Artist: William Hooker
Title: The Distance Between Us
The Distance Between Us fills with broken glass, smart bombs, and unmarked mass graves. A lone voice crooning like Arthur Prysock to the accompaniment of tom toms rises up from this cleft of consternation. This is the opening scene to a passion play of conflicting aspirations and lost innocence. This is the first exhalation of redemptive sound issuing from William Hooker's latest recording.

William sent me the tape some time ago. It is, we both agree, his best recording. "I want your immediate impressions Thomas, without thinking about it. Just respond." Which I was prepared to do internally, but before I could discover what lurks in The Distance Between Us and externalize it in print, the planet needed a few more wobbly rotations. At the time that I heard a tape of the rough mix from this superb cd, the Dow had yet to hit 10,000; a half-million desperate refugees had yet to bruise their feet in flight; and a little town in the Rockies had yet to cringe in shock as its children set upon each other. All are referents for the global developmental crisis that's addressed through 7 selections and 10 musicians on this cd.

Following Hooker's solo prelude, our descent down the crumbling sides of the canyon is easy, even gentle. Mark Hennen's piano echoes the sparkling poetics of gravity's pull on fluids down the path of least resistance. Hooker's hands work the metal plates surrounding his toms and snare into a broiling foam on top of Hennen's seductive waves. The sound bumrushes the gorge like a flashflood as Hooker's battery pushes its waters downstream.

The strategy at play here involves stacking different instrumentations on top of each other. Each cadre of tone scientists works a different subset of the same limited universe of melodic and temporal truths. There's a brutally transformative tension generated in the juxtaposition of such radically different bodies of sound. There's also a moment of revelation after about the third time you've listened through The Distance Between Us when you realize that the electric and acoustic, the frenetic and the sublime, are all different takes on the same motif.

Boom Boom Whap. "The Gates" and "Pure Imagination" (tracks 1 and 2) are succeeded by Hooker in the guise of astral/funk/rock jam pilot. (Hell, he did share the streets of urban Connecticut with Tyrone Lampkin.) A beat that is as compelling as it is elemental becomes the fulcrum for a multiple-guitar, bass-heavy, overdriven refiguring of a Sonic Youth dirge. "Because (of You)" introduces us to vocalist Gisburg whose attack brings to mind both Diamanda Galas and Skin of the Brit-punk band Skunk Anansie. Her voicings, however, are not without qualities of lift and clarity that keep the vibe in more of a psychedelic vein than an aggressive one. It's being able to pull out of ten minutes of this setting and texture into nearly twice as much "Sensor Suite" that exposes the strengths of this recording and its intelligence. Here the squad is all acoustic. Charles Compo (sax), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), and the apparently brilliant Sabir Mateen (sax) wrap harmonic flesh around the simple theme enunciated at the beginning of our journey. Hennen, who was such a friendly voice as we started our slide down the walls of the chasm, now seems to take perverse pleasure in our predicament. Alternately dropping bricks on the lower register and pushing stabby little clusters from the middle up, the piano meets the drums at a very high level of intercommunication. Without divulging anymore of the plot, it's important to note that the recording concludes with a disciplined symmetry and sense of emotional closure that makes it the first concept album I've heard in a long time that is worthy of that tag.

Put the purists out of the house on this one. William Hooker don't play that stuff, and time is far too short for games of critical vanity. In the meantime we are commanded to choose what will be planted in the tortured distance that stands between us. More bombs and suspicion or healing herbs to assuage our sickness?

Join My Email List

Email Address *

First Name *

Last Name *

Where are you from? *

If other, please describe

* = required field