Half Life is a collaboration out of the depths of the dystopic year we had, a spark of an idea that ignited the miasmic gases we breathed throughout the spring of 2020. Winter is coming now and the death and despair are multiplied by bad weather, a surge in cases, and a polarization and election hell rendering impossible even the meager measures we managed back in the opening act. The toxic flame hardened, shaped into an album of bleak noise-jazz, an uneasy ambience to cathart the winter of our dysfunction.
On the first day of Eliot's "cruellest month", Ryan Scott Mattingly awoke with the realization that the pandemic quarantine was going to be long. Panic escalating, "I sat down with my guitar and a single microphone and decided to document what I was feeling. There was no premeditation. I only knew that I was not feeling okay and making this music was a way to turn that cloud of anxiety into something else. I decided then to record every note I improvised during the month of April. After listening back to the first two improvisations, I wrote to JayVe Montgomery."
Montgomery takes up the thread: "Had plans been possible since March, I might have been busy but, three weeks into quarantine I was wiping off the wounds of cancelled gigs, creative and rideshare, and managing how to maintain my musical practice. When Scott hit me up I was eager for direction, eager to have some creative purpose that wasn’t completely self generated. A collaboration! My half of the tracks were recorded in a variety of places and uncomfortable positions; tenor saxophone circular breathing over lengthy tracks while crouching in the backseat of the rideshare rental sedan I held onto through April - parked at two of my favorite Nashville parks; my partner’s childhood closet; a bathroom in a laundry room, which yielded much less comfort and recording time than the backseat; my storage space near the highway, which yielded a lovely day of recording and outboard effecting; my friend Steve’s house; any place where I could emote these feelings without too much trouble to people having to also adjust to these new ways of being.”
As it progressed, the disorientation of the time bled into exasperated melancholy, anger, fear. Mattingly spent May sorting through the hundreds of recordings, and Half Life took shape. Scott and JayVe never saw each other throughout the entire process. There's an ultra-dimensional power in these sounds, unease sparkling with bleak tension morphing to stunning beauty and radiance, as if the music sprang directly from the plague. Drink deeply of the contagion juice because the vaccine isn't coming soon!
Ryan Scott Mattingly and JayVe Montgomery are Nashville-based sonic explorers finding the textures of sound unbound by colonial categories. Mattingly's work sets washes of noise alongside sounds from daily life creating melodic songscapes with traditional acoustic instruments (guitar, banjo, mandolin, double bass), electronics (synthesizer, pedal steel) and homemade instruments, weaving those juxtapositions into grandiose, otherworldly textures. Montgomery is a creative musician from the Sonic Healing Ministries sector of the Chicago Improvised Music scene. Since relocating to Nashville he has become an integral member of the (outer) music city experimental series FMRL, and is 2019 alum of the Big Ears and High Zero Festivals. His last live show was at the True/False Festival of Film & Music, March 2020. Here in this remote collaboration he continues to expand the depths of his saxophone tone and use of multiphonics with electronics.
released December 11, 2020
All instruments played by JayVe Montgomery and Ryan Scott Mattingly
Engineered and produced by Ryan Scott Mattingly and JayVe Montgomery
Mixed and mastered by Ryan Scott Mattingly
Photograph by JayVe Montgomery
Design by Leticia Arioli
I would like to thank Carol and Dan Helton for the love they provide for my family. Your support throughout this strange time allowed me an opportunity to work on this record while knowing my daughter was merrymaking with you two.
Thank you to Joshua Carlan. You were the first true friend I knew. You have listened to countless hours of me conjuring together noisy bleeps and bloops, yet you still excitedly helped me put this together. I could not want for a brother to be knit closer to my heart.
Thank you to Lisa for being my eyes and ears when my thoughts were muddled. You are a mirror for beautiful things, and I'm grateful for the way you have tied your heart to mine. During this quarantine, you have found light in new places. I love you.
Thank you to Sylvia for playing music with me, humming my songs, making me laugh and showing me a life that was impossible before you were born. You are a unique, incredible soul that has been amazing to share my days with. I am thankful that you're my feral little bug. I can't imagine anyone I could love more.
Thank you to Bill Harkleroad for illuminating infinite paths (some of which you surely forged) and allowing me to choose which to take. I have no doubt that there are things I could not have played on this record before I met you.
Thank you to my Mother Yvonne Hughes, my partner Lareisa Griner and her family, my friend Steve Poulton, my friend Chris Davis for putting RSM and I on the same bill in his FMRL series, and to the fine people of Nashville who have helped to see some of my favorite recording and practicing environments, our parks, come in to being. Thank you to all my comrades in the improvised music community, from Chicago to Saturn. Thanks for hollering RSM. Thanks for listening (to) FPE.
So happy to see a new album from this band. I've long been a fan of Mazurek and Parker's work in Tortoise, on top of the CUQ... Anyhow, if you're curious about contemporary jazz, this is a terrific place to start.