1 + 1 = ?
(2019 - Green Monkey Records - USA)
Under the umbrella of classical, stage, avant-garde, zany, beautiful and intellectual experimental, comes Tom Dyer's "! +1 = ?" album. From duets and sometimes expansions of members Jim of Seattle (orchestrations), Kat Dyer (vocals), Amy Denio (vocals, bass, organ, Bulbul tatang), Ben Dyer (guitar,vocals), Roger Royset (ukulele, vocal on 'When Roger Took The Bus'), Joe Cason (keyboards), John Carey (bass, guitar, drum programming, live drum), Kenny Smith (all instruments on 'Libya'), Phil Herschi (cello), and Mark Brunke (guitar, snare drum, and original composition on 'Barbra'). Tom Dyer (vocals, guitar, piano, drum programming, bass clarinet, bass guitar, fretless guitar, keyboards, alto sax, and whatever else was called for including the recording, mixing, and mastering) was born in Iowa, lived in a couple of other locations, later moved to Seattle, and then Olympia, WA) has been making music for decades and began the Green Monkey Records label in 1983, at which time he released his own first recording. Besides his own library of output, he has featured many other artists, one major talent being oodles of records by The Green Pajamas. Dyer has typically done music remote from this, although all very interesting and inventive. With this he fashions a hybrid of what may come across to many as a joyous concocting of Laurie Anderson, Robert Ashley (at least the first cut will make you think of those references possibly), and so many curve balls that I hesitate to try and list them.
The music could easily be set to a play, but Tom has already said he will not be doing such. He did make a couple of nice videos (I listed above in links that you can view at YouTube) that are just as good as the compositions. Tom has talent as a filmmaker as one can see in previous videos (see more on YouTube), and he does a grand job mastering much of the artists who release on his label. This platter is such an aura of moods ranging from fully orchestrated to raw recordings like 'When Roger Took The Bus', which was actually recorded on an iPhone 6 in the living room. Still the consistency is exceptional. It is the array of story telling that carries the entire bric-a-brac of brilliance by Mr Dyer, stiffens the neck to pay strict attention, keeps the blood pulsing, and gives the listener a new caliber of brain cells.
'Everything In the World Is Returning To A State Of Nature' is the first track and is one with video, which gives the Anderson/Ashley echos. 'Death at Mounts Road' with Amy Denio is about the December 18, 2017 Amtrak derailment, a horrible crash in Washington State, and perhaps has the most serious atmosphere of all the songs. 'Libya' has a Blood, Sweat & Tears revival. His cover of Ornette Coleman’s “A Girl Named Rainbow” has the same aloft characteristics as much of the more offbeat early pre-Canterbury psychedelic jazz, not too far from the first Soft Machine. What a great toss of the song listing to keep your eyes on the road. Then comes quite the rap-like, or futuristic beatnik coffee house rant 'Meditations On Prince Bowie' with a verbal debate as to who was better, Prince Bowie or The Beatles.
'1 + 1 = ?' is surely a box of chocolates. Tom said at times, he nor the collaborating artist knew this was even part of an album to come. It might have been created over ten years, or even more in at least one case, from ideas collected, but certainly an album to enjoy in your own time. But a warning to all soundbyte sheep; you will miss out if you want to attempt this as earbud, pause and play a clip at a time, as background or busy music. With some of the sloppy kisses of Kevin Ayers, and academics of off-kilter intention, thought provoking plunge, the cerebral sketches of Tom Dyer and friends abandon any desires of commercial market, and give the audience a dauntless spread of fanfare. A full stage of resourceful ardor. RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 - 10 - 2020