Personnel: Damon Locks (vocals, electronics); Nicole Mitchell (flute); Rob Mazurek (cornet, electronics); Jeff Kowalkowski (piano, electric piano); John Herndon (drums); Carrie Biolo (percussion); Matt Bauder (electronics); Guilherme Granado (sampler); Marianne M. Kim (dancer).
Audio Mixer: Todd Carter.
Liner Note Author: John Corbett .
Recording information: Riverside Studios, Chicago (01/2013).
An intriguing piece of electro-acoustic multimedia art, the 2013 Delmark CD/DVD set The Space Between finds Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble pairing with videographer/choreographer Marianne M. Kim for full immersion in deep sonics and video abstraction. The artists concern themselves with space -- space that defines entities, erases their dualities, and eliminates their separateness. Indra's Net, visualizing the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness, appears here as both the last track's title and as an overarching theme. The Space Between is 40 minutes long, split into eight tracks of five minutes each, but the free-form music and video experience bleeds from one track to the next without demarcation; perhaps this is merely one way to obliterate "the space between." In any case, the piece begins comparatively sparsely and acoustically (the mechanical rhythm at the start ends after a minute), with the sounds of definable instruments echoing across space against the synth-like sequenced burbling of electronics and sampler. Mazurek's cornet bursts and long notes are joined by interjections from other members of his Exploding Star Orchestra -- Nicole Mitchell's flute, Jeff Kowalkowski's piano -- and as the sound of his horn traverses the abyss and bounces back again, The Space Between's concept and execution are well matched.
The electro side of the equation becomes rather more dominant as the work progresses. The best moments -- or most involving and immersive -- occur when the electro and the acoustic are somewhat balanced, as when traces of Mazurek's avant jazz and even Miles-ish fusion are partially submerged but still discernable in the mix. As the electronics and samplers thicken the texture, however, some listeners may find the overall tone incongruously ominous and unsettling for a conceptual piece concerning a bejeweled cosmic net that reflects the infinite oneness of the universe; even apart from the buried roars and throbs, Damon Locks' partially intelligible recitation in "Seven Blues" has a vaguely dystopian flavor (while his earlier pronouncement that "We Are All One with the Moon and Planets" could spoil the experience for those preferring darker interpretations of what they're hearing). Meanwhile, the music and Kim's video reach out to engage one another -- and sometimes connect. There is rough synchronicity but also arbitrariness between sound and image as video layers -- fingers scribbling chromosome-like fragments; close-ups of strands of hair -- accrete along with buildups in sonic density. Multicolored lights flicker and flash as if through and around half-closed eyelids, replacing an empty space between black-and-white video of Kim and Mazurek (etched with after-image outlines) opposite one another in narrow, nearly slotlike sections of the screen. It is best approached as a museum video installation. At the very least, this project is commendable for finding inspiration in Eastern philosophy, religion, and/or spirituality without falling into the West's clichéd comforts of new age bliss. If you can wrap your head around David Lynch espousing transcendental meditation, then The Space Between's interpretation of Indra's Net should not be problematic. ~ Dave Lynch