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MP3 Ken Critchfield - Foundation

Bass and drums; minimalist groove and improvisation; electronic cut-and-paste compositional style with live instruments. Ken Critchfield: bass; Adam Sorensen: drums.

10 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Free Jazz, JAZZ: Avant-Garde Jazz

This fusion of jazz and drum & bass styles is an all-instrumental work best described as "urban ambient." Released in the Spring of 1998 in Salt Lake City.

Ken Critchfield: bass, composer
Adam Sorensen: drums


Yes, it''s "Give Props to the Bassplayer Week" - got a problem with that? Since the split of Sweet Loretta, Ken Critchfield has appeared onstage sporadically with the acid-jazz group the Trip, and Honey, an acoustic trio featuring ex-Loretta guitarist Page McGinnis and vocalist Michael Hessling. Now he''s back with his solo debut, Foundation, a strictly bass and drums - as in drum ''n'' bass, only organic - album, is probably the most surprising thing to come along in years: Think it''s easy to make a recording that will sustain interest for an hour using just bass and drums? Critchfield and ex-Loretta/Jackmormons skinsman Adam Sorensen breeze through these 10 compositions with so much confidence and verve that you barely miss the top end. Kicking off with the finger-snapping jazz cool of "Tortus," Critchfield and Sorensen keep the tempo up for most of Foundation, and the unthinkable time-signature changes of "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" may cause you to needlessly send your CD player in for repairs. "Palimpsest" sounds like the lost theme to Quentin Tarantino''s Pink Panther, but it''s "Form of Convenience" that really grooves: Critchfield puts down the upright, plugs in the electric bass, fires up the psycho-effects and swings for the cheap seats. Even if you''re not a bass-geek, Foundation is a great listen - plus, you can spend hours marveling at Lisa Critchfield''s amazing CD jacket design, which is practically worth the price alone.

Bill Frost, Salt Lake City Weekly, May 21, 1998


I believe the recording is classified as jazz. Ken Critchfield, Adam Sorensen and Bob Abeyta are the responsible parties. Critchfield plays the basses, Sorensen plays the drums and Abeyta engineered. Lisa Critchfield designed the CD packaging, which is a work of art (fans of Raygun magazine and the Emigre school of visual art will love reading the liner notes). The CD was financed in part by grants from the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Art doesn''t sell and minimalism is a curiosity, especially in Salt Lake City. Foundation is a drum ''n'' bass work, and not the drum ''n'' bass of dance/electronica popularity. "Tortus" and "Cosmosis" are all funk. "Serene" is melodic bass and understated drums locked into a groove Critchfield describes in his "notes." The piece has an underlying Native American chant spirit the musicans may or may not have planned. "A day late and a dollar short" is Adam''s time to bash the kit as Critchfield struts with his bass. The "Palimpsest" piece is the best. Critchfield and Sorensen get busy with the spy-lounge jazz as if the Pink Panther met Raymond Scott in an alley wearing trench coats and nothing else. It''s a score waiting for a movie. The disc is a breakthrough for Salt Lake City.
William Athey, Event, May 21, 1998


KEN CRITCHFIELD BRINGS A PRIMAL DIALOGUE TO BEATNIKS: Musician pares his sound to bass, drums, an occasional keyboard. Drums and bass. Sometimes keyboard. The sound is a simple dialogue between two or three instruments. The rhythms are primal and almost hypnotic. Sometimes, minimalist composer Ken Critchfield worries that adding the keyboard was too much.

Critchfield brings his bass, his drummer and his keyboardist to Ogden next weekend. He''ll play Beatniks, a private club (temporary memberships available), and he''ll be back at Beatniks for additional gigs Aug. 14 and 15.

This is not your ordinary bar music. The music is experimental. Listeners'' response is hard to predict.

"Rhythmically, I''ve tried to make the music very compelling," said Critchfield, 28, a Heber City native and a Salt Lake City resident.

"The rhythms come from that urban feeling you hear in soul and funk bands. I try to take jazz ideas and minimalist ideas and bring them back to the people, back to the gut, to make them more visceral. I''m just starting out, so I''m curious to see what the interest is."

Interest from the artistic community, if not the bar scene, is established. Critchfield''s proposed exploration of bass and drums earned him a grant from the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Some of the funds went into a self-produced CD, "Foundation." The instrumentals have names like "Tortus," "Serene," "Palimpsest" and "Uneasy Alliance." To call the liner notes cryptic is a serious understatement.

Critchfield''s hope is that the rhythmic, repetitive music will, "come across like meditations or mantras. The groove captures your awareness at first, but it doesn''t switch over predictably into choruses and bridges. Instead, it insists on its own pulse, true to its own emergent meaning, refusing to continuingly recapture your conscious mind, aiming for something deeper."

Once drawn into the compositions, listeners are free to interpret the dialogues as they please.

"My father, who put the first instrument in my hand when I was 5, studied all the songs carefully and decided they were about our relationship and the early foundations we had laid," Critchfield said. "That told me my dad was investing himself in my music. I''ve had other compliments, but none so touching to me."

That first instrument was a guitar. Critchfield learned to play various horns and the flute in high school, and later taught himself the mandolin. But he knew he had found his musical voice when he took up the bass.

"The bass just really struck me. The sound was dark, deep and mysterious. It was profound. And all that was mixed in with a certain preposterous, bombastic, overly self-important kind of attitude. I think it was a lovely mix to have all the depth and all that humor in one instrument. I think my personality was attracted to that personality."

Adam Sorensen, who played with Critchfield in the now disbanded Sweet Loretta, handles the drums. Critchfield calls him, "the most lyrical drummer I''ve ever heard."

In recent months, the duo has added keyboard player Doss Shropshire. Critchfield even experimented with adding a horn, but found the instrument too showy.

"Every time we''ve moved in that direction we''ve lost something," he said. "The magic of what we are trying to bring out of the compositions, the inner workings, is lost. I wanted music that allowed the listener to step inside and experience the subtleties. The brilliance of the horn kept me outside."

Critchfield said he''s having the time of his life, composing the sort of music he always searched for in the record bins.

"I''m like a kid in a candy store, getting to do everything I want."

So far, he said, response has been positive. People always seem to find their own complex message in his deceptively simple instrumentals.

Strong rhythms, repetitive sounds.

Sometimes keyboard. Always drums and bass.

Nancy Van Valkenburg, Ogden Standard-Examiner, June 26, 1998


Crack open Ken Critchfield''s solo CD, and a quote from Salt Lake academic Alan Fogel jumps off the postmodern pages of the booklet: "Dialogue is all there is." The dialogue, in this case, takes place between Critchfield''s electric bass and Adam Sorensen''s drums. Bass and drums exchange improvisations on common themes. Critchfield''s bass slides effortlessly from funky to sexy, dark to bright, dirty to clean, choppy to liquid as Sorensen''s anchors the moods with varying tempos and subtlety.

This isn''t electronica drum and bass in the vein of Goldie''s or Photek''s work, nor does it resemble Morphine''s slinky jazz or godhead Silo''s metallic helicopter noise. Foundation sounds like an intimate conversation -- the kind that tempts you to eavesdrop. The project''s cerebral thesis, to hear what a rhythm section can do without any of what Critchfield calls "window dressing," won him an NEA grant. The minimalist yet soulful implementation of his thesis makes this disc a surprisingly engaging treat.

—Sam Cannon, https://www.tradebit.com

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