Grosse Abfahrt is based around a core of stellar Bay Area improvisers — Tom Djll, Gino Robair, Tim Perkis, Matt Ingalls, and John Shiurba — who have been working together for decades. The group always features guest musicians, and on its new CD, Vanity, it’s faced with the independently developed style of the French string duo of Matthieu Werchowski and David Chiesa, with Bay Area cellist Theresa Wong helping bridge the gaps of instrumentation and familiarity. The visiting string players are rooted in slightly more conventional techniques than the far-extended and electro-acoustic core group, and reconciling these differences is one of the challenges of the project.
In “Live Free or Die Delphi2” the musicians create transcendental music from a place of total trust. The track opens with tense, Terminator-like sci-fi horror music: a driving contrabass pulse underlies sustaining electronic dissonances. As different small groupings of players stand out from the group backdrop, new textures constantly emerge. Soon the music is intensely quiet, with instrumental sounds approaching room ambience. Dropping into sustained quietness like this requires great trust between the collaborating improvisers, with the opportunity to take the lead — and the danger of ruining the music — never closer. It is one of the highest states of improvised music, a state where anything is possible. Here are some of the strangest sounds on the album: a few phrases of something like someone folding laundry, and weird breath sounds jabbing out from improperly sounded horns. Executed perfectly, and the music is fantastic. (Emanem)