The Butcher-Bryerton-Khoury Trio/Baczkowski-Sack Duo Split is a cassette consisting of two live recording of free improv jazz jams that are dark and foreboding in a timeless manner. Like a lot of the sounds emanating from the House of Alchemy label out of Buffalo, the music itself leans in the direction of abstract, relying less on melody and more on evolving soundscapes that progress over time.
Beginning with the second side, we find the Buffalo-based group the Baczkowski-Sack Duo performing “Keet Seel.” The track begins with Bill Sack’s dissonant guitar clanking away over tape static-like sound, which is then soon joined by the distinctive saxophone work of Steve Baczkowski. Much of Baczkowski’s sax work here is reminiscent of early-90s John Zorn, except slightly less chaotic.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe the listening experience one is in for here is to compare it to watching a low-budget, black-and-white horror film on a public access channel at 3am. “Keet Seel” is isolating and claustrophobic, rapidly building chaotic tension that slowly falls and eventually dissipates into calmness.
At times the frenetic interplay between these Hallwall’s cohorts comes across as a random assortment of sounds, but other times it feels entirely deliberate and focused. The saxophone shape-shifts over the prepared guitar, taking form as a frenzied robot that we hear mentally self-destructing. This is the kind of abstract piece that inevitably gives rise to a lot of unique—and perhaps unsettling–mental imagery within the mind of the listener. It can be challenging to understand or appreciate, but the beauty makes itself apparent if enough attention is focused upon it.
The first side of the cassette comes from a trio led by the legendary British saxophonist John Butcher. Accompanied by percussionist Jerome Breyton and violinist Mike Khoury, the collective piece, “Untitled,” is in the same vein as–but definitely distinct from–the first side.
The biggest difference between the first and second side is the presence of percussion on the first side, which reinforces the haunting qualities and tone of the track. While not straightforward drumming in any sense, the percussion here instead adds flourishes and sonic brushstrokes that leave you feeling cold (in the best way, I assure you) as Breyton dances around his kit.
Overall, the album has a very interesting spirit that, if you are willing to open up to it, will leave a haunting impression on you. Recommended for anyone looking to hear a dissonant soundtrack of metanoia, and not to anyone alone in a dark room at night.
Review by Roth’s Child