Volume 1 from the trio Bogie, Kaufman and Mann is an unpolished gem of improvisation.
Released last month by Figure & Ground, Volume 1 is the first in “An Archival Series of Live Instrumentals,” an ongoing collaboration of off-the-cuff recordings from the threesome.
The musicians, Stuart Bogie, Josh Kaufman and Geoff Mann, have all etched their own spot in the wax of recent records. Bogie fronts the group Superhuman Happiness and has performed with Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, Wu Tang Clan, and Iron and Wine. Kaufman has produced for and been involved with the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, The National and The War on Drugs. Mann drums for the group Here Lies Man and has done film and TV scoring. Bogie and Mann also perform in Antibalas.
Volume 1 was recorded at the end of 2015 over the course of two days, tracked in real time in a cramped room.
What the speakers play back is the beauty of free-thinking musicians interlocked by the mind, discovering a new dance as a primal response. Bogie, Kaufman and Mann unravel the ethos of jam to find a subtle dynamic, minimalist and in the moment. Each song time stamped and irretrievable like smoke blown into the air.
“Hodges,” the opening track, finds a saxophone, some drums and a guitar coming awake for a nine-minute-plus morning stretch that lingers into a yawning pipe flute and sun-rising feedback. It is the sound of a new beginning, of wormholes opening into new possibilities, the summoning of something undefined. Like the possessed brooms from Disney’s Fantasia cleaning up Mickey Mouse’s mess, the instruments are dealing with a mad hangover, rolling over the studio to reaffirm their stance. “Hodges” quells into a unified crescendo setting Volume 1 in motion.
The next song, “Lawrence,” moves like a single picked leaf in a post-storm breeze with a sleepy guitar moving along.
“Palmer” hops around with sturdy drums, video game keyboards and some munchkins ya-da-da-da-ing over the top with barbecue glee. The pan flute returns on “Ping,” hovering over picked acoustic guitars in an empty field. “Taylor” finds a muddy sax milling around drunk talking to the drum beat until falling out into a low wandering street groove. By the final song, “Zox,” the listener should be wide awake and running out the door to the dirty stomp of the drum beat to start the day.
Bogie, Kaufman and Mann have found an enticing bond.
What you’re hearing on Volume 1 is the sound of talented, able-bodied musicians listening to each other in a room lacking natural light, entangled in looped black cords. What they reveal on Volume 2 can be the path to a whole new sonic realm.