The idea of painting a sonic representation of an object or idea has always been a staple of musical composition. With more emphasis on aesthetic and production coming in contemporary music, the concept now pushes music makers to take more risk in their sound-rooted depictions of real life imagery. Serving as the muse for “Talking Trash,” the newest release from Bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch presents themes of unknown, fear, and mystery.
Throughout the work there is a rampant feeling of anxiety particularly in the tune “Gyres Océaniques.” Although this tune may be the track-list’s closest attempt at a groove, the song putters along at a slow pace with prepared piano providing a strange percussive element atop the inner-workings of the instrument. Melodically, the piece combines modern tonalities with the indistinct, with piano lines developing a sing-able motive opposite the airy popping sounds of clarinet and flute. Niggenkemper lives up the the name of his instrument with his syncopated rhythm providing the foundation for everything.
Another aspect of the garbage patch is texture. The imagery of a bunch of trash floating along in the ocean evokes a sense of crunching, crinkling texture particularly when taking all of the plastic into consideration. By avoiding anything remotely related to typical bass lines and choral playing, the piece attains the aesthetic of the subject matter. Also, prepared piano serves as a perfect crinkling sound for the plastic bags it represents.
Niggenkemper fools around with texture and production a lot on this album, elements that are not emphasized enough in the jazz idiom. All too often, musicians play in spaces that have always been the main focus of the genre rather than working to create an album specific to that time in their career.