Review

Joe McPhee, Mette Rasmussen & Dennis Tyfus

Oblique Strategies

Black Truffle • 2023

What constitutes »Oblique Strategies«? The adjective contained in the title can be understood as »weird«, »indirect« or »hidden«. This record is everything at once. First, Joe McPhee, Mette Rasmussen and Dennis Tyfus make weird music. Free improvisations? Check. Microtonality? Check. Guttural singing? Check. Abstract noises? Metallic scratching? Electro-acoustic tape manipulations? Check, check, check! »Oblique Strategies« is a tour de force through all kinds of tropes that beg the question if »this is still music«. Yet, the triumvirate refutes intellectual pretensions and symbolic interpretations. If you only knew the song titles – »Death or Dinner«, »Sun Gore«, »Destilled Edible« and »Light My Fire«–, you might mistake »Oblique Strategies« for Grindcore.

Indeed, it shares Extreme Metal’s fascination for the repressed unconscious of music, noise and the animal potential of the human voice. But anchored in Jazz, »Oblique Strategies« finds repose. Rather than overwhelming directly, the album designs networks in which sounds can unfold. This indirect approach leads to some highlights. For example, there are several moments in which vocals and saxophone flow indistinguishably into each other. While the pieces might have benefited from more contouring, it is a pleasure to be surprised by their twists and turns. This reveals the last dimension of »Oblique Strategies«. Under its idiosyncrasies, a celebration of human creativity is hidden.