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Oasis of Whispers

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Album Review

Oasis of Whispers rights all the wrongs that plagued Clouds, a previous live recording by Lee Ranaldo and William Hooker. The addition of multi-instrumentalist Glen Hall to the now longstanding (although not often gigging) duo brings a lot of focus to the music. His saxes, flutes, clarinets, and hand-held percussion instruments often take the lead seat, drawing up moods for Ranaldo and Hooker to paint with their guitar loops and frantic drumming. The nine free improvisations herein are at times raucous like the best free jazz, gloomy like a film noir soundtrack, or simply Ranaldo-esque in their starkness (yes, the man does get to lead the way once in a while). No poetry this time, but you will hear much shouting (Hall?) and occasional voices trapped in Ranaldo's audio collages. The 16-minute "Conference Call" features such a collage, with unrelated snippets of telephone conversations crisscrossing each other. The improvisation these voices underpin is particularly strong, but the collage gets tiresome early on and will keep looping until the very end of the track. "The Mechanism" and "View from Bellevue" provide other highlights, Hooker's tom-tom-heavy drumming style propelling the trio. Hall made some questionable choices when he edited the tapes, some tracks cutting abruptly in mid-fade-out, but that is nothing compared to Ranaldo's post-recording treatments on Clouds. Still, one wonders why he felt the need to cut up long improvisations into smaller chunks. At least, Oasis of Whispers retains the urgency of the live performance, recorded in September 2001, when urgency rang true. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Oasis of Whispers, Hall Ranaldo Hooker
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