I feel largely under-qualified to review abcdf, the new EP and accompanying visual experience from Montreal duo DF. While tenor saxophonist Dustin Finer employs some of the same looping methods as fellow Montreal act Alder & Ash – whose Clutched In The Maw of The World I liked very much – his tone is wholely, wholely, wholely other. The music, which is buoyant compared to Alder & Ash’s penitence, sits at the intersection of high-art klezmer-jazz and math-rock, and it dances around your ears with enough texture and melody to nail the delivery. The result is engaging, to be sure, but also makes you feel like you’re listening to something with few reference points in mainstream culture. If you like your music safe and processed, look elsewhere. But, if you’re in the mood for a different kind of cocktail, DF is ready to serve it right up.
Part of this musical maladjustment – and I use those words in as positive a sense as possible – can be found in the nature of Finer’s performance. A lot of times, especially in indie-rock, the saxophone is relegated to creating color or supplementing it; only have musicians like Zorn and his descendants employed it otherwise. Finer’s sax, carefully looped and layered throughout, on the contrary, plays as much with time and texture as it does sound-color. In other words, the sax punctuates a sentence or a phrase as much as it narrates. On the excellent “She’s Great And All,” all interwoven notes, it’s hardly even believable to hear the terrain this guy maps alongside pitch-perfect bass and percussion in just two minutes.
That says a lot about abcdf. The five songs on the EP are carefully composed and they also are alarmingly proficient. Finer is not one to fall prey to the Serious Artiste’s tendency to over-dwell on a certain rhythm or turn a careful melody into a drone. Even on the boozy jazz of “Moondling,” which could seduce the most stoic of your friend-group, he keeps it to about three minutes.
All in all, abcdf is a very fine outing. The visual component to the audio-visual presentation, care of the other DF — Daniel Freder – can be lyrical and, in its highly watchable teaser, toys with users’ familiarity with street-view technology to great effect. The reason you’re tuning in, though, is Finer and his sax – a textured and nuanced piece of industriousness that defies categorization and lays out an ambitious path for those addicted to working with loops.