The gorgeously named Fume Of Sighs has been the object of an experiment performed by yours truly, who lived with this album – exclusively – for three days. At home, on the train, in the streets. Everywhere. The consequence is easily interpretable, synthesized by a simple conception: even the most convoluted audible structures – including the ones that could appear as mind-consumingly fatiguing with a dilettantish plan of attack – become an antimicrobial second nature subsequently to an exhaustive process of assimilation.
An emblematic mistake made by percipients who normally bath in tides of cascading synths reiterating the same unremarkable drone for 25-plus minutes until a sampled beatific consort enlightens their clever lives and over-average individualities is that of forcing themselves to a (theoretically indispensable) secernment of the mechanics of interrelation between unusual timbres and unpredictable acoustic paths. If a proper preparatory activity is missing, that is the way to inherit a cephalgia from the failure of identifying the meaningful core of the matter. This lack of awareness is typically expressed by sentences describing flakey phenomena in vivid wording while emphasizing the lone elements that can be effortlessly recalled. Considering that a segment called “The Theoretician” features the sample of a grunting swine, we’re authorized to believe that Bark! seem to be inclined to assist potential masses with apprehensible concepts, after all.
Seriously, now. When one forgets about factors of characterization, mandatory compartmentalizations and related activities, all that remains is realizing that those polymorphic combinations are working subliminally (in spite of their immoderate dynamical and timbral variety) to beef up inner cerebral muscles. What’s perceived as pandemonium ab initio is, on the contrary, tightly arranged by the organic glue of originative intuition. Amidst crucial intersections of skewed non-tempos, bushwhacking patterns self-generate to offer a warranty of symmetricalness and balance. The brightness, crispiness, humor, exactitude, intelligibility of a given composition might help in fixing selected parts of the record inside the memory cells. A previous experience in managing the multi-ball feature of a pinball machine is also useful (I’m not kidding: picture holding a ball ready on the left flipper and – at the same instant – launching another against the “special” target with the right, keeping an eye on the score in the meantime. What do you know, Playstation nerds? We had great fun, exercised reflexes and, above all, didn’t look like grimacing retards). In “journalistic” terms, inviting to “listen to the peg-legged pulse of the title track” translates as “pathetic”, exactly as telling that “a broken china versus drums pairing gets exhilarating as the distorted guitar comes in” (it happens in “A Room Each”). All is needed to understand is how galvanizing this CD is. And if you get somewhat used to its propinquity, be careful not to grin on the local promenade: if someone asks “what are you listening to?” and you pass them the headphones, your social relations risk to be permanently altered.
MASSIMO RICCI, Touching Extremes, 2014
…the BARK trio proves conclusively on this CD that exemplary free sounds are more the product of commitment and conception than instrumentation… swift, beat-oriented electronic riffs banish any processed preciousness from the interface… the ten tracks are rife with the all-encompassing motion that in other circumstances is called swing and was a title of an earlier BARK! CD…
With stentorian sequences of motor-driven buzzes, signal-processed ricochets and quivering reverb on a tune like “a room each”, the three create the sort of collective improvisational polyphony that usually results from Free Jazz’s expected lung and muscle power. Yet here, alongside textures that resemble a soundtrack of breaking glass and car crashes, Marks’ clip-clopping drum beats are still heard as are Casswell’s string slaps. The title track provides more of the same. Alongside Obermayer’s envelopes of droning vibrations, ring modulator-like gongs and flanged, vibraharp-like pulses from Marks’ percussion is Casswell repetitively strumming what could be an oversized rubber band. Furthermore, while the band name may suggest a canine, tracks such as “the theoretician” position sampled hog snorts and barnyard poultry cacophony alongside elastic tape-ripping plus staccato string licks and twangs.
Collective sound creation can be more delicate as well, as when the guitarist’s closely miked licks squeak and resonate, or the percussionist sounds as if he’s slapping a plastic swizzle stick on his drum tops as he rattles and rubs the instruments’ wood and rims. Plus the three are canny in their use of deliberate pauses, hollow tunnel echoing patterns or precise timbral placement. But such is the exhilarating unpredictability of Free Music that these pastoral sequences on tracks such as “trampoline” or “crobes” can be instantaneously fragmented by voltage-generated sibilate razzing or vocalized guffawing burps. Instantaneous polyrhythmic responses from Marks underline many of these outbursts.
High-quality electro-acoustic sounds that should even impress those who prefer their instruments unamplified, plus an intense Free Jazz variant that will convince those who insist that sounds should be minimalist and understated, it’s evident that BARK! can reconcile seemingly incompatible preferences. That in itself, as well as the quality of the CD’s program should be celebrated.
KEN WAXMAN, JazzWord, December 2012
Two songs into the latest BARK! recording, fume of sighs, I realized that I was becoming very overwhelmed with what I was hearing… It was too much too fast. There were guitar scrapes, rhythmic clatters and samples of unknown origin all convulsing my ears. I can’t help myself from referring to the band’s name here. It sounded like three dogs from three different breeds in the same kennel barking at each other, but in perfect syncopation… there are parts where all of the instruments sound as one, and times where they are so far apart you would swear they were being conducted in order to stay together… It works due to it surprise and persistence…
PHILIP COOMBS, The Free Jazz Collective, September 2012
…tightly precise control, each gesture carefully placed within a deceptively loose and baggy frame… What’s most impressive is the way the trio manages to play around the gaps within these minutely crowded structures, as though applying a microscope powerful enough to illuminate subatomic spaces. Pull back and adjust the magnification and you see it’s one living thing that knows exactly where it’s going.
DANIEL SPICER, Wire, July 2012