Natural Information

Joshua Abrams, 2010

Some bands are gateways into something larger than can be contained in a single name. They'll provide new directions either by their inspirations or future influence, or spinning off divergent solo projects.

Pinning down Town & Country, an outfit started in the late 90s, was never an easy proposition. My best shot at pigeon-holing them was creating the sub-genre of back-porch folk minimalism. Their sprawling ideas wouldn't slot into any one category since the band itself was an amalgamation of passions wildly at odds. It becomes more obvious when you compare the respective members' work since the band disbanded.

It would be reductive to say bassist Joshua Abrams was the Town & Country member most steeped in jazz. While one of his previous LPs came out on a stalwart Chicago jazz label, Delmark, that record deployed a small jazz quartet to tackle drones and minimalist miniatures. Rarely did Cipher sound anything like "jazz".

With Natural Information (and, more recently the rotating collective he's dubbed Natural Information Society) Abrams is still trucking in minimalism, just a rhythm-obsessed variety. Abrams has switched from upright bass to guimbri. The north African, 3-stringed, skin covered, bass lute (of sorts) gives the tunes a folksier, worldbeat feel harkens back to Pharoah Sanders' late 60s heyday—now with a krautrock bloody-mindedness replacing the ecstatic crescendoes of free jazz. It shows Joshua Abrams still pursuing the unlikely, in utter disregard of our precious categorizations.