Crystal Beth, "Push Thru" (7d Media)
Crystal Beth is improvisational clarinetist/singer Beth Fleenor, a veteran of Seattle's avant-garde music scene who’s played with Terry Riley, David Byrne, and many other major artists. On her new debut album, Push Thru, she flexes glossolalia-laced vocals in alpha-female modes, like a Pacific Northwest Yoko Ono or Urszula Dudziak, and transfers her skills into art songs that sometimes rock, sometimes trance out, and sometimes float enigmatically. It's a remarkable fusion of Fleenor's experimental and song-based instincts, and it really flaunts her panoply of idiosyncratic skills. Push Thru also contains the sweetest Eric Dolphy tribute I've heard in a while.
The album's title track, "Push Thru," instantly grips you with a funky beatboxing intro; then Fleenor launches into an "aye-yi-yi" chant, loops it, and soon after sings in tongues and wails over everything. The track becomes a schizo babel of voices competing for supremacy in your brainbox, while the rhythm calmly mesmerizes with a subtle chich-chich friction. A beautifully serene clarinet coda eases you out of the contrapuntal chaos. If you heard this unawares on the radio or in public, it would freeze you in place and turn your face into a facsimile of that "wow" emoji.