the Texan landscape to his unhinged instrumental expressionism, rolling through a modest 11 tracks of of abstraction, jerky rhythms, breathy horn shapes and textured field recordings.
Compared with his last few records, it's his most organic and undoubtedly his most stripped down. Gendel's tactic of performing outside using acoustic instrumentation and only modest amplification is the key here as it builds a narrative based around the space itself. It highlights the musician's ability to think on the spot and react to his surroundings, and at its best sounds as if he's literally playing the landscape.
The pair of 'Cicada Duo' tracks are the most interesting, and remind us of Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink's uber-classic "Schwarzwaldfahrt". Gendel uses horn sounds - overblown to create unusual tones - to accompany the birds and insects, rather than drowning them out completely. It's a sensitive impromptu collaboration that lends the other tracks - like 'Jbbrwkky' and chunky 'Bain Ranch Drums' - plenty of context. Live albums are so often avoidable for a multitude of reasons, this one's our favorite Gendel release of the year. Whether you're into his previous material or not, there's plenty here to sink yr teeth into - ambient/experimental devotees, just check the tripped-out 'Percussion, Cicadas, Bridge'.