There’s no way it’s easy to make music this wonderful, but to listen to the Mutable Music release of “Timeless Pulse Quintet,” it’s equally hard to imagine anyone opening their eyes– let alone breaking a sweat. Of course, with Deep Listening Institute founder Pauline Oliveros on the roster, listeners should know it’s the ears that matter.
Listening isn’t just a casual activity for these five; it is more of a spiritual act capable of delivering the right sound at the right time, with the minimum of effort necessary to seemingly produce any additional noises. With two percussionists, live electronics, accordion, and voice work; another quintet could easily descend into caterwauling one-upsmanship that turns so many dynamic possibilities into little more than a pissing contest. Of course, you can see where I’m going with this, and that the TPQ do no such thing. Instead, as Oliveros says in the liner notes, they are “leaning into the moments of sounding…” an apt description of the overall process and tone of this disc.
Where other bands coordinate and synchronize, the Timeless Pulse Quintet choose to exercise trust and wait. The results are truly astounding, with George Marsh and Jennifer Wilsey‘s wide array of percussion blending perfectly with David Wessel‘s electronics, and Oliveros’s understated accordion chant and chatter. Thomas Buckner does a fine job of contributing vocal swells which often enhance the other performers in lieu of resting atop their foundation.
What initially interested me most about this album was the palpable confidence of the musicians in every track. At a certain point in listening to improvisational music, it is expected by listeners that the musicians have gotten past relying on trite functions, or cliched direction. It is less common, however, to see performers comfortable enough to minimize their contribution to the essential elements– the AMM could do it, artists such as Otomo Yoshihide or Sachiko M have also proved themselves in this area– so if you’re inclined in this direction (and you should be!) then you’ll want to add this disc to your collection.
As a side note, Timeless Pulse seems to have one other album available, sans Thomas Buckner. It is taken from a performance at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at Berkeley, in early 2002. I have a hard time believing there are not other documents of this powerful and compelling ensemble, though it wouldn’t be the first time the experimental listening community has had to do without adequate documentation of wonderful music.