- Contra-bassoon Solo
Out of Louisville, Kentucky, comes a fascinating brand of avant-rock in the form of Ut Gret, a band that describes its music as ‘pan-idiomatic’ due to its genre-crossing nature. From dueling bassons and clarinets to Mellotron and belly dancers, Ut Gret certainly isn’t interested in being mundane as it explores the edge where jazz, rock, folk, classical, and world music collide. Their latest release, Ancestor’s Tale, is an intriguing sonic documentation of that world.
The record kicks it off with the title track, “Ancestor’s Tale,” as female voices enter one by one, overlaying in interesting harmonization before the band breaks out and follows up with a similar theme done with an array of woodwinds, bass and drums. This piece, originally written for a silent film (Call of Chthuhlu) takes the listener through a bit of what’s typical for the band: jazzy lines on electric piano, grooving drums, and an eventual Mellotron filling in the space for lots of woodwind solos. While vocals aren’t necessarily the law in Ut Gret, there are a few tracks that make use of them, generally in similar style as the opener. Another one of these is “The Raw, the Cooked, and the Overeasy,” a song that demonstrates not only the ability to write cool song titles, but also the knack for covering a wide amount of ground. The piece starts off jazzy, even bluesy, as it carries us through the opening verses. When the singing comes to a break the band sets ground for some great violin, bassoon and a flute improvisation. The ending proves itself to be the real treat though as it fires off heavy unison bursts interspersed with a descending guitar pattern while a catchy drum beat accompanied by flute and tron strings take us to the finish line.
Combining both mood and rhythm are a couple of standout tracks, “Hopperknockity Tune” and “An Elephant in Berlin.” The former, dedicated to Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, flows from classic Cantebury moods to a headspinning 7/8 overladen with various polyrhythms for a thrilling ride. “An Elephant in Berlin” is a driven by a sharp, staccato motiff that knows how to punch its menacing chords at the right time. Chaotic solos in 12/8 abound on virtually all the woodwinds that band employs before moving to one of the coolest moments on the album: the contra-bassoon solo. Yes, you heard me right, Ut Gret delivers a sexy low-rumbing contra-bassoon solo that leads us to moody moments ranging from dark to dreamy and nostalgic before coming full circle to the original staccato riff. In case you didn’t get enough contra-bassoon, don’t worry, “Dinosaur on the Floor” is still on its way.
Ancestor’s tale ends up being quite a fun listen even if a bit inconsistent at times. Songs like the closer, “Walk the Plank,” have gorgeous moments that are well thought out and delivered with feeling, but there are also certain riffs or solo areas that could be shortened, areas where the fat could be trimmed. On the other hand, despite the fact that there are certain techniques or compositional elements that are very familiar (such as the Frippian moments on “Zodiac”), there seems to be something about Ut Gret that seems very personal and even fresh. Their combination of musical genres blends well with the individual performers sense of phrasing, their blend of instruments is interesting and presents many pleasant surprises, and the overall feel of the album is genuine. Ancestor’s Tale shows a band that is headed in a solid direction and likely has a few tricks up their sleeves for us for next time.