Postmodernism

Phil Robson – ‘Portrait In Extreme’ – London Jazz News

Phil Robson– Portrait to the extreme

(Lyte Records LR050 digital. Album review by AJ Dehany)

Portrait to the extreme is an accessible avant-garde extended reader that presents a thematic exploration of the “end” of the British guitarist/composer’s fertile musical mind Phil Robson. Recorded in the remote “extreme” circumstances of late lockdown, the eight-track sequence launches into left-field musical directions (sometimes called “extreme”) and reflects on aspects of a necessarily “extreme” itinerant life, the one of such crazy leaps as moving from England to New York and playing with everyone from Dave Liebman to Barbra Streisand. Like a Portrait to the extreme it is aptly named to present facets of Phil Robson that we may know less for those who may have only really seen him accompanying his partner the incomparable Irish jazz singer Christine Tobin.

This is very fun. What’s in this digital release that makes you listen is not just the typically strong creative playing, but its detachment from conventional construction and composition in a choppy sequence of stylistic experiments for guitar and electronics. , with some soulful quasi-industrial drum loops from David Lytle. After a brooding post-classical synth vibe, the opening track “Rumours Abound, Energy Persists” turns to guitar mayhem. “I’ve Got It” vibrates with a wild and wobbly robotic arpeggio noise. Closer “The Master” is completely metallic in the Sabbath style. On “So Many Bees” a soundbite presumably recorded in the Irish countryside of County Roscommon where Phil has been based since early 2020, is indexed by the laconic observation of a mournful voice saying “So many bees” and leaving it to the listener to imagine whatever Apian invasion might be a sign of disaster or eternal honey.

Guitar-centric postmodernism naturally falls in the shadow of John Zorn and his endless inventions. PortraitThe locking sensation of disconnecting and reaching out despite impossible explosive circumstances especially reminds me of a weird little album that Zorn himself played on by Mike Patton called Pranzo Oltranzista which was recorded in hotel rooms while on tour . Portrait to the extreme has some of the same deliberate scrappy notebook feel, but so refined in its playing and design (with a typically hard-hitting master from Alex Bonney). It’s funny that the dislocations that color both Patton’s Pranzo and Robson’s Picture come from opposite sides of endless journeys and exasperating incarceration.

Portrait to the extreme is billed as an EP, but it’s eight tracks, it’s half an hour, I mean it’s an album right. Each of its shortened episodes could easily last much longer, but its experimental bustle gives the sequence a pleasant levity. The nomenclature situation is similar to what’s been happening a lot in hip hop pop, most recently with the exceptional Tierra Whack releasing a “mixtape” that’s clearly a new original album…but to call it a ” mixtape” seems to relieve the pressure of releasing a capital-one album. In this case, an EP might denote/connote a more experimental endeavor that should be enjoyed in a different way than a formal or more conventional album.

The shorter EP format might appeal to Brian Eno, who lamented that when a band (we’re probably talking ’70s progressive rockers, let’s be honest) come into the studio to make an “experimental” record, they manage to one way or another to release a triple album of the stuff, when in reality what happens, in science as in music, is that most of the time the experiment will fail. This is the case even in jazz and improvised music, which is experimental in nature, dealing with strangers (known or unknown). Maybe you better just, you know, write something. It’s one of the absolute pleasures of what we call “music” to hear great musical minds think aloud. However “extreme” the result may be, it is better that the experiments be done than not done. The results – like here – are often worth hearing.

AJ Dehany writes independently about music, art and more. ajdehany.co.uk

Portrait in Extreme out today March 25 on Lyte Records

LINK: Phil Robson talks about Portrait in Extreme