- 2 x LP
- Aguirre Records, Eremite Records
Recorded Chicago, Electrical Audio, 2021-08-24, Graham Foundation, 2021-05-18
The next chapter of the Natural Information Society is here. Since Time Is Gravity, credited to Natural Information Society Community Ensemble with Ari Brown, presents a newly expanded manifestation of acclaimed composer & multi-instrumentalist Joshua Abrams nearly 15 year, 7 albums &-counting flagship ensemble. Joining the core NIS of Abrams (guimbri & bass), Lisa Alvarado (harmonium) Mikel Patrick Avery (drums) & Jason Stein (bass clarinet) are Hamid Drake (percussion), Josh Berman & Ben Lamar Gay (cornets), Nick Mazzarella & Mai Sugimoto (alto saxophones & flute), Kara Bershad (harp) & Chicago living legend of the tenor saxophone Ari Brown. Recorded live to tape at Electrical Audio & The Graham Foundation, cover painting Vibratory Cartography: Nepantla, by Lisa Alvarado.
Since first developing Natural Information Society in 2010, Joshua Abrams has been gradually expanding the group’s conceptual underpinnings, its musical references & the sheer number of the group’s members. Its music is, in a sense, an expansive form of minimalism, based in repeated & overlaid rhythmic patterns, ostinatos & modality. Its roots, its scale & its meaning become clearer in time. If time is gravity, it also allows us to carry more. Having begun as fundamentally a rhythm section with Abrams’ guimbri at its core, the version here can stretch to a tentet, including six horns.
Abrams has been expanding his minimalism gradually, but he has long understood a key to minimalism’s potential: the breadth of its roots in the late 1950s & early 1960s, ranging from the dissatisfaction of young European-stream composers with the limitations of serialism to the simultaneous dissatisfaction of jazz musicians with the dense harmonic vocabulary of bop & hard bop. The former began exploring rhythmic complexity & narrow tonal palates in place of harmonic abstraction (Steve Reich’s Drumming, Philip Glass’ Music with Changing Parts; perhaps above all Terry Riley’s In C & his late ‘60s all-night organ & loop concerts); the later reduced dense chord changes to scales (signally with Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, but rapidly expanding with John Coltrane’s vast project). In the 1950s the LP record opened the world with documentation of Asian & African musics, key influences on both minimalists & jazz musicians. If John Coltrane’s soprano saxophone suggested the keening shehnai of Bismillah Khan, the instrument was rapidly taken up by two key minimalists, LaMonte Young & Riley, similarly appreciative of its flexible intonation, the same thing that kept it out of big bands.
George Lewis has described music as “a space for reflection on the human condition”. This suggests that, rather than a “distraction”, at least some music might serve as a distraction from distraction. It’s a focus, a clarity, an awareness, an external invitation to interiority, as if music itself is a model for form & contemplation, an organism contemplating for us or as us. If that is a possibility, & I am sure I have heard such musics, than this music is among them. How many of our rhythms, melodies & harmonies might such music carry, translate & transform in the particulate ecstasy of our own murmuration?