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Carl Stone
We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2 Dustin Krcatovich , October 18th, 2022 08:55

Another win for the resurgent cutup composer, this time mining a Finnish jazz label's back catalog for source material

Carl Stone is keeping busy these days. Since the Unseen Worlds label started to issue some of his under-recognised work from the 1970s–90s in 2016, the Tokyo-based composer has enjoyed a popular resurgence, and a spate of new works has met with even more accolades.

Much of Stone’s recent music is constructed by taking popular musics from around the world and pulling them through various sampling technology (most especially the MAX programming language) like so much digital taffy. These compositions are texturally familiar, but structurally challenging; they can be gorgeous, silly, even nigh-danceable.

For this release, Stone is the latest participant in a series where artists are given carte blanche to use ten releases from the Finnish label We Jazz as source material for new works. Ideal territory for Stone, but also a bit new: the textures of jazz and free improv are decidedly different building blocks from that of pop, no matter how geographically wide his net has previously been cast.

Yet Stone takes to this source material like a fish to water, and the resulting pieces bear his unmistakable mark. Throughout We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2, snatches of bass melody fold over themselves and lapse into layers of digital detritus; horns melt into fragrant piles of simmering metal and plastic. Sometimes, as on the relatively brief blast of ‘Omar’, the throb and semi-repetition turns into something resembling early glitch music, moving with the tempo of the dancefloor even as it strives to trip up any fancy footwork.

If that sounds a bit unpleasant, rest assured that Stone's re-workings can also be quite lovely at times. Opening track ‘Umi’ is as fragmented as anything here, but its layers of long horn notes coalesce into something closer to meditative. Though the approach is different, its blending of spiritual jazz and modern electronic textures ultimately isn't terribly far off from Nala Sinephro’s recent work, or Floating Points’ ballyhooed collaboration with the late Pharoah Sanders.

Some more doctrinaire jazz fans may be challenged by Stone’s edits on We Jazz Reworks Vol. 2. Plenty of artists have crossed the sonic streams for decades, but as with any long-tailed musical tradition, jazz has its more puritanical sects who might think Stone’s slicing and dicing goes against an ‘in the moment’ ethos long associated with the music. There’s a point to be made there, but in a sense, Stone’s snips, layers, and impossible swerves make the whole listening experience into jazz, into dense worlds where listeners can choose to hone their focus on one of several unpredictable aural paths.