By Karl Ackermann , All About Jazz
January 22, 2023
The idiosyncratic nature of Jason Kao Hwang's work lends itself to a broad range of collaborative possibilities. Uncharted Faith, a duo recording with electronics artist J.A. Deane, is unique because of both its experimental essence and its personal backstory. Deane (aka, Dino) lost his life-partner in 2019 and went into wooded seclusion to finish a book. The composer & violinist Hwang and Deane had discussed a project and the latter requested some Hwang material to improvise around. On only two of the six tracks did Hwang add additional tracks. And then, before the finishing touches were completed, Deane also passed away, leaving Hwang to finalize the project.
Deane began his career as a trombonist with the L.A. Horns, primarily a backup brass section for top pop and R&B groups. In the 1980s he pioneered the use of live electronics and went on to record with artists such as Jon Hassell, Myra Melford, and Butch Morris. Deane created "live-sampling," recording and manipulating group members then playing the music back as a fresh entity. He worked extensively with his life partner, dancer & choreographer Colleen Mulvihill. Hwang needs little introduction; his Human Rites Trio, with Ken Filiano and Andrew Drury, has been widely acclaimed and he has topped music polls as the leading violinist or violist for a decade. Hwang has worked with elite artists of creative music including Oliver Lake, William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Pauline Oliveros, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Tomeka Reid.
The technical aspects of Uncharted Faith, given Deane's use of multiple electronic processors and programs, are overwhelming. In effect, he divided, transformed, and combined dozens of improvised segments to create something organic. The results are remarkable with Hwang's electric violin with a multi-FX processor sounding like an alien front line. "Crossing the Horizon" moves into the territory of industrial noise through the prism of disjointed methods. The concept of "Speaking in Tongues" is often described as an ecstatic feeling that connects realms. One can imagine hearing that conversation foreshadowing Deane's passing. The closing title track is a hypnotic enigma; featuring fragments of melody, it is both intricate and even soulful, a quality absent in most electronic music.
The personal misfortunes that preceded and followed the making of Uncharted Faith fuelled deep emotional reactions. The music, however, feels neither laden by gravity nor analytics. The variety of electronic effects alters and manipulates the sound of Hwang's solid-body electric violin, creating a rich, otherworldly soundscape. It is a captivating musical journey and a pioneering collection of experimental avant-garde music for adventurous ears.