Expo Seventy: America Here and Now Sessions (Essence Music, 2016)
America Here and Now Sessions was part of a travelling art exhibition of the same name. Expo Seventy is the brainchild of Justin Wright who is joined here by Aaron Osborne (Monta at Odds and Mysterious Clouds) on bass with duel drummers Mike Vera (Shroud of Winter) and David Williams. Wright hails from Kansas City, Missouri and founded the project in 2003. Here, Expo Seventy brings a brand of experimental psychedelia in this set of improvisational tracks. America Here and Now Sessions is two compositions over twenty minutes in length each. Both pieces are long builds with drones, driving guitars, complex percussion, and experimental touches. The pieces here were intended to be part of a much larger art exhibition which the album is named after. However, the exhibition lost funding and the larger project was abandoned. Expo Seventy, however, was able to capture two tracks for the project that have been released on this album.
“First Movement” begins America Here and Now Sessions with delay heavy guitars and tambourine. The band begins slow, demonstrating a patience in their freeform composition. There really is no solid form here but rather Osborne’s bass creeps about among the repeating guitar while Williams and Vera pour over their percussion utilizing shimmering cymbals, tambourine, snare, and subtle toms. There is almost a rather ritualist feel here, evoking a meditative or, perhaps, metaphysical feel. Sometimes the looped guitar will burst in with fuzzed out drones and then fade. There is a rock-like core to the composition but it has a soothing, minimalistic repetition to it that contributes to an almost mystical sense in the piece. At around the eight-minute mark, the guitar gets more drone like with muffled thickness and spacey sounds floating overtop. Osborne begins to play some prominent bass lines and they are more complex than earlier, contributing a slightly urgent feel. About 18 minutes in, the guitars get dreamy and the melodic phrases are reverbed out a touch with echoing, looped guitars. The percussion gets more complex and then the volume begins to fade out and the layers begin to strip away. The end is almost drone-like, with an ambient sort of anti-structure to it.
“Second Movement” begins with a drone and an oscillating synth sound on repeat. The drone fluctuates, changes modes, and varies slightly in different places. Swelling cymbals rise and fall amid the soundscape as robotic sounds begin to dot it. Toms also begin to be introduced against this spaced-out lunarscape evoking the vastness of space. The thing is, the mystical remains here, perhaps even more so, as the formless improvisation patiently unfolds. Eventually the toms become present, creating another sense of ritualized aural space. The drones don’t disappear but they become less prominent and the percussion takes the fore around sixteen minutes. The guitar hums and fuzzes under the beating of toms and the crashing of cymbals. This section begins the build as the wall of sound begins to erupt and Vera and Williams really begin to explode on the drums. Wright’s guitar work becomes chaotic and the band feels as if it is going to lose all sense of musical adhesion. However, they never get to that point as the drone once again becomes prominent and the drums increasingly sparse. Galloping toms enter the mix and rock-style guitar phrases become a part of the compositions. Sometimes Wright holds out the notes, stretching them as far as they will go before he returns to the brief guitar phrasing. The track slowly fades into the distance, ending the long, drone-like piece beautifully.
Expo Seventy has created extended, psychedelic soundscapes drifting from drones to rock and then back again. Their brand of long-form improvisation evokes ritualized aural metaphysics with heavy mystical leanings. These are jam sessions, but not with the gaudy solos and overwrote improvs that so plague the genre. America Here and Now Sessions demonstrates the experimental and patient expression of Wright and company on these two existentially potent tracks.
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