Artist: Perry Ferya Band
Title / Release Page: Mantra
Release Date: 2014 Feb 25
Genre: Psychedelic Improvisation
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Pricing: Free / Donation
Label: Clinical Archives
The mantra of the Perry Ferya Band is easily stated in one word: improvise. This group is an off-shoot of the Skala Collective — a group of artists that support each other in solo and group projects. Mantra is the third release from the group, and definitely takes a bit of a turn from previous releases.
Mantra of the Perry Ferya BandThe Perry Ferya Band strives to seek a new level of hearing and communication through pure improvisation. This is a concept that has been around since the 1950’s and 1960’s. Karlheinz Stockhausen possibly took it furthest with Aus den sieben Tagen (English: From The Seven Days, composed in 1968) in which a group of musicians improvised pieces based purely on textual writings. The idea was that the musicians had to listen to each other, complement what each was doing, react, etc. to create music that reflected the texts. Many post-bop Jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and others took the concept of pure improvisation into the jazz music as a way to break free from the construct of improvising over a pre-determined harmonic and rhythmic structures. This level of improvisation lead to what has become known as Free Jazz, where the musicians tend to improvise predominantly based on their communication skills with each other. And, psychedelic rock of 1960’s and 1970’s frequently featured long, improvised, free-form solos in which bands like The Grateful Dead, Santana, Yes, and others would start from a rhythmic or harmonic structure of one of their pieces, and then transform the piece into something different based on the communication between the musicians and audience. (More recently “Jam Bands” have been compared to groups like The Grateful Dead and Santana to varying degrees.) Along this same time period emerged numerous fusion groups, such as Oregon and The Paul Winter Consort, that would fuse elements of jazz, rock, and world music into new forms. And this brings us to current music. While there are some groups and ensembles that still practice, to varying degrees, the kinds of improvisation found in the work of Stockhausen or Free Jazz, the majority of improvisation and fusion has not been found in many ambient or electronic artists works. This is where the Perry Ferya Band steps in by building on free jazz, psychedelic rock, pure improvisation, and world fusion music they build a bridge to the newer forms of ambient and electronic music. On Mantra the band presents us with four shorter studio improvisations and one large live improvisation. The overall structure fuses the concepts of their first two releases (Back Out and Live on Venus) into a single release. Opening with ‘Olympus Mons’, the group starts squarely in the 1960’s with a hard-hitting direct psychedelic rock-fusion piece that would make most cheer. It’s a set of sounds not heard often these days: synthesizer glissandi, electric piano driven progression, floating saxophone lines over the top of a hard driving drum rhythm. On ‘North’ the focus is on chimes and bells over a synthesizer drone, which has much of the feeling of an Asian chant or meditation. On the title track, ‘Mantra’ they group starts off with a more free-improvised form with drums, bells, didgeridoo and saxophone. About halfway through the pieces transforms into a more jazz like form with double bass, drums, saxophone and didgeridoo before eventually fading back out into more melodic ambient style. Just the level of improvisation and transformation in the first three tracks is impressive, and really makes a strong case for what the Perry Ferya Band does. Their improvisation skills have a complete range to them that can take you from one level to another with what seems like little effort. But making this work seem effortless is a testament to the skills and pure creativity of this ensemble. The last track, ‘Live on Mars’ is a continuation of the type of recording they first presented on Live on Venus where they perform in front of an audience, using all the tools and skills available to them. While the first four tracks present the types of transformation and fusion they are capable of on a smaller scale, these live works accomplish on a much larger scale.
This is one of the most exciting recordings I’ve heard this year. A group that is obviously exceptionally knowledgeable of many music forms, and skilled not only in working within those forms, but extending and transforming them with newer ideas and concepts is nothing short of amazing. I’ve been blown away every time I have listened to this recording. It doesn’t get old, it is an endlessly fascinating work that has found itself in a special place in my collection.