Made to Break - Before the Code: Live (Audiographic Records, 2016)
Made to Break is one of multi-reedist and composer Ken Vandermark’s most exciting ensembles, one where he is in the company of Tim Daisy on drums, Christof Kurzmann on laptop and electronics and Jasper Stadhouders on electric bass. This album was recorded Klub Dragon in Poznan, Poland on November 5, 2014. The opening track, “Dial The Number: live (for Agnes Varda),” opens with strong saxophone playing and persistent electronics. The raw saxophone and thick electric bass are excellent, with the drums kicking in and driving the music hard. Vandermark sounds particularly inspired in his saxophone playing with an ebullient solo before the pace of the music drops considerably. There is a quieter section of ominous electronics, smears of saxophone and bubbling bass. Stadhouders takes a bass solo against the spacey drones of the electronics. Chirpy saxophone and thudding bass build the dynamics back up making room for further percussion and saxophone soloing. “Off-Picture No. 119: live (for Joshua Oppenheimer)//Window Breaking Hammer: live (for Rainer Werner Fassbinder)” has light toned saxophone with spare electric bass and percussion. They develop an excellent three-way improvisation, before the strident electronics sweeps in under a heavy beat. Things get even wilder with the electronics mounting an organ/synth sound that is the perfect backdrop for Vandermark’s raw saxophone along with thick electric bass and storming drums. There is an short intermission at the halfway point for group introductions and they return to the fray quietly. There is light, feathered drumming with subtle reed and melodic bass. The group takes the dynamics way down to near silence before buzzing electronics build in developing hypnotic swirls of noise. Things ramp up with powerful saxophone playing against a heavy and ominous tone. The music becomes fascinating with jets of electronic sound juxtaposed by ripe saxophone as the band hits full power and pins its ears back, driving to the conclusion. “Dragon Improvisation” is a short coda, which has patterned electronics, and light pitched saxophone circling before enveloping the stage with screaming noise, in and urgent free improvisation. This was an excellent album with the music remaining very exciting and compelling throughout. Ken Vandermark has led many ensembles in his career, but Made to Break is becoming one of the most memorable. Before the Code: Live - Audiographic Records.