Live Music Review //
Ceremonial Abyss
Caleb Duval + Michael Larocca
Kevin Murray

June 24th, 2023
at Willimantic Records, Willimantic CT

More photos can be found in a Facebook album here :::

This monthly series by Michael Larocca of improvised music at Willimantic Records just becomes more can't-miss every month.   The way that the music can differ from month to month but remain under the same banner is what continues to impress me because it doesn't feel like what we're seeing is repeating.  In fact, this is the first time we've seen someone for the second time in the sense of Caleb Duval and Michael Larocca playing as a duo.  

First up on this show was Kevin Murray, who is a saxophonist and played a solo set.  Every time I see someone playing a saxophone as an adult it makes me sad because throughout middle school and into high school I played saxophone but didn't stick with it after high school.  This always makes me think about what could happen- what I might be capable of- if I went to a pawn shop or wherever and found a saxophone for sale and I tried picking it back up again.

Kevin Murray played a soprano saxophone and while I tend to think of the sax of being the type of instrument where the notes flow (which is how you hear the sax in most songs with rock bands), Murray played this style where the notes came out sharper and cut through like daggers.  It was loud to the point of being borderline harsh and I really enjoyed it because it wasn't what I was expecting and it just showcased for me a new layer of what a sax can do.

The duo of Caleb Duval and Michael Larocca were up next.   This show was sending Duval and Larocca on tour (with Kevin Murray as well) and it was to support the "drum and bass" album released earlier this year (which I've been listening to since I bought the CD back in January)  This was also my second time seeing Duval and Larocca as a duo, as they played together back in January as part of a release show for that album.

One thing I had this realization about when listening to this set was just how much goes into the music via the percussion.  When listening to other versions of Michael Larocca with several other musicians it doesn't seem as apparent, but when you know that Caleb Duval isn't making a certain sound with the bass then it has to be coming from the percussion.  The way this just opens up what percussion is capable of, combined with the fine tuning of Duval on bass and just overall these two musicians just work so well together that you should always take the opportunity to see them play as such.

I've always had this internal monologue inside of my head that constantly asks "Why don't more people like music like this" but I always come to the same conclusion that it isn't fair for me to assume everyone will like free improv music when someone who likes something I don't listen to can very easily flip the question on me.   That being said, I've always enjoyed those moments when you feel justified as a music listener.  One such moment occurred after the set of Ceremonial Abyss when a shop worker came in and asked who was just playing because they really liked it.  

Those moments of just being able to reach someone new who might not have heard this music before but would like it is why I do everything I do.   Ceremonial Abyss was in a solo set here, which was different from the two sets I had heard the night before in the sense that now I could really focus on what specifically was the sound of Ceremonial Abyss.   

With the tape looping, the sound was really ambient and just took over the entire space.  It was hypnotic at times, which really just felt like we were being put into a trance, and overall it just had this wave of beauty that cannot be described with words but only with hearing the music itself.  Whatever genre of music you're into, you should give Ceremonial Abyss a chance if you have the opportunity because you might just find yourself enlightened.  

Willimantic Records can be found on the web here :::

Kevin Murray can be found on Bandcamp here :::

Caleb Duval & Michael Larocca can be found on Bandcamp here :::

Ceremonial Abyss can be found on Bandcamp here :::


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