Michael Mull Octet

Michael Mull Octet

Friday, August 9, 2013

MEZE @ El Cid Tonight 8/9/13

Last minute post, folks! Orkestar MEZE is going into the studio next week to record some incredibly grooving new music for our sophomore release! Come celebrate with us and hear some of the new tunes, performed live in public for the very first time. Two other fantastic bands are warming up the room before us, Klezmer junkies Bubbeleh and techy-world-jazz wizards Orange Tulip Conspiracy. The show starts at 9pm, but if you can't make it until "after hours", don't despair!!! Orkestar MEZE takes the stage at 11pm, and we play until last call. Tell them you are here to see MEZE!

Orkestar MEZE/Orange Tulip Conspiracy/Bubbeleh
El Cid
4212 W Sunset Blvd
Doors at 9pm, MEZE at 11pm
$10, 21+ only
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Bring your belly-dancing skills...there are prizes to be won at the classic Orkestar MEZE belly-dancing contest during our set!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Meshuggah pt. 2 - Transfixion

Long, long ago (in January 2012) I did a post where I shared and analyzed a transcription of Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal's solo on a track called "Beneath". You can check that post out here. If this is the first you are hearing of Meshuggah, or of my interest in them, I recommend you read the prior post before diving in here. I am presenting another solo today, with a third on the way (this time I mean it, I swear!).
Today we will look at Thordendal's solo on "Transfixion", a song from the same album as "Beneath", entitled Destroy Erase Improve (1995!). You can listen to the whole track here. The guitar solo begins at 1:40 on the full track. Spend some time just listening to the groove and the solo - follow along with the transcription to get used to how the rhythm guitar part (bottom staff) emphasizes different beats in the 2-bar repeating phrase. This riff is much less complex than a "typical" Meshuggah riff, but it makes for easier following-along on a very complex solo. Let's take a look (I recommend saving the pic to your desktop so you can zoom in with a picture viewing program):
Unlike the previous post, this is a very difficult solo to discuss harmonically, probably because it seems not to be about that at all. To me, this solo is all about shape - there is a lot of twisting and turning, and what you might call spiraling. From my limited knowledge of guitar techniques, I am fairly certain that the middle to the end of the solo (excluding, probably, the last few beats) is performed by tapping, which seems very visual and lends itself toward shapes. Thordendal goes mad-scientist on this one...

Taking a look at the first couple of interjections in relationship to the rhythm guitar riff, Thordendal shifts major to phrygian minor to an Eb/C# sound, and then completely departs. The beginning of m.4 hints at a whole-tone sound and jumps up to what I would call a "funky" phrase that lands on a B on the last eighth-note of the measure. This "lick" could be described in the diminished mode (respelled as C#-E#-G-A#-B, it fits the profile of C#13 with a flatted fifth), and introduces the diminished sound to the solo, to be expanded later. Thordendal hangs onto the "funky lick", an eighth-note earlier and isolated (m.5), and then begins, twists, and replays it once more ("fakeout", m.6).

M.7 is where the plane takes off - dropping almost three octaves from his last note, Thordendal digs into the diminished sound more fully, but with a slightly different selection of tones from the same diminished scale (looks like a tritone away from the previous set, G-B-C#-E-F). Beginning in m.8 we see a definitive 6-note shape appear (slurs are used for discussion and don't indicate any emphasis in the performance). Compare the second and third phrases, marked a and a' respectively - they are identical except that in a' Thordendal switches the first two notes (E and Bb) and places the E an octave higher, setting up the fully formed, prevailing shape for the next 3 measures (note also that here the rhythm guitar "opens up" from palm-muted to ringing notes, highlighted brilliantly by this high-register pattern). This shape continues to develop and alter slightly, as labeled, and upon the introduction of Eb's in the phrase marked c'', the melody departs from the diminished sound to what we can affectionately call "no man's land".

The rest of the solo spirals upward until another shape is revealed in m.14, this time a group of nine that is played three times, transposed up a half step each time. The third time, the final interval is changed to a major 3rd instead of a major 2nd, setting up another wild line that both concludes the rising chromaticism (G to Ab in m.15) and reaches the highest pitch in the solo (4 ledger-line G). It is worth noting that from the G to Ab resolution, Thordendal's line leaps outward (wider intervals), and seems to "close", with shrinking intervals all the way up to the last note.

I'll finish up with a general impression. The lack of a harmonic center in this solo is a highlight for Thordendal's ability to give identity through shape- and rhythm-based phrasing; the first two short phrases of the solo end with an upward leap of a 5th, and every subsequent phrase-ending is a downward-leaping tritone, every time landing on a strong downbeat (with the exception of m.4 ending on the "& of 4). The effect is a solo that is outwardly chaotic with a deeper, funky sensibility underneath. I'd love to hear other ideas, thoughts, and comments from readers. Thank you for reading and keep your eyes here - next up, a Meshuggah "classic" off of the Chaosphere album!