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Mike Pride - The Ensemble is an Electronic Device

-the ensemble is an electronic device

Gerald Menke - Pedal Steel Guitar
Brian Moran - Electronics
Jessica Pavone - Viola
Mike Pride - Percussion, Glockenspiel, Electronics, Microcassette
Aaron Ali Shaikh - Soprano & Alto Saxophone
Artwork by Mike Pride

Featuring Gerald Menke on pedal steel guitar, Brian Moran on electronics, Jessica Pavone on viola, Aaron Ali Shaikh on soprano & alto saxes and Mike Pride on percussion, electronics & cassette. In January of 2005, Mike Pride lost his apartment and most of his possessions to an unexpected electrical fire. The tape for this one-time live improv date is one of the few things that survived the fire. The only player here that I am previously familiar with is Jessica Pavone who has worked with Anthony Braxton and has a duo with Mary Halvorson. This disc contains one long (nearly 35 minute) piece and was recorded live at Freddy's in Brooklyn in February of 2003. I dig the way that this unfolds slowly, quietly with sporadic sounds floating in space. Minimal amplified viola, fragments of sax notes, occasional percussion and quiet electronics sail through the landscape. Different combinations of players weave their sounds with one another, Nothing feels forced and no one really solos, everything moves in spurts or floats, connecting with another free spirit. There are magic moments when it seems as if we are entering another dimension, both familiar and alien, simultaneously. It is a rare occurrence, but it does happen here and more frequently that you might expect. - BLG

(Dead Angel No. 8) This is the fifth document in drummer Mike Pride's ongoing "Scene Fucker" series, a series of live improvisations by ensembles composed of musicians from really different genres and scenes performing together for the first (and probably only) time. Pride has a ridiculously extensive and impressive musical pedigree himself, having played with Anthony Braxton, Eugene Chadbourne, Trevor Dunn, Fushitsusha, the punk band MDC, Jack Wright, and Otomo Yoshihide, among others (many, many others), and currently plays in at least seven bands, including Dynamite Club, Evil Eye, and Big Fucking Sellout. The ensemble presented here -- Pride (percussion), Jessica Pavone (viola), Aaron Ali Shaikh (sax), Gerald Menke (pedal steel), and Brian Moran (electronics) -- has a pedigree just as ridiculous, with its members having played with the likes of Babe the Blue Ox, Lydia Lunch, Mercury Rev, Super Furry Animals, Cecil Taylor, and John Zorn, just to name a few. So they've all been around the experimental / post-rock block a few times, dig? The disc itself is one long track, approximately 35 minutes in length, recorded live at Freddy's in Brooklyn, NY in February of 2003. The sound is very much in keeping with past releases on PE, with lots of peculiar sounds and cryptic strategies unfolding in a distinctly non-linear fashion. It's loose and unpredictable without being overly chaotic and shambolic -- there's a certain sense of direction at work, but one that's more implied than stated outright, with a lot of emphasis on droning lines from the viola and pedal steel as the other players join in in a decidely free manner. Cryptic, yes, but far from unlistenable or indecipherable. It's all about the flow of sound, one that rises and falls, in both volume and density. The biggest surprise is that Pride, who put the ensemble together, plays a fairly minimal role in the proceedings -- when he appears he's definitely adding something substantial to the sound, but he can hardly be accusing of hogging the spotlight (in fact, the viola and pedal steel are pretty much leading the way through most of the piece). Given the involvement of several of the members in pysch / rock outfits, this is a surprisingly subdued piece of work for the most part -- they never get so crazed that you can't follow what's going on, and no one instrument ever manages to overpower the others. It's a nice piece of work from a quixotic assembly of players, and a fine addition to the PE catalog. - RKF

(NeoZine) These are live improvisations by an ensemble of musicians using percussion, viola, saxophones, pedal steel guitar, and electronics. We're in for a wild ride way outside the boundaries of musical convention. This is an ongoing project for Mike Pride, and the ensemble is different every time. He attempts to grab people from various scenes, and invite them to just get in there and jam with him off the top of their heads. Its ambitious, and it is fabulous that it comes together and that it works on a lot of levels. This is chaos. If you want to hear what totally letting it go sounds like, I can suggest this CD. At times it is calm, almost meandering. It builds! When it does, quite frankly it is a shit-storm!!! You have no idea which way these musicians are taking you (and at times it may even seem that they are taking you in different directions.) There is some continuity and signs of conformity. Sometimes the gonzo improvisation comes together all on its own to make...well I don't know exactly what to call it...maybe a song? Yea. Its a group of noises that when put together, form one solid piece of work that is stimulating and appealing to listen to. Now, they take the long way around getting there, and I am almost certaint that it happens on accident as much as it happens on purpose, but it happens. The viola and the sax in this are sooooo screechy that it is going to really be a problem for some tender ears. The percussion is very unlikely and tricky. Its not what you'd call rhythmic much of the time. I really like the inclusion of the electronics, which gives it that noize element and really puts this in a more experimental frame. The steel guitar is used very effectively to create an almost creepy atmosphere. Each musician comes from a different musical style of background, so as you would expect, much of this seems crammed together by force. Well, whether you cram it or finess it, you still get an ensembel. My real kudo goes out these musicians for ignoring the constraints of their ususal scened to join this project. Way to expand your musical careers and tear down the silly walls that seperate different styles of underground music. - CHC

(Sea of Tranquility) Avant-garde doesn't get more obscure or non-musical than this latest release from drummer/percussionist Mike Pride. As part of his Scene Fucker series of live concert improvisations (this one being #5), The Ensemble Is An Electronic Device is a gathering of musicians in New York, who got together and recorded this off-the-wall frenzy of free-jazz, avant-something, and for the most part squealing noise. Featuring Pride's often times frantic percussion, Aaron Ali Shaikh's squonking and dissonant sax, pedal steel guitar from Gerald Menke, Jessica Payone's viola, and electronics from Brian Moran, more often than not the results are quite harsh on the ears and on the opposite end of the spectrum from anything considered melodic. But, that's apparently the point, and as with much of the avant-garde music of this nature (this would be right at home on the ReR Megacorp label), there's a certain "underground" nature that is so raw and experimental that you have to take notice, even if you can't enjoy it. Basically one long track, at times what you will hear will try your patience, but if you can get through it all, there are actually some compelling jazz passages woven in amidst the cacaphony that are not to be missed. The Ensemble Is An Electronic Device certainly won't be for everyone, but if you have an ear for something off the beaten path, this might be a keeper. - Pete Pardo

(Vital Weekly no. 571) his CD is introduced as follows: 'this record should not exist. But it does exist. So what happened? Well, the tapes for this recording were one of the few things that were left from a fire that destroyed the apartment of Mike Pride and most of his possessions. As if they were waiting or meant for release in some mysterious way these tapes were preserved. Anyway, this release will be linked for Pride with the catastrophe that took place. And whether the tapes would be released also when the fire didn't took place, in the end it is of no meaning for the listener. The cd is the fifth document in Pride's ongoing 'Scene Fucker' series of live improvisations. This cd contains one long improvisation of 35 minutes. Mike Pride (percussion, glockenspiel, electronics and microcassette) is helped out by Gerald Menke (pedal steel guitar), Brian Moran (electronics), Jessica Pavone (viola) and Aaron Ali Shaikh (soprano & alto saxophone). Mike Pride has a history of playing with punkers as well as improvisors. His companions on this cd also come from very different backgrounds from what I read about them. But february 27, 2003, when they met on stage, seemed to be a perfect day for them. The playing is very concentrated and with great drive. It is an example of group improvisation, where no particular instrument is in the forefront. No all musicians are equally involved in building together an improvisation that fascinates from beginning to the end. The recording is okay, and Public Eyesore was absolutely right in releasing this little gem. Fire or no fire. - Dolf Mulder

(Paris Transatlantic 02/2007) Back in November last year I got a huge package of discs from "Omaha's most unknown label", Bryan Day's wonderfully active and often ignored Public Eyesore, which first came to my attention a while back when I was asked to write liners for Jack Wright and Bob Marsh's Birds in the Hand. I haven't heard much from PE – that's Public Eyesore, btw, not Public Enemy (though come to think of it I haven't heard much from them lately either) – for a while, so forgive me if some of the releases I'm nattering on about here aren't exactly new. This one for example was recorded way back in February 2003 and appeared a couple of years after that. It's one of an ongoing series of releases by the ahem attractively named Scene Fucker project, which is basically percussionist Mike Pride and anyone he can get his hands on. Very much Improvisation, as opposed to Improvised Music (if you read what I wrote on the subject in last month's Wire): we're talking a gnarly no-holds-barred snarling mess of moments, some inspired, some less so, but all constantly entertaining. Like life, really. Joining Pride, who plays percussion, glockenspiel (though as the glockenspiel is a percussion instrument to start with you wonder why it merits a separate mention), electronics and microcassette, are Gerald Menke on pedal steel, Jessica Pavone on viola, Brian Moran on electronics and Aaron Ali Shaikh on soprano and alto saxophones. At times lyrical (Pavone sounds great, and so does Menke – imagine Bill Frisell playing Scelsi), at times gritty and combative (Pride is especially good at throwing spanners in the works – he even gets stuck in a kind of drum'n'bass groove at one point, to the apparent indifference of everyone else involved), it's a fine example of what American improvisers do best: get down, get dirty, take risks, go for it. - Dan Warburton

(Chain DLK) Right after having reviewed The Mighty Vitamins, here's another boundless freak commando dealing with free-form improvised music. It looks like Public Eyesore is firmly headed in this musical direction or at least that's the impression after a couple of releases I’ve heard recently, but never take anything for granted with them. Like Mighty Vitamins Mike Pride and his band have this old fashioned sound and like the afore mentioned band the live recording helps a lot to make it all vintage but the final result is considerably diverse. "The Ensemble Is An Electric Device" is much more focussed on electro-acoustic music but not “neat” like Civil War, AMM or Gruppo Di Nuova Consonanza: it's much more jazzy and certainly more intentionally chaotic. Mike Pride is a percussionist and like many other percussionists leading a band (think to Gino Robair for example) he gives a strong "percussive" and "noisy" intonation to the CD. It's weird how the Viola of Jessica Pavone and somewhere else the lap-steel guitar of Gerald Menke in by some means keep the whole structure together while saxophones conspire to make it sink in dissonance. Contrary to what you may think, while Mike pride free-percussionism/drumming here and there speaks loud, in other portions of this work he’s playing is nearly "silent". Even if what I'm gonna write may appear a nonsense I’ve the idea Pride's ensemble improvise with a well-built american “inflection” that is somehow different from the sometimes "cold" hyper intellectual improvisational attitude of european musicians (and even if somebody thinks that's an heresy I think it has to do with the afro-american root of U.S. modern music). Last and most important: the whole work is packed in in a single track lasting for more than 34 minutes, the idea of the song never loses its integrity but at the same time you have ups and downs like in the ninety per cent of impros. This listening could be "unorganised/free-form" (which is far from meaning chaotic) an physical if compared to those recordings on Creative Sources but that if you’re into free-form music and into impro you should give them a try. - Andrea Ferraris

(All About Jazz) Yet another approach by Pride. This time free improvisation without regular rhythms and beats. As these affairs go, pieces can be hit-and-miss. Parts thrill and leave you wondering, others get you annoyed. The electronics and slices of dissonance parse well with Aaron Ali Shaikn’s stabbing soprano and alto saxophone sound, as does the hand-in-glove feel of Gerald Menke’s pedal steel guitar and Jessica Pavone’s viola. Pride wields bells and electronics on this drone based ethereal 35-minute composition. - Mark Corroto

(Ampersand Etcetera) Here percussionist/electronics Pride is joined by guitar, more electronics, viola and sax in a live piece which was saved from a fire in his apartment. The 34 minute work is well balanced combination of the elements – the sax playing over electronic hisses and guitar picks, viola bowing and varied percussion. Ebbs, flows, builds and eases in a dynamic manner and provides the combination of dissonance and sonority that you could expect from such an ensemble. Not dramatically different (though there are some surprising ambient passages, and the steel guitar lends a distinct atmosphere), the instruments/players interact and push each other in directions that hold your attention, which is all you can ask from a freeform improv. - Jeremy Keens

(Touching Extremes) This is one of the few recordings survived to the fire that in January 2005 destroyed the apartment of Mike Pride and killed his cat Bobo, to which the record is dedicated. Writes Pride: "If anyone loved more than I did the eclectic mix of people recordings like these brought into our home, it was Bobo". I hereby declare this man one of my heroes from now on. After this necessary premise, the record features Pride on percussion, glockenspiel, electronics and microcassette, plus Gerald Menke (pedal steel guitar), Brian Moran (electronics), Jessica Pavone (viola) and Aaron Ali Shaikh (Bb soprano & alto saxes). There must be a reason why this CD is part of a series called "Scene Fucker", as indeed the music contained herein could not be collocated in any of the commonly known "scenes"; it's just free improvisation in its simplest form, without preconceptions, all instruments moving towards a single goal: being delivered from rules. Among the collective instrumental expansions that characterize many portions of the album, the most noteworthy moments feature Menke's pedal steel laying out psyched-out, spacey chords against Shaikh's dissonant calls and Pavone's drone-ish lines; elsewhere, Pride's pretty disjointed approach to his battery of percussion instruments yields hundreds of inventive possibilities, while every once in a while the other musicians decide that enough is enough, screaming and torturing their weapons with the same ingenuity of children in a room intent in making as much noise as they can, ignoring their parents' reproach. - Massmo Ricci

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