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Turner Williams Jr. "Briars on A Dewdrop"

Briars On A DewdropJust about anything which bucks stereotypes, and the more effortlessly the better, is usually fine and dandy with me. The notion of a sustained outbreak of surrealism down in Alabama is therefore beyond delicious. I say this because there's a definite sense in which Turner Williams Jr. is following in the rambling loose limbed footsteps of such musicians as Ron Pate, Fred Lane, LaDonna Smith, and particularly Davey Williams, who studied with Johnny Shines and was part of the whole Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue scene - playing alto and guitar on such pieces as "The Lonely Astronaut" and "Concerto For Active Frogs''. Let me say here that the origin of pataphysics is perhaps best left to another time, since Alfred Jarry's absurdity and all that merde (absinthe-fueled and otherwise) simply cannot be skimmed over.

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On the three tracks here, at least, Williams Jr. manages to play a variety of strings with a truly wild yet intensely focused style. I have not heard much like it. In a humdrum world of scissor kicking guitarists he's a real Fosbury Flop. The resulting waves of jangled and strangled sounds at times resemble a bottleneck jam of notes being squeezed and released; like traffic buzzing along, slowing, and then oozing through a toll gate to speed along or crash and explode. Eastern-tinged vibrations dominate throughout, as if electricity were throbbing along desert telegraph wires, setting fire to antique receiving equipment in some remote Embassy with a boom, crackle and pop, and dispatching fierce hums and whines of distorted feedback, throbbing backwards and squealing up through hot air rising and howling like out-of-control robot space-wolves bouncing off an old knackered rusted satellite on their way to oblivion. Or maybe to Oblivion, Alabama.

To stunning effect, he plays electric shahi baajas, (probably) bulbulturang, definitely FX and Gaz, and some other instruments which I haven't yet deduced. He plucks and thrashes as skillfully as someone with a PhD in plucking and medals for thrashing, who recently woke up and decided to quit messing around and work at really cranking up his game. That is not an indictment of his previous releases, by the way, because I haven't yet found time to hear any of them. Briars On A Dewdrop can easily be digested in one sitting or sampled track by track in any order. The lengthy third piece "On A Dewdrop" has a scorching crescendo which left me wanting more, so I'd have preferred for that final track to precede the more spacious "Briars." Actually I'd also like for the pieces to swap titles as well, because "On A Dewdrop" is much more spiky and prickly. I suppose it is more surreal to have the titles mixed up, though, but then again I'm Dada all the way so I am leaving that to the surrealists.

Williams Jr. has fairly recently decamped to France, and he recorded these pieces before heading off. These are beautifully tangled stylistic brambles through which to wade, a marvelous journey which in theory could be spent trying to work out how it all fits together, but that isn't really necessary, and neither is a thick tweed jacket or thornproof headphones. The flow is the thing, and like a river hitting a weir before cascading down over rapids, this music has it in spades. What comes to mind is hard to describe: part Dogon spacecraft with a wheel in the ditch, part absurd Ubu Roi theatrics, part three million bicycles carried by the fleeing shirtless population of a flooded Asia, part chubby cow jumping over the doggone moon.

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