(Emanem)

This CD features two different sets by self-taught multi-instrumentalist Milo Fine – a solo performance and a trio with saxophonist Jaron Childs and drummer Davu Seru, respectively recorded in 2006 and 2007 at the Acadia Cabaret Theatre of Minneapolis. Throughout both, Fine exclusively played a semi-wrecked, detuned piano (previously donated to Acadia by a woman named Jordan, who used to work there) to which he added electronics during the trio gig. As explained in his liners, the protagonist wanted to “really get into the innards of that wonderful beast”; one thinks about a primitively enraged, shocking attack as sweat drops fly all over the place but – surprise – we’re treated with a higher level of subtlety and detail in respect to the customary attitude this musician is notorious for.

This becomes particularly clear by analyzing the relations with Childs and Seru, who cleverly match their comrade’s inside-the-box meandering inscrutableness with persuasively unpretentious intersections and never-too-divergent alternatives, at all times in tune with the intentions of the “leader”. The ensuing music reveals finely adjusted alertness and great accuracy, in evident contrast with the well-known propensity to lawlessness of Fine, who in this circumstance seems pleased to stay within certain dynamic borders – even in the quick-paced pseudo free-jazz characterizing several chunks of the third part. A memento of how improvisation can fruitfully involve the listener without surpluses of ceremonial silence; there’s always something in between the extremes that works, if we only care enough.

The unaccompanied set allows MF to call out the rebellious alter ego a little more frequently, as he utilizes his polyrhythmic skills and hyperactive fingers to concoct repeated ejections of scorching energy under the guise of torrential spells of plink-plonking hypervelocity. Still, moments of calmness and, get this, elegance are not missing: there are sections in which the precarious stability of the instrument results as the very origin of enigmatically resonating chords whose appearance makes me speculate about what our ears would obtain if some of these unrehearsed concepts were dissected, arranged and (anathema!) executed by a larger ensemble.

For sure the most satisfying outing I’ve heard by this artist, Ananke is a record that requires consistently scrupulous listening to catch every nuance of its content. Substance prevails everywhere, no weak episodes to skip or discard. At 78 minutes plus, that’s an incontestable accomplishment.

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