Today’s Sounds: Joe Morris, Augustí Fernández & Nate Wooley

Kings of guitar, piano and trumpet unite to mount some masterful free improv, PLUS sunny dancefloor fodder from L.A.’s Goldroom and Mereki Beach and an Unknown Mortal Orchestra video depicting nudity, masturbation and mental anguish — with puppets!


Joe Morris/Augustí Fernández/Nate Wooley, From the Discrete to the Particular (Relative Pitch)

Guitarist Joe Morris has literally written the book on free improvisation (check out Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music), and is best known for his rapid-fire lines, easily cruising past the 10-notes-per-second threshold with melodic fluidity. This skill has not been abandoned, but Morris has augmented his bag of tricks over time with Bailey-esque playing behind the bridge, pick-on-fretboard rattling and various prepared enhancements. This has the effect of making his flights of fancy even more appreciated whenever they emerge from the clatters and clangors he now conjures.

Spaniard Augustí Fernández is one of Europe’s leading pianists. A founding member of the Improvisers of Barcelona group, he has cut over 50 albums. Influenced by Cecil Taylor and having studied with Iannis Xenakis, he ranges from inside-the-piano subtleties to full-blown atonal clusters.

Nate Wooley might sometimes be mistaken for an analogue synth. He masterfully summons filtered white noise from his trumpet, sweeping from anguished wisps to caterwauling squalls.

Sooner or later, the trio of Morris, Fernández and Wooley were destined to find themselves inside a recording studio. Morris has released the duo recordings Tooth and Nail with Wooley and Ambrosia with Fernández, and the three naturally mesh together, all adept at playing it straight and in coaxing extended sonorities from their chosen instruments.

Equally inevitable was that the meeting would result in a breathtaking ride, with aural images of screeching metal and white noise blasts careening out of the trumpet, colliding with the roller-coaster tracks of twisted ascending and descending lines from the guitar and piano. That these preconceptions are indeed met should not detract from the listening experience, which reveals fresh scenes around every turn.

“Automatos,” “Hieratic” and the closing “Chums of Chance” exhibit exhilarating sections of full-out assault, but each take time out to explore other terrain, whether it’s scrambling scratchings from Morris or the numerous duo stretches when one player sits out. The contemplative “That Mountain” finds Morris filing his strings with a small saw or knife while Wooley emits long burring tones and Fernández surgically examines the piano’s insides.

The range of emotions and intensity is as exhausting as it is addictive. While improv discs can have a short shelf life, this one is a keeper.


Goldroom, “Only You Can Show Me” (feat. Mereki)

Goldroom, aka L.A. producer Josh Legg, proposes some sunny dancefloor gold, laced with the decorous vocals of Mereki Beach.



Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)”

Fresh from playing Montreal this weekend, Unknown Mortal Orchestra release a video depicting the tortured existence of a horny puppet. The naive aesthetic is a good fit for the mild-mannered track off their record II, but our protagonist’s peeping-tom antics reveal a complex exercise in contrast. Dirty, but deep.

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