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Boyle: Psych-Jazz Collage (album review by Nicolette L.)

It is difficult to conceive of Boyle as anything other than an ensemble of at least 8 players, but somehow the entirety of It is difficult to conceive of Boyle as anything other than an ensemble of at least 8 players, but somehow the entirety of “Psych-Jazz Collage 1” was performed and recorded by a single multi-instrumentalist/tape manipulator, something I was admittedly not aware of until I had written up the majority of this review.  Despite its name and instrumentation, this rarely feels like a jazz album, with its improvisation avoiding individual lines. Instead, the playing across this single, 44-minute track attempts to bring out the collective improvisational nature of the ensemble(which of course brings up a more meta question regarding the nature of improvisation in music that has been overdubbed time and time again, which this review will definitely not be capable of adequately addressing). Underlining this experiment in recording is an experiment in tape manipulation, with numerous moments of tape splicing being heard throughout. These combine in a manner to produce nothing short of an overwhelming auditory experience: a wall of drones, screams and repetition constantly spilling out of its own self-imposed boundaries, yet simultaneously bearing a monolithic, insurmountable sonic giant that presses on at its own pace.  This difficult-to-put-into-words album is fittingly eclectic in the influences it carries. The sound collage work of Pierre Schaeffer and the instrumental musique concréte of Helmut Lachenmann seem to be foundational to the music here, but one must also mention The Scratch Orchestra and other counter-cultural ensembles from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s whose methods of collective composition can be heard all over the record. Boyle’s maximalist sound and the strong emphasis on repetitive rhythmic grooves makes the music at times feel more reminiscent of oddball European prog-rock in the vein of Henry Cow or Faust. An extensive list, yet none of these elements stumble into trite imitation or derivation. These influences and sounds crash into themselves through the astounding sound collage work, where sections can jump at any moment one moment and be cut off again in an abrupt tape splice only a few minutes later. These sections mostly consist of looping instrumental patterns, with Boyle altering the loop slightly each time until, out of the tangled, noisy mesh, arise trippy full-band melodies. From here these melodies seem to steadily compress and simplify and fall apart in this sort of extraterrestrial musical game of telephone. All until eventually even these foundations of melodies fall away into the instrumental mist. The jarring cuts which separate the different sections serve to form vignettes out of the track’s progression, serving as both a unique manner of pacing the recording, and also a means of hinting at the scope of the music beyond what can be heard. It is fitting that the recording seems to start mid performance, and finish just as abruptly, implying limits we as listeners cannot comprehend. “Psych-Jazz Collage 1” presents a one-man ensemble taking great care to understand not only the role and place of each instrument, but its relationship with the rest of the instruments. A wonderful experiment. Album review by Nicolette L. 

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