Published May 19, 2009The marriage of Stockhausen to Sun Ra works on many levels, and is utterly ridiculous on others. In the hands of the Respect Sextet, common musical ground is created with beautiful, re-imagined orchestrations. The appeal of Ra is natural for the band; their previous album, Respect In You, blended freedom with gutbucket grooves and occasionally featured all members jamming on percussion, á la the Arkestra. Stockhausen's austerity provides a successful counterpart to Ra's cosmic melodies, and the lack of rhythmic heft in the treatment of the composer's work actually enhances the flow of the disc. The disc proceeds soundclash-style: the tracks alternate between the two composers until the very end where the fascinating "Capricorn/Saturn" medley gets both of them in the same bed, with sexy results! The performances are strong throughout and Red Wierenga's little electronic touches add just enough experimentally vintage textures to avoid gimmick status. If there's one flaw to the disc it's the drumming in some of the more straight-ahead Sun Ra passages; their brief take on "Velvet" doesn't pop as hard as it should. Atmospherically though, the sextet have created a rich listening experience that is bound to invite repeated listening.
You guys love to swing. Was it hard to hold yourselves back on the Stockhausen covers?
Red Wierenga (piano/electronics): One thing about the project is that it allowed us both to swing and not to. We did joke about doing a version of Stockhausen's "Goldstaub," which calls for fasting for four days, but at the end of the four days we would go into the studio and lay down a burning Sun Ra swinger; we didn't end up doing that. While we like to swing we also like to explore other sound worlds and this allowed us to do both
Did you see yourselves aligning with any of the players in the Arkestra, like John Gilmore or Marshall Allen?
For me, personally, it's impossible not to feel a kinship with Sun Ra. Yet his approaches to improvisation and electronic keyboards were so utterly unique that it would feel disingenuous to try to copy them. Instead, I tried to understand what lay behind his approaches and how I could use them to inform my playing. I haven't spoken with the other guys specifically about it but I'm sure with the amount of listening we did that Allen and Gilmore influenced our approach to the music. (Avant/Mode)