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Gunnelpumpers - 2013 - "Montana Fix"

(79:53, ‘Spiritflake Music’)


1.  Bolander 2:46
2.  Naghra 4:27
3.  Floobah 1:43
4.  d'bass'd 3:01
5.  Hip Hip Beret 3:28
6.  Smokeblossom 7:31
7.  Bottley Functions 1:22
8.  Drunken Alley 5:47
9.  Buffalo Jump 2:43
10. Sparkleboat 2:17
11. Aurelius the Cinderbiter 6:24
12. Montana Fix 10:29
13. Bassacaglia 2:10
14. Puzzle Dust 2:47
15. Zaftundzwanzig 2:37
16. Stwing Feowy 3:52
17. Mundus 6:49
18. Earthing 6:49	
19. Ouroboros 2:51 


Doug Brush – drums, percussion; flute, nakirs
Michael Hovnanian – double bass 
Randy Farr – congas, percussion
Matthew Golombisky – melodica
Douglas Johnson – basses 
John Meyer – guitars 
Quinlan Kercher – drums, percussion

Prolusion. The US band GUNNELPUMPERS present themselves in this manner on their homepage: "Gunnelpumpers is a group of musicians dedicated to the art of progressive, free improvisation. Founded in Chicago in 2002 by bassist and composer Douglas Johnson and percussionist Randy Farr, Gunnelpumpers has had over 50 musicians perform with the group." A short, sweet and accurate presentation. "Montana Fix" is their fourth CD, and was released through Johnson's label Spiritflake Music in 2013.

Analysis. The credits for this albums state that the songs are copyrighted back in 2006 and 2007. As other sources state that this album was recorded in two sessions, the copyright statement indicates that those sessions took place some time apart from each other, or that additional recordings were made at a later point. Anyhow, if the stated information on the album is correct this disc doesn't represent any of the more recent excursions by this ensemble, but rather a creation fairly long in the making. As far as the music is concerned, improvisational and often fairly free form music is what Gunnelpumpers are all about. A fairly particular manner of it too, where the double bass is the central instrument. Partially played as a bass violin and partially played as a standup bass if I have managed to separate the often fairly challenging soundscapes explored through the 19 tracks that literally fill this disc to the brim. These improvised numbers are fairly diverse in sound and expression, where the common denominator throughout is that the music tends to be well within a framework that merits a description as demanding and challenging. We have haze-filled, dark and brooding constructions without any obvious tonal, harmony or melody oriented tendencies, slow moving and cinematic in nature or frenzied and chaotic excursions bordering on brutal in intensity. Mournful, slow, dual and triple layered bass-violin constructions with a closer resemblance to classical chamber music have their place here too, as do vibrant, powerful energetic creations with twisted guitar riffs and firm rhythms as additional features and distinct associations to ‘krautrock’. Further expanding the canvas explored are world music inspired pieces with effective use of percussion details and drum patterns establishing the world music vibe, with a blend of harmonic and non-melodic textured instrumental details on top creating a mystical, dark and fairly brooding atmosphere. This latter aspect fairly is prevalent throughout I might add, you won't find too many instances of joy-filled, positive moods in the just under 80 minutes of music on this album. The main exception, a brief creation with six beer bottles as the sole instruments used, at least to my ears fails to intrigue on just about any other level than the humorous one. Those fond of exploring how much of an impact a single instrument and a slight different in approach can lead to in music of this kind are given quite a few instances of that to enjoy on this album. Smokeblossom's transition from a world music oriented venture to something somewhat more regular and arguably ‘krautrock’ oriented a nice example of this in a single composition, and towards the end of the album Mundus and Earthing document how two improvisations that in essence share many common characteristics are experienced as vastly different due to a few important instrumental choices, with details of a more subtle nature also playing a minor role of course. The songs aren't duplicates, but they are a fascinating instance of how easy it can be to transform the overall mood and spirit of a given atmosphere, at least to my ears.

Conclusion. Dark, brooding and occasionally haunting and menacing landscapes of fairly different natures are extensively explored on Gunnelpumpers’ fourth album "Montana Fix". The double bass is a key instrument throughout, with up to three of them played simultaneously, in improvised excursions ranging from free form jazz oriented escapades to superficially accessible ones with more of a world music vibe to them. A likely key audience would be those with a taste for improvised music in general, and those amongst that crowd with an affection for ‘krautrock’ and chamber music just as much as for free form jazz I guess. A challenging and fairly demanding album that should also find favor among those with a taste for avant-garde music in general, at least as I regard this production.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 15, 2014
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