I've reviewed many releases on Mullatta Records, "Purveyors of the Unique and the Bizarre," but for the next week or so I'll be aiming the spotlight on Innova, a label that should be of intense interest to anyone with an interest in unusual non-mainstream musics. Having spent a lot of time with Innova releases recently, I can tell you that the high quality level is matched only by the fearless originality of it's music.
I love it when someones breathes new life into an antique "obsolete" instrument or musical form, and that's exactly what John Morton does on his 2001 debut "Outlier." It's subtitle tells all: "New Music For Music Boxes." Yep, music boxes - those wind-up tinkly-sounding things your grandmother has in her living room. Maybe with a twirling ballerina doll atop.
Morton breaks into music boxes and messes with the machinery, creating a surprising variety of sounds and moods. Sometimes they plink and plunk like an African "thumb piano," sometimes they're electronically treated to create abstract ambient, sometimes they're put thru distortion, suggesting grandma is a headbanger. One piece "White Tara," for sax, upright bass, and music box, is a gorgeous melancholy jazz ballad. In all these pieces, the wiff of haunted memories and childhood nostalgia is never far away.
This excerpt suggests a music box that has been dropped, and stepped on by the grandkids, it's lopsided rhythms creating compelling, somewhat spooky melodies that dramatically build.
John Morton: "A Delicate Road III (excerpt)"
Morton's follow-up "Solo Traveler" features an instrument described as "a set of 17 recomposed and altered music boxes." Needless to say, I have got to hear that one as well.