Maneri/Phillips/Maneri: Angles of Repose (ECM 1862)

Angles of Repose

Joe Maneri alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet
Barre Phillips double-bass
Mat Maneri viola
Recorded May 2002, Chapelle Sainte Philomèe, Puget-Ville
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Produced by Barre Phillips and Steve Lake

When Joe and Mat Maneri and Barre Phillips materialized in the studio to record Tales of Rohnlief, the result was a magical recipe of microtonal blues and other off-the-beaten-path catharses. The session begged for a sequel, and its name is Angles of Repose. This time around, our synergistic trio throws rules into the air like pigeon feed for the small frame of life that is the cover photograph (incidentally, my favorite ECM sleeve/title combination in the entire catalogue) in the name of integrity.

Number One
Phillips is a grounding force in this opener, adding as much as he takes away and saving the sawdust, so to speak, from his whittling. Joe snakes his prophetic way through vocal and instrumental languages in a veritable feast of biological rumination, tempered by analysis in the immediacy of discovery.

Number Two
The internal machine may be vast, but its weak spot is infinitesimal. Father and son patty-cake the earth into submission. You can skitter and flitter all you want, but you’ll never find the path unless it finds you, whether gelled by time or fragmented by the violence of discovery.

Number Three
Joe cracks the fountain with faith and signs his nameless art with dots and dashes. If he seems winded, it’s only because he is the wind. Ameliorated by the corona of experience, he tempers his weapons with air, that they might never pierce the skin of any mortal fear, along which flounders the death of discovery.

Number Four
Twisting between thumb and fingers, the night rolls the city into a cigarette and smokes it until it sleeps. Every noteless space only makes it stronger. Butterflies and rhinoceri now share the same breath, fraught with the wonder of discovery.

Number Five
A duet for strings of spacious mind channels the wastes of contradiction and melts them into a mold. As the sculpture cools, it becomes a shadow. Its visage weeps invisibility. The hands of passersby inadvertently float through it, so that all they are left with is the fallacy of discovery.

Number Six
The cup has tipped, its contents spreading in a partially eclipsed circle. In this pool where broken mirrors float, we see the multiplicity of our genetic code’s sonority. Harmonics are the edges of fingernails on glass, and further the edge of that glass on sky. Resonant beauty briefly surfaces—a dolphin’s back—before plunging into the brine of discovery.

Number Seven
Blood begets blood begets the onlooker, whose wayfarer soul quivers with the loss of discovery.

Number Eight
The metamorphosis has occurred, not from man to insect but from insect to man, still carrying the language of its forbearers, dribbling into the cupped hands of discovery.

Number Nine
Birdsong becomes liquid mercury in the room-temperature stare of indifference. It is here where music is born, shedding truth for its simulacrum in the hopes that it will be consumed more quickly and forgotten on the way to the core. When our ears spread their wings, they need only lift one talon to leave their carrion. All the screeching and scratching accomplishes one thing: activation. We can feel in the air a vibrant disturbance, which brings its own instructions, blank as October sky. There is a beginning in every end, the anode to galactic circuits in search of a name. And if you lean in close enough, it may just whisper it to you, for it is the breath of discovery.

Number Ten
The whale scratched by Ahab’s spear swims for a song. Its balanced lyric of play guides the sonar true. It wakes you up just to tell you to go to sleep. This is the dream of discovery.

Three lines make not a braid, but a single unbreakable filament plugged directly into the kundalini of any listener willing to close the mind and open the body to the possibility of its activation. Yes, the album has its highlights (Numbers Five and Nine, I’d say, if you asked me), and contains Joe’s most heart-wrenching playing on record, but its lowlights are just as expertly realized, for in this sound-world there is no hierarchy, only the contemplating line that wraps around us as it goes along its way. If pinnacles have restless dreams, these are their soundtracks.

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