Graveyards - Blues for the Night People (Troubleman Unlimited 2xLP)
Here's one that almost slipped under my radar until I was bored and checking out the TMU website for upcoming releases and found out that this was on sale, much to my general excitement/arousal. Graveyards recordings are notoriously difficult to come by so I'll hop on any chance I can get...this 2xLP set is still limited to 300 copies but that's practically glorious compared to Graveyards' records habitual availability. The records (one translucent red, one translucent green) are housed in gatefold rejects from a recent Isis 2xLP that Troubleman had put together...hand-sprayed and nicely rendered, but there's absolutely nothing anywhere that would indicate who the band is and what the record's called. I guess that's the luxury when the album is available only from TMU's mailorder direct, but thirty years down the line I'm never going to remember what the fuck this is. In case you're somehow not of the knowing ones, Graveyards is the free jazz trio featuring John Olson, Ben Hall and Hans Buetow. One plays saxophone, one plays the cello and the other plays drums. One moonlights in Wolf Eyes and runs the American Tapes label while two others maintain Editions Brokenresearch. You do the math.
Through some kind of wacky mix-up at my record-playing headquarters, I'm not sure if I actually played the first side at the proper speed. If I was, then Olson must be gripping a flute here. Whatever it was...it was nice! I think that's definitely an avenue the band should explore (next) although it's hard to picture the dainty flute in the thralls of Olson's meathooks. Did it really happen? Or did I have the LP on fast-forward? I don't know and I'm too lazy to check. I remember lots of things that would suggest I had it right all along - hollow cello sawing, tense muscle vibrations, long gaps of near-silence and finally a concluding grapplefest with ragged horn-a-plenty-blowing Arthur Doyle style. There's also a strange reccuring SFX like nitrous oxide blasted intermittently through the vents of the gas chamber. But if I'm wrong about the speed, then disregard all that. I know I got it down with the others though, and the second side is marked by still more enormous stretches of quiet introspection...Olson occasionally lets out dull roars like somebody moving heavy furniture in the opposing room. Eventually all three start moving their legs and empty-room echoed sax yelps begin to get shadowed by Buetow's stormy stringwork. I can't even imagine Hall's playing his kit towards the end of the B side because it sounds a lot more like somebody (drumsticks in hand) going off on the massive industrial-looking furnace/heating system megazord that lived in my grandfather's basement. Metallic junk clatter abounds and I mean that in a good way.
Record two side one begins with fluttering drums and some circular breathing leading into another pasture of glistening, crackling ambience punctuated by that same peculiar hissing noise...maybe they really are playing in the furnace room? Somewhere in the middle Olson lets out a total mating-call/barfing brass eruption followed by a sharp burst of activity, but then it's back to lurking in the shadows. I often wonder why, with all the brute force residing in the Graveyards ranks, don't they take things out into a more Last Exit sounding noise/free jazz zone...seems like they'd be naturals at it? Although I suppose it is a bigger challenge to play quiet than to play loud, you know. Whoever the audience was liked this side though because there's a burst of applause at the end along with quasi-audible banter. The flip side sounds like a totally different recording session, considerably diriter in production (especially compared to the other three sides which were all surprisingly well recorded) though I have a feeling all four sides were culled from various live performances, possibly from the Hair Police tour. Anyway these grooves are no more riotous than the others, occasional blowings decorated by Hall's contraption-mangling percussion, definitely unconventional to say the least. As is often the case with Graveyards material, the background hum does as much service to the sound as anything coming from the trio's instruments (you could call it the fourth man, kinda like that basketball flick from back in the day).
I wish the group would've gotten more aggressive, something I find myself saying often at the close of a Graveyards review , but you take what you can get with them I suppose. Not a bad release but nothing essential either, so don't kick yourself if you miss out (and last I checked the TMU site, supplies were apparently running low).