Maybe Monday / Unsquare

Fred Frith, Electric Guitar / Miya Masaoka, 25 String Koto and Electronics / Larry Ochs, Sopranino and Tenor Saxophones / Special guests*


Track Listing: G (14:46); Nitrogen (14:07); Saptharishi Mandalam (7:52); Septentrion (6:17); Unturned (17:21)

Maybe Monday first unveiled its collaboration in 1997, on-stage at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall. In retrospect, this meeting seems almost inevitable: the three members of the group had been crossing paths for years: Ochs with both Frith and Masaoka through numerous Rova projects, and Frith with Masaoka on a tour of Europe with Tom Cora.

For their third album, recorded at the East Side Sound Studio in New York, Maybe Monday have invited four guests: Gerry Hemingway, Carla Kihlstedt, Ikue Mori, and Zeena Parkins. The delicate mesh of electric and acoustic, ethnic and urban, traditional and experimental, sets up a mesmerizing dynamic in the music. Intakt Records

*With special guests: Gerry Hemingway, Drums, Percussion, Voice / Carla Kihlstedt, Electric and Acoustic Violins / Ikue Mori, Electronics / Zeena Parkins, Electric Harp and Electronics. Recorded on November 18, 2006 at East Side Sound, New York City.



Unsquare Album Review One

Unsquare is the third disc from the Bay Area electro-acoustic improvisation ensemble Maybe Monday, and the first since 2002’s Digital Wildlife (Winter & Winter). Maybe Monday are a trio consisting of saxophonist Larry Ochs, guitarist Fred Frith and koto/electronic artist Miya Masaoka. Here, four guests augment the sax and string core: drummer Gerry Hemingway, violinist Carla Kihlstedt, Zeena Parkins on harp, and Ikue Mori on electronics. This septet evolved from a curatorial gig at New York’s sound gallery the Stone. Unsquare is the studio meeting of these musicians, and a two-disc live set is slated for release this year.

It is quite clear that Maybe Monday treads similar lines as collective improvisation groups such as AMM, the Howard Riley trio with Barry Guy and Tony Oxley, and the New Music Ensemble. The origins of a given sound or combination of sounds are not important, and whether what one is hearing comes from percussion, electronics, reeds, strings or something else entirely matters little. It is a subsuming of the parts to the whole, as well as a redefinition of the possibilities inherent in those very parts. That isn’t to say there aren’t certain elements that rise to the top – Hemingway’s percussion, in trio with sopranino and violin, create an angular and somewhat lumbering center of accents on “G,” surrounded by a whirlwind of baited indeterminacy. Skittering guitar runs and alien harp plucks make themselves known in tense spaces, and tones do become associated with their origins once one becomes attenuated to the environment. Ochs’ saxophones, especially his tenor, are a commanding presence of near-lineage in a context wholly its own as sounds gel and compel, propel forward, lapse and fail in these five improvisations. He’s somewhat like Lou Gare in AMM, a Coltrane-like keen duetting with Frith’s guitar in a sea of samples and found sounds, almost pregnant with meaning in a struggle for sonic definition. There is grace in this tapestry, too – Ochs’ pensive sopranino chirps and trills open “Nitrogen” alongside subtle percussive accents and long tones, and Kihlstedt is a frequent purveyor of ornate classicism and East European folksiness throughout. But to parse Unsquare would be a disservice to the breadth of its canvas – this is a very rich recording of electro-acoustic improvisation.