As pure and staunch improvising musicians, Mary Halvorson, Nate Wooley, and Reuben Radding enter their fourth year together with this recording, where complete spontaneity is the basis for making a coalesced, fractious, and jagged-edged music. In their view, the trio is concerned with making stripped-down, urbane, and unpretentious music that they feel represents a new American folk style - with a difference. Halvorson is emerging as a performer on electric guitar whose direct impulses charge the music without even implying melodies. Wooley's trumpet is galvanized, staking a claim toward a larger post-Miles Davis vocabulary, while acoustic bassist Radding has the ability to straddle fences between traditional and contemporary creative musics of all stripes and varieties. The resulting collectively conceived compositions are entirely abstract, working off each others sound and feelings in a mutually democratic way that resembles very few other ensembles. As titles goes, they stem from Adorno's Minima Moralia, but have musically little to do with minimalist moral fiber. The aural portraits of "Lakehurst, 1937" and "Caldwell, 1925," the original landscapes of which were conceived well before any of these musicians were born, are tone poems, either stretched and drawn out with choppy guitar inserts, or trumpet-driven with pretty subtle string accents, respectively. The kinetic and resolved passages, then spatial improvisations via clanging or plucked phrases on "Under the Weight of Aphorisms" seems to set a path of righteous indignation, while "In the Teeth of Ideology" suggests sideways jabs, very percussive in a raking and scraping nature with a contrasting atypical, melodic guitar from Halvorson. "Spoilsports" really grabs one's ear with a tug and a twist, an acute listening experience for all, as an unconventional bluesy motif is rendered by Wooley's bleating trumpet. The most jarring effect of many comes forth in "Quavering Voices of the Mutilated," which despite its morose title, is actually a quirky and fast jump blues gone totally awry. Elaborately titled, "The Poor Chew Words to Fill Their Stomachs" -- possibly a poke at pundits or critics -- is a rat-tailed, tattered-in-shreds, free radical improvisation, distinctively and wholly all their own. Where this trio prides itself on joint ideas and mutual respect, there's also a deep friendship, even though it might seem that they are flailing away at each other with entwined, double-edged swords. Crackleknob will appeal to a certain subgenre of improvised music fans who like their down-and-dirty, spot-on sounds as edgy and unpredictable as it gets.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
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