This weekend guitarist Tobin Summerfield (Crush Kill Destroy, Larval) reconvenes his minimalist rock orchestra Never Enough Hope for several performances in celebration of the project’s new album, The Gift Economy (Contraphonic), a set recorded the last time this sprawling outfit got together, in January 2007. It’s to Summerfield’s credit that he can coax any order or precision out of a 20-member group with just a few rehearsals, and the new album certainly is an improvement over its predecessor. The bio that came with my CD says he composes with each individual in mind, but considering that most of this material is built around massed ensemble sounds, I’m not sure what that would even mean here.  

Given the presence of dual vibists Tim Brown and Dan Sylvester (almost every instrument comes in pairs) and the heavy use of minimalist melodic licks, Steve Reich is bound to come to mind, but Summerfield doesn’t have Reich’s patience for slowly evolving motifs. In fact, the six-part suite on The Gift Economy is in a constant state of transformation–melody lines and rhythms shift abruptly and whole sections of the ensemble (strings, reeds, brass, etc) drop in and out. There are a few isolated solos, but most of the work is written out. It’s an impressive feat, a kind of supermagnified orchestration of the terse vocabulary of no-wave, but when I get to the end I’m left scratching my head. While it has its peaks and valleys, The Gift Economy lacks any discernible narrative structure–it’s more like an endless procession of strung-together episodes, and the dominant dynamic is full-blast.

Never Enough Hope performs Friday at 7 PM and Saturday at 9 PM at the AV-aerie. Members of the group, including some out-of-towners, will play satellite gigs beginning Thursday night, when bass saxophonist Colin Stetson and a quartet of Summerfield, violinist Dina Maccabee, trumpeter Brian Lipson, and drummer Tim Tacket Brown perform at Elastic. Different small groups will perform Sunday at Heaven and Monday at the Skylark. I’m sure that some of the players on the recording–including trumpeter Jaimie Branch and saxophonists Aram Shelton, Keefe Jackson and Tim Haldeman–won’t be playing this weekend, but Summerfield has lots of pals capable of filling in.

Today’s playlist:

Rafael Toral, Space Solo 1 (Quecksilber)
Mia Doi Todd, Gea (City Zen)
Masayuki Takayanagi & New Direction Unit, Axis—Another Revolvable Thing Vol. 2 (Doubt Music)
Volga, Pomol (Lumberton Trading Company)
Patti Smith, Twelve (Columbia)