Half Life is a collaboration out of the depths of the dystopic year we had, a spark of an idea that ignited the miasmic gases we breathed throughout the spring of 2020. Winter is coming now and the death and despair are multiplied by bad weather, a surge in cases, and a polarization and election hell rendering impossible even the meager measures we managed back in the opening act. The toxic flame hardened, shaped into an album of bleak noise-jazz, an uneasy ambience to cathart the winter of our dysfunction.
On the first day of Eliot’s “cruellest month”, Ryan Scott Mattingly awoke with the realization that the pandemic quarantine was going to be long. Panic escalating, “I sat down with my guitar and a single microphone and decided to document what I was feeling. There was no premeditation. I only knew that I was not feeling okay and making this music was a way to turn that cloud of anxiety into something else. I decided then to record every note I improvised during the month of April. After listening back to the first two improvisations, I wrote to JayVe Montgomery.”
Montgomery takes up the thread: “Had plans been possible since March, I might have been busy but, three weeks into quarantine I was wiping off the wounds of cancelled gigs, creative and rideshare, and managing how to maintain my musical practice. When Scott hit me up I was eager for direction, eager to have some creative purpose that wasn’t completely self generated. A collaboration! My half of the tracks were recorded in a variety of places and uncomfortable positions; tenor saxophone circular breathing over lengthy tracks while crouching in the backseat of the rideshare rental sedan I held onto through April – parked at two of my favorite Nashville parks; my partner’s childhood closet; a bathroom in a laundry room, which yielded much less comfort and recording time than the backseat; my storage space near the highway, which yielded a lovely day of recording and outboard effecting; my friend Steve’s house; any place where I could emote these feelings without too much trouble to people having to also adjust to these new ways of being.”
As it progressed, the disorientation of the time bled into exasperated melancholy, anger, fear. Mattingly spent May sorting through the hundreds of recordings, and Half Life took shape. Scott and JayVe never saw each other throughout the entire process. There’s an ultra-dimensional power in these sounds, unease sparkling with bleak tension morphing to stunning beauty and radiance, as if the music sprang directly from the plague. Drink deeply of the contagion juice because the vaccine isn’t coming soon!
Ryan Scott Mattingly and JayVe Montgomery are Nashville-based sonic explorers finding the textures of sound unbound by colonial categories. Mattingly’s work sets washes of noise alongside sounds from daily life creating melodic songscapes with traditional acoustic instruments (guitar, banjo, mandolin, double bass), electronics (synthesizer, pedal steel) and homemade instruments, weaving those juxtapositions into grandiose, otherworldly textures. Montgomery is a creative musician from the Sonic Healing Ministries sector of the Chicago Improvised Music scene. Since relocating to Nashville he has become an integral member of the (outer) music city experimental series FMRL, and is 2019 alum of the Big Ears and High Zero Festivals. His last live show was at the True/False Festival of Film & Music, March 2020. Here in this remote collaboration he continues to expand the depths of his saxophone tone and use of multiphonics with electronics.