Graveyards - Cemetery Open 2 (American Tapes 2xCD-R)
I'd heard various snippets and clips and murmurings about Graveyards, which is the free jazz project of Wolf Eyes' John Olson (on sax) alongside Hans Buetow on cello and Ben Hall on percussion - not to mention whoever else of Olson's bros are in town when the show takes place. I think, to date, all of the Graveyards recordings (on miscellaneous LPs, CD-Rs, and tapes) have been taken from live gigs...but don't quote me on that. "Cemetery Open 2" definitely is and it contains close to two hours worth of material spread across its two vintage-American Tapes-paint-job-style CD-Rs. As is usually the case with American Tapes releases, any info is exquisitely hard to track down, so I really have no idea where or when (or even with who) this was recorded. All I have to follow...is my heart.
Like I told you before, I'd heard some MP3s from various Graveyards outings, specifically jammers like "Monument Centers" and "The Galaxy Being". And they were all tremendous, actual factual free jazz romps. The first disc of "Cemetery Open 2" (one 46-minute long track) is not. In fact, it owes a lot more to Olson's Dead Machines project or some random American Tapes pseudonymical release than what I was expecting. It's almost like an electro-acoustic take on jazz. There's the odd sax skronk or drum clatter, but they're usually huddled between lengthy gaps of silence. Well it's not really silence. I imagine this was recorded to tape and as such you can hear the soft, droning whirr in the background the whole time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it actually makes for a pretty bitchin' groove. But one of the reasons why I liked the other Graveyards stuff I heard so much was because it wasn't another Wolf Eyes-related free noise ambient drone thing. It was jazz played by one of the guys who happened to be in Wolf Eyes, see? And therein lay the magic! Heck maybe I've got the wrong idea and should judge it on its artistic merit rather than what I "hoped" it would sound like. But unfortunately it fails there too, because really it sounds like three very capable musicians lazily reverting to a "de facto" sound because, who's gonna care? Well, I care (you have to picture me saying this with tears streaming down my face for the full effect)!
But I'm the patient type so I moved on over to disc two like any respectable person would. The first jam is a 22-minute piece and it starts off in much the same way as all of the first disc, quiet and shuffling around-like. Eventually the band actually start playing and it's quite a bit a more cohesive, which I'm digging. In fact Olson lays down some real smooth Ayler/Braxton solos while the rhythm section do their thing, which is a subdued, atmospheric type thing. This is more like a jazz/Dead Machines fusion which is what I was looking for. Unfortunately the band never kick out the jams, always keeping within the same sort of early morning hangover tone. Which isn't a bad tone at all. The next two are in a similar vein, with Olson pushing extreme loner winds out over whatever din Buetow and Hall are cooking up. The last piece is a short one in comparison to the others quarter-hour tracks (at 6 minutes) but it's a real nice one as the band play gentle, almost sing-song un-rhythms that shakes me in the kind of holistic way "Free Jazz" did when it comes down towards the end of the track. And just like Ornette, I'm sure Graveyards can eventually put their skulls together and come up with the real "Free Free Jazz" for the current-day noize heads.
I'm not really certain how or where to peg this, aside from the obvious calls like Sun Ra and the Arkestra at their absolute most spaced or, if I may be a bit more contemporary, John Butcher and Toshimaru Nakimura's "Cavern with Nightlife". If Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano are taking avant jazz in the new era to far out places, then Graveyards are also headed to the outer rim, albeit in a completely different direction. There are definitely some real flashes of something special here (generally all on the second disc). I'm not sure if Graveyards are ever gonna get to putting together the magnum opus I think they'd be capable of, but it sure would be nice to be around if they do. Or maybe they've already made it and it's buried somewhere in the American Tapes catalogue. I'll wait for the Impulse! reissue then.