Joshua Abrams’ Natural Information Society plays Trinosophes on May 20

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May 13, 2015 at 4:00 am

I got a press release the other week for a record called Magnetoception (Eremite), which read that "it sounds like no other music being made today," and I'd normally not pay any attention to such a claim, because public relations people are paid to promote stuff, and usually they're pimping things that sound like everything you've heard before, only worse. But since the release was sent from mail-order music distributor Forced Exposure (where at any given point in the last 20-plus years, I could easily spend an entire paycheck on just those artists whose names begin with "S"), and the fact that monster percussionist Hamid Drake plays on it, I actually took a listen to the linked music. And I have to say I've not been this excited about a show by an artist whose work is new to me in some time.

So who is this guy? Abrams got his start playing with the original version of the Roots in Philadelphia, and has lived for many years in the Chicago area, where he co-founded the pretty great post-rock group Town & Country. He has played with many of the best jazz musicians there, particularly new and old artists affiliated with the still fertile Association of the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The composer and bassist has performed on dozens of records by Fred Anderson, Will Oldham, Sam Prekop, and Prefuse 73. Live, he's played with artists as diverse as Roscoe Mitchell, Jandek, Tony Conrad, Rhys Chatham, and Neil Hagerty.

His ensemble, the Natural Information Society, brings together approaches generally associated with minimalist classical music, jazz, the outer reaches of New Age, krautrock, and various traditional musics from all over the globe. The reason this actually all works so well is that this project was started as a way to explore a sort of acoustic bass guitar called the guimbri, "a three-stringed animal hide bass traditionally used by the Gnawa of North Africa in healing ceremonies," according to Eremite. In most hands, this would be jive appropriation at best. But on their third record Magnetoception, the ensemble has locked into deep grooves and layered sounds that are nothing short of hypnotic. This music is uncategorizable in the very best sense, and seriously approaches visionary realms.