If This is Doom’s Day, Then I am Ready for the Rapture...Doomsayer Live at Cornelia Street

Tim Kuhl's CD Release Show at Cornelia Street

July 14th, 8:30 show, Cornelia Street Café, Planet Earth, the Milky Way. Here, then, the 6 men of Doomsayer took to the stage, gathering around a small open bag of guitar pedals nonchalantly plunked in a heap at center stage. From this black cavern of potential sound effects bloomed forth thick streams of multicolored wire: lines in, lines out. As the players gathered around this heart of metal, so, too, did each improviser over the course of the evening gather around the pull of each player who took a turn as an alternate sun. This format enabled the emergence of spontaneous collective creation. Rhythmic and sonic pedal points worked a magnetic kind of function: sand became pebble, pebble became rock, rock became asteroid, then built into this planet and that orbiting around said myriad suns. Breathy, tentative sounds and reverent open ear energies combined to jell 6 separate individuals into a unit operating in sync, with each elliptical path somehow maintaining juxtaposition without collision.

This was a nice way to build a journey for the audience, who all seemed very pleased to be along for this ride, which turned out to be surprisingly pleasant. Sometimes, a sound collage jazz concert can be very aggressive and, frankly, give you a big headache if you’re not in the mood to actively and assertively transmute gigantic crashing walls of sound into the meaningful gift the musicians intend for you. Not so for this gentle, yet fierce, sojourn.

Though repetition was rarely utilized in this performance, and conventional musical structures were made invisible or completely abandoned out-right, Doomsayer managed to involve and maintain the engagement of the audience. This was no small feat, as the sextet worked the potter’s wheel for well over an hour without pause, which normally would be very exhausting for the listener. (As well as the performers, obviously. The personnel in this group can certainly be respected for a high degree of stamina, which in turn indicates a high level of improvisational skill).

How did this group maintain the audience connection, though, playing such abstract music?

Well, one key would be Doomsayer’s use of dynamics. Throughout the extended tune, very subtle change-ups and transitions were often marked by organic swells up and down in volume. Swell up, swell down. Get soft. Get softer still. Now get even softer. This includes the drummer, Tim Kuhl, who is also the compositional leader behind the sextet. How these 6 very different players were able to gel and work these dynamics is still a mystery to someone like me, but this is the kind of mystery that as an audience member lulls you in and helps you out. The long piece also began and ended soft, softer, and softer still, further underscoring the technique and the message quite poetically. So soft were the 6 at the end, that I worried about the growing amplification of my pen scratching across the page! This was a very cool feeling, as if I truly had left the room along with everyone else and was now just returning to materialize as part of the conclusion.

Very subtle, this Doomsayer. Ambient is one of their tags, after all, and I must say this serene feeling has a lasting effect--it is well into the next day writing this, and I am feeling the vibe still. A breathy, ethereal, feathery hovering around shoulders with a lot of electric blue and soft violet hues. Feeling even like I may have been given a little layer of protection--a kind of magic surely aware of the power of an open throat. This, too, strikes me as very poetic since musicians of this caliber have enormous integrity and are all about speaking their truth.

Doomsayer has a new CD called: Doomsayer. Each song holds the name of a color. This is a good investment for you – even if you think you don’t like or can’t understand this kind of free improv. It’s only $5 for crying out loud! Better yet, go see them live – they are very enjoyable to watch as well as listen to!

Final Thoughts:
Trombone—the most melodic presence in the group, but so judicial as to avoid trespass, therefore exemplifying leading from the back
Viola—a very solid reflective presence poetically highlighting the symbolic social function of the revered fiddler (as in Chagall)
Bass—the expert of the group in terms of inventiveness, experience and wealth of technique and idea formation
Sax—a model of the power of receptive consciousness and effective use of space
Guitar – very unusual sound effects and a high level of restraint; excellent avoidance of guitar clichés
Drums—horizontal approach, as if mapping circles of drum and cymbal directly onto the sphere of the 4th dimension; body motions generated almost a Kadinsky-esque play on words, as if transmuting object into thought and sound into movement. (Example: turning a cymbal round and round like an LP record, placing drumstick on top akin to stylus)

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Monique Avakian