|An album of duos between these two New York innovators.
On Tells Untold, homemade-instrument inventor Cooper-Moore and Israeli reed man Assif Tsahar keep refining their unique, hard-to-classify musical language. The narrative evolves around stories that Cooper-Moore and Tsahar told each other during the recording about an ancient tribal mutiny against the tribe's king, and it has a more meditative atmosphere than their previous collaboration, America (Hopscotch, 2003). The recording process this time was a bit longer and involved many overdubs; Cooper-Moore gave up the piano, but the outcome is as thrilling as on America.
The opening track, “The Eight,” leads into a series of odd combinations of instruments. Cooper-Moore draws low earthy rhythms on his invented balafon, the ashimba, while Tsahar hovers on the bass clarinet. The second track, “Tribes Gathering,” begins with references to Native American music but at the same time sounds like something the Incredible String Band would have liked to add it to its repertoire. Cooper-Moore seesaws his invented mouth-bow, which sounds like a Greek lyra hybridized with the Indian sarangi. “Oracles” aims for dark scenery and Cooper-Moore creates a low drone with the synth while Tsahar investigates the low registers of the tenor sax.
The longest title track, “Tells Untold,” over thirteen minutes long, evolves like a dramatic suite and suggests music as a common ground between foes and nations. It passes through several phases: a slow, meditative introduction by Cooper-Moore on the harp and the flute; free conversation between Tsahar on the tenor sax and Cooper-Moore on the cymbals; a tribal call-and-answer, with Tsahar on the muzmar (a Middle Eastern reed instrument), alternating between the right and left channel, answered by Cooper-Moore on the shofar (a Jewish reed instrument); climaxing with energized sax and drums duet; introducing a rhythmic plucking of the thumb piano by Tsahar, before resuming the sax-drums pairing till the end.
“Deviations” is an arresting duet between the pressed strings of Tsahar's acoustic guitar and the elastic three bass strings of Cooper-Moore's invented twiner. “Forlorn” is a Tsahar-penned sentimental ballad which pairs his tenor sax and the cyclical harp playing of Cooper-Moore, who wakes the listener on the following track, “Another World Another Time,” with irregular attacking beats and otherworldly synth washes, while Tsahar adds his agonized tenor sax. The closing track, “The Procession,” is more optimistic. The turmoil calms down, and the artists duet around a catchy theme on the sax and the flute, adding the twiner, bells, and thumb piano as dancers to accompany this merry procession.
Thematically tight, more optimistic than the angst-ridden America, and very impressive.
Cooper-Moore (harp, ashimba, drums, flute, deedly-bo, mouth-bow, twiner, shofar, synth, the bell); Assif Tsahar (tenor sax, bass clarinet, acoustic guitar, muzmar, thumb piano)