Digital Wildlife is not an easy recording to warm to, and the chilliness begins with the instrumentation. Frith’s group for this recording, Maybe Monday, includes Larry Ochs, saxman from the ROVA Quartet, cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and Miya Masaoka on koto and electronics. Throw in Frith’s heavily distorted electric guitar, and Digital Wildlife can sound, at any random point, like chamber-classical, abstract rock or folk. Frith also takes the title of the recording quite seriously: he seems to have taken tapes from the group’s live-time improvisations and mixed them into a multilayered, abruptly shifting, densely overlapping collage of machine music. Acoustic and electronic elements have been cut, rearranged and pasted into a dreamy floating space, where any voice could at any time sound thoroughly foregrounded, distant, looped or distorted beyond recognition. Contributions from the players are often so brief it doesn’t necessarily make sense trying to follow the logic in any single voice. The key to the recording seems to come in listening to how each voice, spliced and diced, turns up in the composite sound.
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