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DYNASTY AND CODE BREAKER, TWO NEWSONIC RELEASES

Both Seth Misterka and Brian Glick have been working as saxophonists and composers in New York for several years now, and these two discs represent a nice cross section of underground avant garde music available today. In a place like New York, where the phrase “glutted market” takes on entirely new proportions, these two gentlemen present unique sound-visions which remain relevant, interesting, and deserving of further attention.

The history of newsonic records reads like the legacy of so many small, artist-run labels: begun by then student Seth Misterka, its earliest goal was the documenting of young, dedicated musicians, many of whose fledgling experimental works, dynamic in their intesity, would never appeal to larger record labels. Furthermore, it managed to document a particularly fertile local uprising of talented instrumentalists and ensembles: from the stunning reverb of the coincidentally-named Jonathan Zorn’s solo contrabass work, to the social experimentation of the Middletown Creative Orchestra (an ensemble open to musicians and, more significantly, composers, regardless of age, experience, or affiliation). Following its move to New York, newsonic has continued to present an array of new musics, stretching its musical arms in an embrace that grows wider by the month.

Dynasty is a good representation of a project whose vision shows both a logical extension of some of the earliest newsonic ventures and a new vision for the label. Delving deeper into his punk/metal roots, Misterka’s Dynasty features an electrified update of the classic jazz trio: Coleman’s drums-bass-alto ensemble transformed into a distorted, reverb-y, power unit. From the slightly uncomfortable vocal playfulness in “The Beginning”, echoing early Yoko Ono, into the Black Flag-style throbbing bass of “The Clown of Osaka”, the disc opens into a musical soundscape where genres slide together as naturally as puzzle pieces completing an image. Focus pulls even tighter with the introduction of “Black Polka”, a romping Balkan roots dance music balanced with a thoughroughly enjoyable and agressive saxophone styling. Ear-catching melodies, whether the rolling flow of “Polka” or the swinging potion in “The Neurotic Cat”, find a well-furnished home in Dynasty. And bassist Jennifer Deveau and drummer Ed Kasparek are more than simply a rhythm section hangng on for the ride as Misterka holds the wheel; a living, breathing, rocking, electric-power jazz trio.

In a slightly different vein, Brian Glick’s “Codebreaker” offers an equally well-balanced concept. This time, the terrain is acoustic rather than electric, and the trio manifests itself as the less-conventional saxophone-piano-percussion format. The lumbering baritone of “Vitality”, and the living, driving drum-and-piano loops behind it, walk the listener through a fresh, eminently-listenable terra firma: Glick’s compositions come to life. His tenor saxophone work is also featured on a number of tracks, perhaps most notably the flitting, post-free jazzy sound of “metamora”. Peter Caferella’s sustained arpeggios and Nate Smith’s cymbal washes cloud the track with a sense of impending doom, of a heavy and well-placed weight. As with Dynasty, the group works together like the fingers of a hand.

And both discs are notable for their ability to rapidly switch moods (in “Dynasty’s” case, genres as well) without sacrificing a sense of completeness or conceptual integrity. “Black Polka” and “New York Dissolution” are as different as can be, yet Misterka's band knits them together quite well. Similarly, Glick’s “Codebreaker” trio strides between the drony attitude of “Pe de Pano”, with Cafarella's accordion barely exhaling its bass tone, and the lighter and faster, soprano-saxophone ruled figures of the title track.

In the end, this is one of the hallmarks of the newsonic label—nothing remains the same for very long. Electric, electronic, acoustic, electrouacoustic, all can be seen within the span of two catalogue numbers, two songs, even two minutes. And, most notably, with a healthy alternative to breakneck, ADD-fueled switcheroos. No, “Codebreaker” and “Dynasty” are its raison d’etre: albums (and artists) endowed with a sense of eminent flexibility, and an interest in the open possibilities of mind and music.

Visit “Dynasty” and “Codebreaker” on the web at www.newsonic.com, and www.brianglick.net.

Tito Ortiz

Los Angeles, California
2002

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