The unearthly improvisations of instrument inventor Hal Rammel are never predictable: whether he’s bowing a saw or running his electroacoustic sound palette–a sensitively miked painter’s palette intersected by variously long wooden dowels–through a gamut of space-age effects, both the sounds he generates and the directions in which he takes them are often surprising. So when he improvises with others, things can get prickly. But for the last few years Rammel, who lives in Grafton, Wisconsin, has been performing around Chicago with violinist and performance artist Terri Kapsalis and guitarist and music writer–for this paper and Down Beat–John Corbett. The trio recently issued Van’s Peppy Syncopators (Penumbra), the release of which this performance fetes. The instrumental pieces reveal the keen listening ability of the trio members, as each reacts to and anticipates the moves of the others with delicate daubs of sound here and gauzy wisps of texture there. Melody doesn’t surface often; the trio instead concentrates on abstract dialogues. The pieces that incorporate spoken word are tinged with a sharp postmodern humor. The most impressive of these is “Handless,” in which Kapsalis brilliantly portrays a Stepford-wife-to-be on a date who “didn’t want to upset him / I wanted to impress him.” As she details the long evening in which she accidentally loses various appendages but neglects to tell him of the losses because it might sully the date (he doesn’t notice, of course), her narrative is met by a variety of apt musical reactions from Rammel and Corbett. While the trio’s collective approach to improvisation isn’t particularly radical, the level of care and interaction stands out, and Rammel is a wonder unto himself. Friday, 10 PM, Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln; 327-6666.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of JC, TK & HR, by Susan Fox.