Review of Moss [12k2020]

Textura (CA)

The latest installment in 12k’s Limited Series finds Molly Berg, Olivia Block, Steve Roden, and Stephen Vitiello—Moss, naturally—collaborating on a twenty-four-minute live improvisation recorded at a midnight concert on September 28, 2010 at the Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, California as part of the digital arts 01SJ Biennal. The set was originally planned to be a duo involving Berg and Vitiello (previously responsible for the The Gorilla Variations issued on 12k in 2009), but as Block and Roden had performed solo sets on the previous nights at the same festival, all four were available to participate in a live performance. All contribute significantly to a total sound mass—an expansive sonic landscape of sorts—that seems to take on a life and will of its own as it develops, despite the fact that there are four individuals breathing life into it.

Berg’s clarinet is the primary lead voice in the early going, but other sounds grow in prominence as the piece develops. The guitar and lap steel guitar playing of Vitiello and Roden, respectively, and Block’s field recordings, tapes, and electronics flesh out the collective sound considerably until it becomes a restlessly mutating organism. Berg’s presence in particular lends a humanizing character to the drone-like material, whether that comes in the form of woodsy clarinet playing or occasional voice contributions (Roden’s voice is also present). Throughout the piece, myriad individual sounds float o’ertop a shimmering bed of electronics and textures, with the four participants being careful to leave space for each other’s sounds and not cancel one another out. The mood is peaceful and meditative, and the feel relaxed and patient. As the piece nears its end, the intensity level rises slightly, prompting Berg’s clarinet to swoop and weave as the material moves into its closing moments. It’s rather remarkable to discover just how organized and balanced the piece sounds, especially considering its improvised form. Such an outcome must to some degree be attributable to the humility and restraint exemplified by the collaborators in the approach they brought, individually and collectively, to the music’s creation.

View Website View Release