Album Review: Joshua Abrams – Represencing




Chicago jazz/improvised music bassist Joshua Abrams brings out the guimbri, a three-stringed North African ceremonial lute, when playing with his Natural Information Society. Live, the instrument’s hypnotic groove provides the supple, willowy base from which the other instrumentalists leap. On his new album, Represencing, Abrams assembles some of the city’s best improvisers to work over the guimbri, but that droning beauty always lies at the core.

While plenty of modern musicians denounce the use of iPods and other on-the-go listening, the necessity of sitting at a record player and focusing for ritual trance music is kind of undeniable  – not to mention that this is a vinyl-only release. That immediacy and communal relationship is one that carries over from the recording process itself, as Abrams invited the improvisers into his home studio.

Dropping the needle onto the first side of the LP initiates the upward spiral, Chad Taylor’s gong and hand drums interlocking with Abrams’ guimbri, bubbling springs of David Boykin’s tenor saxophone purling outwards. The night falls as the first half closes on “Moon Hunger”, Boykin’s lightly breathed flourishes, the drama of rippling organ and Abrams’ lithe, repeating tone-clusters falling away into the night.

The second half of the disc re-starts the process, gongs and harmonium drone bringing the listener back into the meditative state. The sun rises again as well, Tomeka Reid’s cello curling around and flitting in eclipsing glory. It all closes with the entrancing “Cloud Walking”, with Michael Zerang somehow making even the tambourine an interesting addition to a track.

The core, though, remains the guimbri, Abrams’ playing on songs like “Enter Mountain Amulet” hitching, stuttering, and flowing at all the right moments to get you swaying like a mystic. Represencing is the kind of album that effaces the reality that you know exists outside of it, returning you to a time and place in which this sort of ritual trance focuses life.

Essential Tracks: “Moon Hunger”, “Enter Mountain Amulet”, and “Sungazer”