Song Songs Song
Song Songs Song finds Fields and Parker claiming quite a bit of common ground with Parker’s trademark fluidity blending nicely with Fields’ clean abstraction. Parker’s “LK 92,” the album’s opener, exhibits the only real groove on the record with an ominous chord progression from Fields providing a fertile landscape through which Parker negotiates his limber strolls. When Fields joins the jaunty ramble, the guitarists’ interplay tantalizes with gorgeous, interwoven lines and hurried passages that are more Jim Hall than Derek Bailey. They leave this relatively accessible real estate behind with the four Fields-conceived “Untitled” pieces (the composition listings actually read as medium descriptions for visual works of art as in “Untitled, 2004, Dried Blood On Gauze, Elastic Strip With Adhesive Backing”). These selections are markedly unstable objects with extended periods of reflective calm interrupted by agitated, tussling chatter from the six-stringed interlocutors; volume knobs are played with, pedals are engaged, and a bit of dirt is thrown on the canvas at times. Despite all the labor involved and some inspired moments, the tracks tend to meander aimlessly, never really marshalling a truly compelling reason to stick with the hike for its duration.
“The Fields of Cologne,” another Parker composition, finishes the record, thus fulfilling the simple logic of the album’s title. Much freer than “LK 92,” the introspective piece practically begs for the sinewy cornet of Rob Mazurek (Parker’s colleague from the Chicago Underground assemblies) to slip into the conversation. It is evident after listening to these two very different recordings [Song Songs Song and christangelfox] that Fields succeeds most profoundly when he casts his conceptual net far and wide. — One Final Note
Song Songs Song, christangelfox
Scott Fields has toiled in relative obscurity since the late 60s—languishing, like the Freakwater song goes, in the Midwest like some old romantic fool—but his burgeoning body of work (he didn’t start actively recording and releasing his own material until the early 1990s) has collected a significant coterie of critical admirers. The guitarist is noted for the craft and care he demonstrates when choosing his collaborators, and I don’t think one can quarrel with the conscripts he dragooned for the two efforts in question here. Song Songs Song is a duo session with fellow fretman Jeff Parker, while christangelfox is a trio date with reedist Guillermo Gregorio and cellist Matt Turner.
By my lights, christangelfox’s minimalist excursion constitutes the stronger work; its measured approach and subtle instrumentation—each player textures the unfolding drama with startlingly effective percussive accents coaxed from pieces of wood, metal, and stone, “all floating freely on open-cell foam slabs” according to Fields’ own liner notes—evokes a mystical space that is unsettling one moment and curiously uplifting the next. Never one to be boxed in conceptually, Fields has referenced the deep musical history of myriad Asian cultures (particularly in his use of the unorthodox percussion arrangement) to construct an hour-long solemn meditation grounded in a single scale. Together, the musicians spin a paradoxical fabric that is intensely ascetic even while it unspools its complex narrative thread. One particularly arresting passage occurs at the midway point when Fields introduces a delicate ostinato guitar figure that heightens the tension while Turner and Gregorio awaken to the call and respond with searching expressions. It is a testament to Fields’ remarkable facility for blending composition with free improvisation in a seamless fashion. — One Final Note