The Chicago-based Random Touch improvising collective was formed by
Christopher Brown (vocals and drums), who in
in 1975 had formed the multimedia collective Trusty Wourins Performance Ensemble,
James Day (keyboards), who had played in the rock bands between
1978 and 1982,
Scott Hamill (guitars),
In 1998 they added video artist Matthew Ebbin to their shows.
Their (mostly instrumental) releases include:
the double-disc Places We Go (2001),
Hammering On Moonlight (2002), with
Crazy In Blue and Moonlight In My Veins (the rare extended
pieces for them),
the more atmospheric A Parade of Dusty Hobos (2004),
The You Tomorrow (2004), a collection of 17 mini-pieces and 15 videos,
The Elegance of Falling (2005).
The keyboards were more prominent on
Alchemy (2007) and
A True Conductor Wears a Man (2008).
They usually mixed jarring chaos (inspired by the dissonant avantgarde and
free jazz) with oblique structures (inspired by prog-rock and jazz-rock).
Unlike traditional jazz improvisation, Random Touch coined a brand of
logical improvisation that is not quite spontaneous
just like the music can be abstract without being chaotic and deviant without being cacophonous.
Their ability to dwell at the junction of
technical virtuosity and songwriting craft is evident on
A Way From the Heard (Token Boy, 2009), a collection of 14 pieces
that are rich in instrumental effects and non-trivial counterpoint:
the duet between frantic percussion and swinging keyboards in Skating the Rings,
the duet between liquid guitar tones and astral keyboard sounds in Inhabit the Groove,
the understated vocal solo of A Fairy Tooth Cake,
the magisterial ticking of Blue Ice,
the asphyxiated guitar hiccups of Footprints of Mars and
the ghostly psychedelic distorted guitar clangor of From Beverly Hills.
Mercenary is emblematic of how guitar and keyboards pop up
unexpectedly with their uncharted atonal timbres.
Hanging out Windows, virtually a concerto of discreet loosely-related
sounds, instead epitomizes Random Touch's controlled chaos.
As it is often the case with Random Touch's albums, this is more a sample
of explorations than a display of finished concepts.
Random Touch also released A Box And A Word (2009),
Duologue (2009), for just drums and guitar, and Turbulent Flesh (2009) in the same year.
Bosch (Token Boy, 2009) was the trio of
vocalist, percussionist and keyboardist Christopher Brown,
guitarist Charles Greenleaf and bassist Kevin Sims.
Their music is more vibrant and more cohesive than anything Random Touch
ever attempted, more concerned with progressive and post-rock than with
abstract free-form improvisation
(despite the abstract noise of A Tornado Round).
One senses that genres are being deconstructed
(notably the post-modern take on blues music in Walkabout).
A Long Way From Home also achieves quite a bit of tension, while the
torpid and babbling No Carnival Complete is the darkest enigma.
Greenleaf's atonal guitar is a worthy substitute for Hamill's virtuoso noise.
Despite the musician's brilliance,
nothing here achieves the surreal magic of Random Touch.
Through The Lens Of The Other Dimension (Token Boy, 2010)
Reverberating Apparatus (2011)
The double-disc Tributary (2011)
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