Jeff Kaiser / Tom McNalley: ZUGZWANG (PFMCD038)


Jeff Kaiser: quarter tone trumpet, electronics
Tom McNalley: electric guitar, electronics

1. carbon fianchetto 12:44
2. opening demand 7:28
3. systematic imbalance 7:30
4. both varied situations 7:54
5. organic symmetry 4:16
6. abbreviated structure 4:08
7. luft swapping 4:50
8. zwischenzug 1:36
9. aristotelian blockade 11:14
10. liquid compensation 11:00

Total Playing Time: 72:40
All compositions ©2006 Jeff Kaiser Music, ASCAP, and Tom McNalley Music, ASCAP
Recorded live (no overdubs) 7.15.05 and 8.7.05 at pfMENTUM World Headquarters, Ventura, CA
Recorded, mixed, mastered and designed by Jeff Kaiser



SKU: PFMCD038 Category:

1 review for Jeff Kaiser / Tom McNalley: ZUGZWANG (PFMCD038)

  1. 0 out of 5

    Sinister, strident and glacial sounds emanating from sunny Ventura, California. Kaiser uses quartertone trumpet, McNalley electric guitar. Both add electronics to distort, extend and transmute their instruments. Zugzwang communicates a taste for controlled acoustic violence. It works well because Kaiser and McNalley’s mutual understanding and individual skill are reinforced rather than masked by the treatments. The music has imaginative scope too: it’s dramatic in structure as well as texture. McNalley, still in his early twenties, is developing an exciting and distinctive voice on an instrument that has already been exhaustively redefined by iconoclasts and innovators. And it’s clear that he benefits from Kaiser’s challenging company.

    –Julian Cowley, The Wire, November 2006

    A few years ago I heard Oregon-based guitarist Tom McNalley on his trio’s debut, and found it to be an exciting, powerful record. With the kind of energy and genre-mashing often heard on a Nels Cline session, for example, the guitarist romped through multi-sectioned compositions with abandon. Teamed up with trumpeter Jeff Kaiser (using a quarter-tone trumpet here), McNalley focuses on more spacious and textural playing. Both guys supplement their axes with electronics, and I came away with the impression that McNaIIey has been influenced by the under-appreciated G.E. Stinson. This is heard most on atmospheric tracks like “Opening Demand” – with lots of cosmic loops and some lovely lyric playing from both. But to say that they favor textural playing doesn’t mean we’re in Eno territory here. There are plenty of rough and explosive moments here, particulary on the opening, “Carbon Fianchetto” or the antic splatter and skronk of “Systematic Imbalance.” They’re judicious about usinq notes, about nodding towards idioms. And each piece seems to concentrate on a reduction or a thickening of basic elements. Rich and alive with detail, it’s a fine duo recording.

    –Jason Bivins, Signal to Noise, Winter 2007

    Recorded live with no overdubs, this duo album features trumpeter Jeff Kaiser and guitarist Tom McNalley in a creative affair where noise plays a major role. The session is serious, contains plenty of motion, and comes with innumerable surprises. The album’s title is a word that refers to forced movement, as in chess. How many times have we found ourselves sitting around wishing to pass on some opportunity or other when we find that we’re compelled to take action? Apparently Kaiser and McNalley feel compelled to fill the room with sheets of noise.
    Like a game of chess, the two artists face off with repeated demands from each other. Electronic noises ebb and flow in a continuous motion. Like the gray matter in our heads, the duo’s session sizzles from end to end as if in deep thought. After the first thirteen minutes, a recognizable trumpet and guitar appear with something musical. Spanish ties pop up now and again, but the gist of their action is creative noodling. A few echoes are applied electronically, and the wall-to-wall noise does abate once in awhile.
    For the most part, Kaiser is on fire with his squealing horn, while McNalley is equally creative with fingerstyle guitar antics. They both enjoy a fast pace, which at times resembles flamenco dancing. Their intensity is at that level and above.
    The natural tension that arises during a chess match appears in the music that Kaiser and McNalley create. With an ear toward science fiction sound effects and another ear toward the instrumental warmup room, the two artists try on different sounds for size. ”Organic Symmetry” differs from the album’s usual pattern by focusing on both instrumentalists as plaintive voices in the wind. Call it a ballad. Muted trumpets echo forcefully while a standard guitar applies walking chords with genuine ease.
    ” Aristotelian Blockade” runs a similar course, but adds plenty of noise to the equation in order to achieve a balance. Most of Zugzwang, however, relies on wall-to-wall noise for its effects. This is creative music, but it’s not for everyone.

    –Jim Santella,

    Jeff Kaiser (tromba ed elettronica) vive un momento di grazia; non c’è che dire. Ci ha da poco frollato (con piacere e a dovere) l’apparato auditivo nei Choir Boys, (fumigante mistura industrial-avant da svenimento il primo omonimo lavoro; il più recente “With Strings” a liberare insospettabili filamenti noir non di meno corrosivi anche se più di ascolto), ora a distanza di un soffio si premura di fotterci definitivamente sfornando questa subdola raccolta di fanghiglia rugginosa ed umorale, uno sfinimento; collasso psico/fisico vertiginoso. Materiali dall’alta tossicità intrinseca mescolati a vagolamenti pre-verbali, Tom McNalley (chitarra ed elettronica) aggiunge alla perdita di razionalità generale una chitarra atonale dai bordi taglienti che s’inceppa (spesso) esaurita e sfibrata, ma in grado (spesso) di levarsi in vaporose volute di drones rampicanti esemplari. Quel che convince appieno è il senso di compiutezza complessiva, l’inizio ombroso ed urticante di Carbon Fianchetto che passa da possibile esplosione (che non giunge mai) Wolf Eyes a distesa ambient d’alta scuola. Un rincorrersi continuo sulle ali di un sentire costantemente in bilico fra urlo trattenuto (Davis o Peter Brötzmann) e placide distese al chiar di luna di dark ambient-avant purgata da eccessi e dedita al morbo della comunicazione. Misteriose fluttuazioni elettroniche aliene s’impossessano talvolta della scena ma non è poi un male, l’epilessia al contrario di Systematic Imbalance ad esempio; s’intravedono anche filamenti d’ironia sullo sfondo. Cosa chieder di più? Dissolta (speriamo per sempre) la patina colta rompicazzo di certe produzioni (con la quale anche Kaiser spesso è convolato a nozze in precedenza); vai che forse ci siamo veramente! Trasversale ed incubico, “Zugzwang” potrebbe divenire pietra angolare se lo volesse, la splendidezza di Both Varied Situations ne è dimostrazione piena e convincente; sfibrature chitarristiche in libero deliquio (Experimental Audio Reserch in fase terminale?) e carezzevole scalata elettronica para sinfonica da urlo che muore di un vuoto acusmatico infestato da sinistre presenze. McNalley per l’attacco di Organic Symmetry corre anche il rischio di beccarsi un bacio sulle labbra da parte mia (bleah!), dolce, dolcissima ballata, di nuovo Davis e di nuovo Bailey, in una sala di registrazione spenta; in punta di piedi ed a occhi chiusi. Il buco nero finale di Liquid Compensation, detriti sparsi armonici su di una collina radioattiva; un capolavoro! Per chi ha amato: i Work, gli Abstractions, i God, i Fat, l’Elliott Sharp di “Larynx”, TG, Don Cherry, Chet Baker, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, ma anche: Richard Youngs, Dna, Lustmord, Foodsoon; PSI. Questo disco è per tutti voi. Un’esoterica gemma.

    Marco Carcasi,

    In this daring release, Kaiser and McNalley utilize electronics, trumpet and electric guitar with great imagination, succeeding in creating unconventional sonic architectures. The artists build a bizarre world, with eerie natural landscapes, as well as industrial zones of anguish, madness and darkness.


    Kaiser on trumpet, McNalley on guitars and both tweaking the knobs. Definitely a treat for fringe folks only, but if you want to head into deep space, this is an E ticket ride. I’m never bored when listening to anything Kaiser does, and this album is no exception.

    Jon Worley,

    Like listening to a Moog synthesizer on the verge of a nervous breakdown, trumpeter Jeff Kaiser and fellow circuit tinkerer guitarist Tom McNalley manage to coax electronic devices onto the couch of a shrink’s office. Erratic outbursts of electricity are carefully psychoanalyzed, counteracted with rationalized accompanying responses. As this heavily nuanced electronic latticework incorporates the more corporeally produced trumpet and guitar, the texture splinters at times and coalesces at others. In essence, this is one of those trippy albums that creep under your skin and completely alter you mood. Be prepared to leave through a different door than the one through which you entered.

    — RN,

    Southern Californian experimental improvisers Jeff Kaiser (trumpet, electronics) and Tom McNalley (e-guitar, electronics) embark upon a mischievously bizarre sojourn here. Call it what you will, but this studio session serves as the epitome of crazed-out, avant garde sound-sculpting where just about anything is liable to occur. For the record, this is not spacey New Age-type fodder. However, the artists delve into a variety of moods, exploring angst, humor and alien soundscapes. McNalley’s electric guitar phrases are generally concise and steeped in distortion; the duo fuses loops and ominous effects into the grand mix. In certain segments, Kaiser’s ethereal and oscillinating quarter-tone trumpet lines intimate a harrowing musical vista.
    The duo develops an off-the-wall musical documentary via wide-open improvisational flurries and expansive clusters of sound. But it’s not all about bombast. They frequently delve into revved-up free-form extrapolations offset with searing, phantasmagorical electronics-drenched mania and subtly climactic inferences. Cosmic meltdowns often take precedent; on “Aristotelian Blockade,” the musicians generate a cyclical, trance-inducing state of being. Fans of Kaiser, for example, shouldn’t be shocked by this material. But I’ll go out on a very short limb by affirming that this production is not geared for weak hearts or unadventurous minds.

    Glenn Astarita,

    For me the best part of this experimental project was the trumpet. Jeff Kaiser does alot of avant garde/experimental and creative work with keyboards and electronics and regular trumpet as well as being a writer and producer but here he focuses on the ‘1/4r’ tone trumpet and the work shines.
    The album delves into weird and strange tones, sounds, segments, and inter-plays and in places the sense is like a drone–maybe too much effect and electronics. Hums, beeps, burps, and other made-up sounds and noises are common and the guitar work screeches, distorts, and wails in places…still for me the more natural sound of the horn, I mean the trumpet is what counts in my book.
    The songs are strangely titled and go well with the experimental way-out sense and these tunes are also quite long. Here’s a few: 12:44 [that’s 12 minutes, 44 seconds], 11:14, and 11:00. Plus there’s 3 tracks that run for over seven minutes. Yet one of the best was the shortest–“zwischenzug” was just 1:36 but it had the best feel of any of the long tracks.
    While I enjoyed the project I would have loved to have heard some longer trumpet melodies instead of the bursts and blasts that made this a strange effort with I think a purposeful disjointed edge. Fans of the quarter-tone will want to check out the range and creativity of Kaiser. For me a good effort but still too experimental for my listening tastes. There’s lots of music to choose from here and others will find other tracks more suitable for their tastes.

    A. Canales, Critical review Service

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