Thus far Dancing Wayang seems like it's just started to learn how to walk, with a limp. This time it hides it better. We did a review of Mats Gustafsson's release Needs! several weeks back and we're greeted here with a similar work by Peter Evans entitled Beyond Civilized and Primitive. One thing this label needs to get right based on the press releases we've received in the past is a little less glittering generality, a little more flat factuality. So, instead of saying something like "this album features saxophones that will explode your mind like a thousand nebulas", which I just made up right now to prove a point, let's just go with "this album features saxophones". The sheet of paper that came with this one is a complete two-semester course on proper press release writing with so many examples of what to avoid you wouldn't need to purchase a textbook. Dancing Wayang really seems like it has some good intentions in mind, but it needs to think a little more beforehand. Evans' work here is more substantive than Gustafsson, but it's still for a very limited audience.
As we're told, Peter Evans is a "maverick trumpeter" who moves into "uncharted territory by utilizing the recording facilities as compositional tools", whatever that means. Can it be used otherwise? "Hey, guys, get this, I'm going to record this with a...microphone". Opening with that sets up a huge expectation in a listener, especially for anyone not too familiar with free jazz or musicians like Evan Parker. Looking around at some of Peter Evans' performances sets the stage for an impressive feast, but its potential hits the floor with a socks-on-waxed-linoleum thud like the "forceful brushwork of 15 year old [sic] artist Owen Gould" on the cover. Don't think so? Well, for a press release that indicates Beyond Civilized and Primitive includes "overdubbing and looping" as "two significant techniques employed...to expand on Evan's already boundary-pushing musical exploits" it couldn't be more short on meaning when you finally take it in. From the sound of it, and if you do a little research, Evans is a talented trumpeter, but for those of us out there who listen to more complex experimental music this is like trying to get high on air after coming down off of PCP.
Case in point, there is no true usage of looping or effects in this entire album until the last few tracks, nor is there any real show of Evans' talents. The first two songs are chunks of randomness where Peter manipulates the trumpet in a variety of ways. The second, to serve as an example, is a fluctuating run of random notes for way longer than necessary with no alteration to the basic sound, no effects, and certainly none of the overdubbing suggested in the press release, nor the "extremes" to which he is apparently pushing "his instrument and his lungs". Really, it sounds like it was damn hard to sustain for the twelve minutes it runs, but it just sounds like a child rapidly messing around with a toy trumpet during playtime, and they'd probably have more stamina due to the fact that they're hopped up on a pound of sugar. It isn't until well near the end that Evans actually starts to layer some of the sounds, creating a variety of interesting structures, but for the most part it sounds like what it is, some guy fooling around on a trumpet that no one will consider impressive unless they actually played the trumpet. Since that's about one kid in every high school who spends most of their time playing Star Craft, not so good. This kind of thing isn't easy to make from how it sounds alone, it's something you'd likely need to see, but that's something you don't get from it. Perhaps it's physically impressive, perhaps it presses the boundaries of what the human body is capable of doing while playing the trumpet, but so what? It's like someone recording the sounds of a trapeze artist; all you're going to hear is the swish of the ropes and slaps of the hands. Free jazz fans might get a kick out of it, but it's not a recommendation for others. Evans has some incredible videos online, but this is a poor representation of his style other than a few brief moments.
Written by Arkus