Review: Nate Wooley/Chris Corsano/C Spencer Yeh – 7 Storey Mountain

In the words of Nate Wooley (the project’s main creative force), the Seven Storey Mountain series uses “tape manipulation, long forms with simple written musical directions, (in) an attempt to reach some sort of musical ecstaticism”. Two excellent collaborators join him here: drummer Chris Corsano (who has worked alongside the likes of Heather Leigh in Jailbreak and Mick Flower in Flower/Corsano duo) and violinist C Spencer Yeh (aka Burning Star Core).

It sounds as one may expect from such a personnel combination – a gentle, stuttering opening of feedback spirals upwards into a clattering, hissing machine malfunction, with Yeh’s violin sliding back and forth in abrasive groans and squeaks, and Corsano’s kit crashing and pounding from beneath, shadowing the mounting intensity rather than dictating it. The recording is dirty and raw – Wooley’s collaborators are often forced to fight for audibility in amongst his waves of noise. In particular, Yeh is more “felt” than “heard” as the music progresses, as a constant phantom tone beneath Wooley’s vicious buzz and hum.

It seems like second-nature stuff for all involved – with none of the musicians needing to step outside their sonic comfort zones at any point – and doesn’t exactly push beyond anything that alright exists within the realms of the “improv noise jam”. But how can you achieve musical ecstaticism without calling upon the music of that derives as a deep and instinctive force within the soul? This is a creation that seems more for the benefit of the performers than the listeners, and one can only ponder whether the three collaborators were successful in reaching the musical ecstaticism that Wooley desired. That’s not intended to be a criticism, but regardless of how enjoyable this piece may be, I get the sense that a majority of the energy and emotion was channelled between the performers exclusively, and will forever be unattainable for the listener.