Micro-East Collective is an eclectic, changing assembly of local musicians--a Who's Who of musicians from various genres--united in their passion for the fleeting, idiosyncratic rewards that ensemble improvisation allows. The Collective was brought together several years ago by musician-producer-engineer Ian Davis following his experience playing with the large Bay Area improvisational group, the Micro Collective Orchestra. Fabric, the group's third disc, evidences a growing confidence and ability: It includes a number of studio recordings as well as several small ensemble pieces--both departures from their earlier releases, which recorded live performances by the whole group.
Though not literally free-form (members compose charts for the group, creating a loom on which the pieces are woven), the Collective's music is still a far cry from pop hooks and chorus-bridge-chorus composition. It is music of process, rather than product. Reeds, horns, percussion, strings, electric bass and guitar, and the occasional banjo, accordion or analog synthesizer sometimes layer in drones and sighs, sometimes "crattle and crake" in point-and-counterpoint. Rhythmic and musical themes emerge and submerge, or transform the piece in an unexpected direction. This interweaving of disparate threads creates material that can be spare--as with "Mumble-the-peg," a trio performance of minimal, repetitive xylophone swathed with smooth synthesizer, and "Interlope," with its circus-like horse laugh of burbling and blatting horns. It can also be opulent, as with "Oxygen Debt," a fantastic film score composition that's an amalgam of the music of Bernard Herrmann and Duke Ellington, and "Gather and Cast," a suspenseful pastorale in which an incipient thunderstorm of brass and strings gathers and swells but never breaks. Surprising and delighting, this is a rich Fabric in which to wrap yourself, all the more impressive for emerging from this bastion of indie-rock.