Kyle Motl / Drew Ceccato: Katabasis


Self-released CD / download

Another strong collaboration from South Californian double bassist Motl, hard on the heels of his strings-only sparring match with T.J. Borden. This time around he’s paired with free-blowing saxophonist Drew Ceccato for a sparky, no-frills session in the classic improv mould that nevertheless provides plenty of diverting moments. There’s no editing, overdubbing or messing with the running order to worry the purists for whom even recording this stuff is almost a step too far. What you get is pretty much exactly what went down on the day. And it’s pretty good, too, Ceccato’s restless, piercing blasts shedding light on his companion’s crepuscular investigations.

‘Katabasis’ is an ancient Greek word that refers to movement downhill. In mythology, it’s often used to describe a descent into the underworld – Orpheus’s jaunt to rescue Eurydice is the most well-known example – although it can have more prosaic resonances too. I last encountered the term on Panos Alexiades’ 2014 album of the same name, whose dank electronics used these mythological allusions as a starting point for a series of claustrophobic soundscapes. Motl and Ceccato aren’t so literal in their interpretation. Their often fast-paced exchanges engender euphoria as often as foreboding, with even the slower-paced ‘Koembang’ unfurling in a series of buoyant, hieratic vamps, Ceccato’s horn calling out high and wild as Motl slaps the hell out of his bass like some hopped-up rockabilly fresh out of Sun studios.

Mostly, however, this is frenetic stuff, tracks like ‘Föhn’ scuttling back and forth in breezy showers of notes, at times cheeky, but never wearing. This opening cut in particular feels like sitting in a shopping trolley as it careers downhill at breakneck speed, Ceccato’s reedy cries merging with Motl’s low grunts to add to the adrenaline rush. Just as you think you’re going to lose it completely, Ceccato applies the brakes with a long, loud Loony Toons holler, his quacking gargles sufficient to induce a ribcage-rattling bass grind. At the last moment, disaster is averted. We may be relieved, but Ceccato and Motl are supremely unbothered, rounding off the track with a slice of effortless riffing to counter any potential distress. Too cool for school.



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