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Kihnoua: Unauthorized Caprices

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Leading the trio, Kihnoua, saxophonist Larry Ochs directs his interest to both literal and musical voices in Unauthorized Caprices. In more than one of the five tracks, trumpeter Liz Allbee, guitarist Fred Frith and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud expand the trio of Ochs, vocalist Dohee Lee and drummer Scott Amendola.

The main character of this group is vocalist Lee. The instrumentalists’ contributions complement her purely syllabic utterances. They balance out her frequent guttural growls, squeals, grunts, oohs, aahs, and phonetic skipping. To create beauty seems to be not the intention of this unusually colorful group, rather it is to use its capacity to express what might be construed as actual human conversation, as nonsensical as it may be.

The musical instruments often sing out a purity of tone away from which Lee veers even in solo form. In contrast to Lee, the instruments go through successions of their own voice explorations: where Albee flutters or blurts single notes on the trumpet; or Amendola presses the drums through periods of bass drum or tom thumping, rustles the cymbals, and beautifully builds an ambient rumbling; or Jeanrenaud strikes the bow heavily against the strings of the cello as if it were a bass; or Ochs non-melodically sputs and spews, converting his part eventually into semi-emphatic high and low, perhaps tremolodic, phrasing.

The intensity of this music never retreats. Perhaps only in the solemn cello interlude in the last “Less Than A Wind ” is a marked switch in tempo so that the last breaths of each player, minus Frith, can coast through to the close, electronic bubbling, siren-like soprano singing, soulful tenor riffing, high-pitched string up-bowing and all. These musicians break their own rules to follow musical lines that have no history. The improvisations are non-negotiable and happen only once.

Originally Published