Dva cures winter blues, Jack and Ben Wright celebrate serendipity
The Czech sibling duo known as Dva (which appropriately means “two” in Czech, and not to be confused with the Hyperdub dance act DVA), composed of multi-instrumentalists sister Bára Kratochvílová and brother Jan Kratochvíl, is a pleasant surprise of an oddity, creating adventurous, ear-bending pop music.
Seemingly unfettered by expectations, Dva has meticulously and professionally crafted in its home studio its latest album Nipomo—its first to be released domestically—simultaneously with a friendly demeanor and weird, stirring musical bristles.
Subtitled “How to Survive Winter,” Nipomo has a jittery, brimming-with-caffeine energy level, with elements that aren’t easy to place, fusing musique concrete and field recordings into ostensibly pop pieces. Winter survival apparently involves creating a new summer-set, rosy fantasy world, and this world is far from expected sources, free from traditional eastern European motifs.
Even the sung language evokes a strange land, being completely invented by the group. On “Mulatu,” the vocals are more akin to Yoko Ono-esque avant-wailings and Japanese childlike bratty singsongy outbursts, rather than blissful fabricated tongues of Cocteau Twins or Sigur Rós; add a world-fusion Talking Heads-esque vibe and a free jazz sax solo to the track, because, why not?
Bára often harmonizes with herself, offering a split personality in the mid-range and high-range, and the wild, uninhibited singing might be a dealbreaker for some with a low tolerance for shrill vocals.
The instrumentation on Nipomo is admirably wide, using unusual rhythm loops, strummed strings, reeds, melodicas, ukes and electronics, and it all comes across like some bizarre crazy quilt made of microchips, animal bones and brightly colored cake frosting.
Perhaps the peak of the album is the uncanny “Zoppe,” which casts a happiness spell and forces the listener to smile compulsively. It’s a cure for winter blues, with the sounds of traditions being broken and an imagined Martian beach party, formed by a vivid creative spirit.
Jack Wright / Ben Wright
As If Anything Could Be the Same
Free improvisation—playing without a genre in mind—can be simultaneously the easiest and the most difficult music method: easiest, because no sound or note is objectively “wrong,” and difficult, because a performer must be constantly inventing and re-inventing.
In light of this, in the liner notes of the new album As If Anything Could Be the Same, saxophonist Jack Wright discusses his musical interactions with his son, contrabassist Ben Wright, saying, “We don’t know what will work until it does.” The notion of serendipity is important in free improv, as it can be in pure science, where discoveries such as the usefulness of penicillin and saccharin were made unintentionally.
However, serendipity is not pure chance and disorder; the people involved must have the skills necessary to facilitate the situation, along with the wisdom or intuition to recognize something special when it happens.
In the case of Jack and Ben Wright, serendipity is nourished by experience and considerable technical ability. A major figure in free improv since the ’70s, Jack Wright sounds like he’s pushing himself more than ever, with formidable chops and the imagination to articulate complicated and unconventional sounds, from nimble flutters, to animalistic wild boar snorts, to string-like or even car-alarm sounds.
Ben Wright has no trouble keeping up with his father, creating immense variation in timbre and volume and exploring the subtleties of friction, with expressive scrapes and wisps. In very basic terms, improvisation is a “give and take,” but that’s too simplistic a way to describe it. Jack Wright explains, “We don’t imitate, converse, or follow, and we can only pretend to ignore each other.”
A simple call-and-response method is not at work here, and there aren’t big, obvious crests and dips of sound; the synthesis happens on a deeper level, where both players are constantly challenging each other and themselves, neither leading nor following.