Anyone who has followed Kakalla, the innovative group from New England, knows that its leader, bassist Thomson Kneeland, inevitably will encompass more than mere music when he produces a CD.
Insatiably curious and intellectually omnivorous, Kneeland investigates larger issues through music. Like the natural order of the world and its relationship to chaos (and of course, musical representations of that contrast). Or the whether divine righteousness trumps the rule of law. And things like that. Pretty weighty concepts. And not your usual call-and-response or jazz jam type of music. Nor is it meant to be.
In addition, Kneeland refers to mythology, poetry, history, cultural traditions, dream states and wonders of nature in his music actually, anything that catches his fancy whether by implication or by the outright titling of a piece to state his themes. And whatever the inspiration for one of his compositions, his music remains very visual as it adopts characteristics of music from numerous cultures.
And so, a perfect example of Kneeland’s and Kakalla’s aesthetic is the first track of The Seeds Of Analog Rebellion,
"Sir Charles’s Transmogrification." The piece starts slowly, with guitarist Nate Radley’s sonic trance accented by Kneeland’s pulse, signifying apparently footsteps. But then when trumpeter Jerry Sabatini comes in, as if at the climax of the accelerating walk, it becomes evident that Kneeland is musically describing the execution of Charles I of England.... certainly an event that escapes the public mind nowaways but remains horrifying in its visual potential. The balance of "Sir Charles’s Transmogrification" re-creates, not a stately British march or lugubrious elegy, but a more chaotic 7/8 suggestion in Eastern European modes of the pandemonium within the crowd that would have follow, or at least in Kneeland’s mind’s eye. The visual aspect of Kakalla’s musical cinematics continue with "The Grand Inquisitor," set up in a court, referring to The Brothers Karamazov,
as Kneeland takes the suggestions inherent in the scene to musical re-creation by contrasting the rhythm of the opening motive with the free improvisation of the remainder of the piece.
And still, Kakalla finds interest in the possibilities of poetry, specifically "The Sea, The Bells," inspired by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which consists of a relatively simple structure of descending modulations in three-four as Sabatini plays the parallel intervals of each phrase with his signature sense of Weltschmerz.
And in mythology, such as "The Death Of Sysyphus," an exercise in free unplanned improvisation, with the addition of electronic effects, for a sonic texture, gradually growing into intensity and detail.
But tracks like "The Death Of Sysyphus" are most interesting, finally, because of the musical boundaries they stretch, and Kakalla’s interest was/is the openness they sought in sonic exploration. The same thing is true of the final track, "The Farthest Shore," during which Kakalla counterbalances a meter of seven over one of five, and then in reverse, as drummer Mike Connors holds it all together.
Now that Kneeland has moved to the New York City area for access to greater performing opportunities, one wonders whether the innovative music of Kakalla will continue, even though the magic of their weekly engagements in Worcester, Massachusetts is gone. Indeed, The Seeds Of Analog Rebellion
was recorded in 2001 and 2002, when Kakalla was still active with regular gigs. For now, the latest in the series of Kakalla releases continues the explorative ground that the band has become known for.