Music

Living By Lanterns: New Myth / Old Science

The least romantic part about space is that it's a vacuum.


Living By Lanterns

New Myth/Old Science

Label: Cuneiform
US Release Date: 2012-10-02
UK Release Date: 2012-10-01
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

Soundbites in music are nothing to be frightened of. Once one is beyond the novelty, you'll see that the selection of what soundbite a musical artist uses to introduce their work can be telling. Consider "New Myth", a 70-odd-second prelude of noodling that greets the listener at the start of New Myth/Old Science, the debut album from the all-star jazz band Living By Lanterns. The idea behind this new band, spear-headed by Chicago drummer Mike Reed, is to take unused scraps from the late, great Sun Ra and configure them into the sounds of today's leading improvisers.

Track one appears to be a brief appropriation of a lecture from the old master and contains the following line: "Faith can be a grid between what is called reality and what is thought to be myth." (If this is not from a Sun Ra lecture, then I prepare to stand corrected). Right away, we are warned not to take anything on faith -- taking things on faith steers one from reality. Go around the bend just a little bit and you get to "myth", a kind word that people will pin to uncertainties when they are feeling charitable. To say that myth and reality are mutually exclusive is a stretch, which is what makes the following soundbite, appearing after a series of mutters, sound so off-putting: "If you're not a myth, whose reality are you? And if you're not a reality, whose myth are you?"

Before you confuse yourself any further, let's pull back and look at the lineup of Living By Lanterns. In addition to Mike Reed, there's Greg Ward, Taylor Ho Bynum, Ingrid Laubrock, Tomeka Reid, Mary Halvorson, Jason Adasiewicz, Joshua Abrams, Tomas Fujiwara and special guest Nick Butcher. That's ten names in all. And if you follow modern jazz to any degree then you are probably familiar with at least two of them. They represent the cream of the improvisational jazz crop from New York and Chicago and lengthy Wikipedia entries can be made for each one's discography. You would also need one hell of an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of how often each of these musicians have played with one another. The main point to take away from this is that these are big names. They are all out there, in the trenches, keeping their musical personalities in heavy rotation with limited means. But the qualitative law of supergroups (something I just made up) suggests that the sum of the parts can't be carried by faith alone. And if faith is a grid, then prepare yourself for gridlock. This is music where the keel is even and where the table has no centerpiece. Even when a challenging force such as the Arkestra is used as a template, New Myth/Old Science doesn't have a mood or dynamic to call its own. It just is.

And talent be damned. In the recent past I've given a good review to Adasiewicz, a very good one for Ward, and enjoyed Mike Reed's Clean on the Corner. But when vague talk of airy myth gets batted around too much, it turns into a liability, threatening to seep into one's sound. And where a guy like Sun Ra probably harnessed and eventually overcame this, it's the default setting for Living By Lanterns. No wispers to anyone, no nuclear war, no trips to space.

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.