Sunday, February 27, 2011

as the morning light streams through the blinds....

Arkhum -- ANNO UNIVERSUM [Vendlus Records]

Oregon seems like a strange place to spawn a death / technical metal band like this one, but everybody has to come from someplace, right? Adding to the bizarreness factor is the fact that Voivod appears to be a major influence on the band -- not only do they favor weird rhythmic patterns and progressive elements, but their lyrical thrust frequently leans in a science-fiction direction. This is the band's first album, and it's a promising start, but not without flaws: the first handful of songs, while boasting impressively labyrinthe technical prowess and plenty of blinding speed, don't offer a tremendous amount of variety from one track to the next. The combination of furious deathlike riffing and double-bass drumming, though, throws off enough heat to make up for this, and that tremendous forward motion makes an excellent backdrop to some truly manic guitar solos. The samples that open "Appellation" and "Obviated Geocentricism" (a song that features some extended soloing of a highly technical nature) are the first signs of an experimental, progressive side that becomes more evident as the album rolls on, notably in the opening of "Bloodgutter Encircling," where complex layers of acoustic guitar, melodic electric guitar, and inhuman howling segue into an intense barrage of double-bass drumming and complicated guitar lines that swirl around each other before breaking down into crushing riffs. This action-packed frenzy finally gives way to a mournful piano line that fades out slowly, followed by "Officious Hoverer at L-Point 2," a brief and murky soundscape of ambient noises that abruptly turns into more fire and fury (and impossibly ornate scattergun guitar lines) in "Nilpulse." Despite my misgivings about the album's slow start -- they probably would have been wise to sequence the tracks differently -- their playing is tight and aggressive throughout the album, and this is a promising start for a band that could be genuinely great somewhere down the road.

Vendlus Records

Aube -- VARIABLE AMBIT [Housepig]

The universe has been conspiring against this release for a while now: first the original label it was recorded for went under, then Housepig's attempt to unleash it upon the public was foiled by various issues (including a fake cd plant scam)... but it's here at last, and everyone can always use more Aube, right? Long-time followers of Akifumi Nakajima's career (which dates back to 1991, and was initially perpetuated mainly through obscure cassette releases on his own G.R.O.S.S. label) will already be aware that this sound designer's albums are always constructed from manipulations and treatments of one specific sound source; this time it's feedback. Over eight tracks totaling 66 minutes, he slices, dices, and layers snippets of feedback into austere tracks dominated by unpredictable intervals of silence interspersed with screeching waves of high-pitched noise. Sometimes that basic sound is processed -- flanged, downtuned, stretched, or otherwise sonically molested -- and it's these permutations of that basic sound that create a broad range of textures throughout the album. Despite the perilous implications of the sound source, this is not even remotely one of his harshest efforts; the emphasis here is less on brain-scouring and more on composition and texture. On occasion, as in "Strayed Base Oblique," the sheets of sound are more psychedelic than anything else, and on some tracks like "Crocked Fringe," the stuttering feedback takes on a rhythmic feel; then there are tracks like "Ambush," in which the layers of feedback are arranged into something resembling glitch electronica. Throughout all of these bizarre manifestations of sound, the intermittent gaps of silence are the album's consistent hidden theme, turning what could have been an all-out noisefest into something more enigmatic. Aube's first full-length release in several years proves that he still hasn't lost his capacity for thought-provoking art disguised as noise. Limited to 300 copies.


Baptists -- S/T 7" [Southern Lord]

For a label weaned on doom and black metal, Southern Lord sure seems to be down with hardcore lately. The label's poop sheet for this release name-checks Converge, Neurosis (the early years, I'm sure) and Trap Them, so that should give you some idea of where they're coming from. They're certainly not meek -- the first track, "Good Parenting," opens and closes with eye-watering feedback and features a furious performance from the entire band that's dominated by aggressive drumming, serrated guitar riffing, and angry vocals, while "Farmed" is just as intense, slowing down briefly in the middle before picking up speed again and consistently drowning in thick guitar tones. "Bachelor Degree Burn" slows the pace down considerably and features the single's heaviest guitar riff and most interesting chord changes; it's probably the catchiest thing here, too. "Life Poser" closes out the single with a return to the high-velocity, crash and burn approach of the tracks on the A-side, and like those songs, it's over in under three minutes. Heavy, focused, and brief enough to leave you wanting more, just like a good single should be.

Southern Lord

The Bastard Noise -- A CULTURE OF MONSTERS [Housepig]

Those familiar with the band (at one time a side-project of, then successor to, Man Is the Bastard) and prepared for another skull-frying assault of sonic terror may be thrown for a loop with this one; the core of Wood and Nelson are joined here by Connell, the original drummer for Man Is the Bastard, and the results are... different. Very different. Sure, the noise is there, but it's largely relegated to the background, as a textural element in service of a prog-metal aesthetic that also incorporates a lot of space and heaviness to its sound. The album opens with the title track, a morose and forbidding spoken-word piece that segues into "Pincers' Movement," a lumbering exercise in welding death metal, noise, and free jazz that's powered by Connell's nimble and unpredictable drumming, resembling an updated version of Man Is the Bastard's basic sound. "Me and Hitler" expands on this approach with hook-heavy bass lines and squiggly guitar riffs that combine with the busy drumming to create a satisfying clatter... only to dissolve into ghostly ambient noise and drawn-out guitar feedback that extends into a lengthy dronescape before returning to the metallic death jazz. Things take an even more unexpected turn on "A Silent Night in the Horrible Garden," an atmospheric track featuring subdued piano and uncredited ethereal female vocals, but the aggression returns on "If Another World...," a short burst of fury whose hyperactive drumming and lurching, punked-out feel again recalls the style and substance of MITB. "Through Modern Existence (The March of the Trolls)" introduces yet another new element -- a Rhodes piano that accompanies the drum break in the middle of the song -- while "Lumberton" brings the pure unbridled heaviness again. The album closes as it opened, with a spoken word bit ("Interior War"), a profane solidarity that may or may not be a film sample. Fans of Man is the Bastard will definitely want to hear this; for those not already hep to Bastard Noise's ugly noise hell, this is certainly an accessible place to start. Comes in a swank-looking gatefold digipak with an extensive booklet.

Bastard Noise

The Beast of the Apocalypse -- HENOSIS [Transcendental Creations]

The second album from this black metal band hailing from the Netherlands is an exercise in frantic, murky black metal (prefaced by an atmospheric progged-out track called "One"), a concept album built around the mysterious concept of Henosis, a cosmic belief system rooted in ancient Greek religion and Oriental philosophy. The black metal tracks vary in tempo, but have a dark and frozen sound that's obviously rooted in the early Scandanavian contributions to the genre, with plenty of hypnotic minimalism and dissonant guitar tones. While the rhythms are repetitive, the tones aren't; on "I Am Not Worthy To Utter Thy Name," for instance, the guitar sound modulates through several distinct sounds, all of them appropriately bone-chilling. In fact, the band's grim guitar sound is their biggest drawing card (although the presence of a real drummer, and an excellent one at that, doesn't hurt). There are places in "The Immortal Realm of Barbelo" where the guitar sound descends into such exquisite realms of full-blown necro primitivism as to border on white noise, always a good thing in my book. The album's diabolical sound and intensity are reminiscent of early Beherit, only with much better execution. As a welcome bonus, the disc also comes with a download card for the band's unreleased album THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS. Highly recommended for devotees of the old-school sound.

The Beast of the Apocalypse
Transcendental Creations

Conure -- STRINGS, LOCATIONS [Edgetone Records]

Mark Wilson's latest venture into the exploration of pure sound is a series of location recordings featuring guitars, field recordings, efx pedals, found sound, and keyboards. Across four lengthy tracks ranging from eight to twenty minutes each, he pits processed sound against different architectural spaces with varying results. "Amsterdam and 81st: A Reverie" is a dark, droning soundscape dominated by a baritone amp hum; over that basic sound, a dynamic range of noises, processed sounds, and field recordings are combined in deliberately uneven layers of density and sonic violence. 'Feedback Location String" is very much what its name implies: lots of stuttering, high-frequency feedback interspersed with enigmatic beeps like a satellite transmission against a background of increasingly chaotic white noise. "Ribbon Implementation" is more spacious, using sounds that are more rhythmically oriented and subjected to heavy processing; sheets of white noise come and go, along with a wide variety of textural sounds, but the circular rhythms, like the sound of a slow-moving centrifuge, remain the predominant musical theme. The final track, "Steel, Nylon and Foil: Oxidation Paintings" is the culmination of the album's progressively harsh tone, sounding like cement blocks being crushed into powder in a tunnel filled with gusting wind. It would be interesting to know more details about the locations for each recording, but that knowledge is not necessary to appreciate the many layers of sound and texture encrusted in each of these soundscapes. Limited to 525 copies.

Edgetone Records

Demonologists -- MISCARRIAGE OF THE SOUL [Crucial Blast]

Now this is some scary-ass shit, and I am a sad cheese because this is the first I've heard of the band, despite the fact they apparently have a pretty extensive discography, however obscure. This should get them plenty of attention, though. Hailing from Indiana, the duo of Dustin Redington (formerly of Ensepulchred) and Cory Rowell concoct bleak, harrowing noisescapes in the vein of Gnaw Their Tongues or Wold, shot through with violent sheets of harsh white noise straight out of the Merzbow playbook -- in other words, it's not for the weak, okay? On track after track (there are five of them, if you're counting) they sound like they're trying to whittle the planet down with a portable sandblaster and largely succeeding. There are elements of black metal in the primitive sound and necro tones (and titles like "Necro Prayers" and "Chalice of Snake Venom and Piss"), but this is essentially a noise album first and foremost, and a ear-scouring one at that; think early Merzbow as interpreted by metalheads obsessed with the complete and utter destruction of all that lies waiting to be destroyed. There are a few non-noise moments like the forbidding tribal drums that open the title track, but otherwise the disc is a blood-soaked ocean of blackened noise hell designed to bum you out. Caustic, chaotic, corrosive, and extremely loud. This is sound of nihilism at its finest and most alienated. Channel the horror if you dare. The disc comes in a dvd-style case with a 28-page booklet filled with abstract creepiness plus a sticker and one-inch badge. But act fast; it's limited to 250 copies. Seriously, if you're down with metallic noise, you'll regret sleeping on this.

Crucial Blast

Golem Gross / The Bastard Noise -- UNIVERSE OF DISHONOR [Housepig]

I know nothing about the mysterious Golem Gross, other than the fact that he (?) is from Brooklyn, but he certainly adds an interesting dimension to the Bastard Noise sound. The six tracks here, with titles like "Space Inseminator" and "Stegosaurus Wars," incorporate a lot of broken electronic sounds into the harsh noise whirlpool. There's a strong element of deliberate composition to the tracks -- the Golem Gross influence, I would assume -- that's especially interesting on "Stegosaurus Wars," where a wailing ambient sound is assaulted by bursts of static, white noise, and other random bleats of disintegrating machinery. The title track, built on a bass-heavy rumble like a building collapsing in slow motion, serves as a vehicle for shrieked lyrics about annihilation and brutality (shades of Man is the Bastard!) before devolving into several minutes of abstract sound mutilation over the rumbling bedrock of gruesome sound that culminates in lots of grinding excoriation, stuttering electronics, and blinding white noise. "Flood Plains Scavenger" offers disorienting hoverbot sounds along with the jagged blasts of noise that sweep in and out of the mix at seemingly random intervals; eventually the rotating hoverbot sounds descend into a lower register as the track settles into a hypnotic groove that winds down at the end with a wavering drone that fades out into oblivion. It's the final track, "Tar Suit Malfunction," that really brings the noise, with one wave after another of harsh sonic violence, infernal buzzing, and more of the damaged electronica and psychedelic hoverbot moves. The disc is an interesting and unusual addition to the band's considerable discography, and includes some particularly eye-catching graphics as part of the package.

Bastard Noise

Grave -- BURIAL GROUND [Regain Records]

Sweden's Grave have been around forever -- one of the songs on this album, "Sexual Mutilation," is actually a remake of a track that first appeared on a demo back in 1989 -- and while they've had a few lineup changes, their sound has remained consistently heavy without necessarily being static. They've experimented with industrial sounds and even covered the Alice in Chains song "Them Bones" on AS RAPTURE COMES, but otherwise they haven't strayed too far from their roots. On this album they mix fast, intense riffing with slower and more doom-laden passages ("Semblance in Black" is one of the best examples, with a slow, crushing midsection offset by much speedier riffing elsewhere), and the riffs -- fast or slow -- are good ones, although (to me, anyway) they sound heaviest on the slow passages, where that special brand of Swedish melodicism becomes considerably more apparent. Their sound is old-school enough that it often reminds me of Obituary, especially during the slow parts, and this is definitely a good thing. The songs are consistently good, too, filled with relentless energy (especially where the drums are concerned) and brooding riffs that are direct and uncomplicated without being too simple. There's no question that track after track, it's just an unrelenting barrage of anguished heaviness. Fans of the band won't be disappointed.

Regain Records

Helstar -- GLORY OF CHAOS [AFM Records]

These are Texas boys, so theoretically I should be biased in their favor, but the truth is that I was never into the band during their initial run during the 80s, and they apparently fell off the radar in the 90s and the decade afterwards. They rose from the dead, more or less, in 2007 with the release of SINS OF THE PAST, and now -- three albums later -- they are back with another album that mixes elements of thrash and power metal (mainly through the operatic vocals of James Rivera). For a band that's essentially knee-deep in the second act of their career, this is a more than respectable piece of work; they burn like a band with much to prove, especially on high-octane tracks like "Pandemonium" and the appropriately-titled "Bone Crusher." In fact, the album is filled with machine-gun riffing and solos that manage to be highly technical and melodic at the same time, no small feat. Naturally, it wouldn't be a power-metal album without a ballad, and that one -- half of it, anyway -- is "Trinity of Heresy"... but since the band's roots and the album's sound are more aligned with thrash, it's the only one. (Well, there is "Zero One," the album's formal closer, but at less than a minute, it doesn't quite count -- ballads are epic, right?) The album's first pressing also comes with two bonus tracks, a cover of Saxon's "Heavy Metal Thunder" and the Scorpions classic "Animal Magnetism." While the Saxon cover is a bit questionable -- their brand of denim 'n leather metal doesn't really translate well into this band's style -- the Scorpions cover is actually pretty good (and definitely makes more sense).

AFM Records

Juhyo / Joshua Norton Cabal -- HUMAN CARGO [Housepig]

Plenty of action happening here on this split-cd, all revolving around the subject of modern-day slavery. The first five tracks are by Juhyo (from Minneapolis), consisting of Brian Kopish (Surrounded) and Bill Henson (Oblong Box), who abuse a pile of oscillators, efx gadgets, samplers, and other tools of sonic immolation to whip up furious, unsettling sheets of noise. The following four tracks are by the Joshua Norton Cabal, featuring Andrew Nolan of The Endless Blockade, who induldge in a similar aesthetic. Juhyo's opening gambit, "Choose," makes the album's theme explicit from the word go, with an ominous processed sample on the subject of modern slavery over an oscillating drone of squelched harsh noise gone ambient, and it doesn't take long to segue into "Transport," a collection of harsh tones and bursts of static over intermittent bursts of metallic rhythms. The violence -- but not the volume -- recedes a bit with the piercing, alienated feedback drone of "Free Market" (despite sporadic bursts of hissing static), but eventually, in stealthy fashion, descends into a chaotic vortex of noise and strange sounds, including samples of repetitive chanting in a foreign language toward the end as the track segues into "Human Cargo," where the noises that rise up as the chanting recedes are more textural in nature, joined by clips of distorted speech and vaguely rhythmic pulsing in the background. Juhyo's final track, "Endless Shipment," is a more subdued and largely ambient soundscape built more around a sound akin to a disintegrating pipe organ, rhythmic motion drenched in delay and reverb, and more wavering oscillator drone-fu.

The JNC tracks are in a similar vein, albeit somewhat harsher, with a colder and more clinical vibe on "Xiu Sheng Chen." Things grow even more furiously chaotic and savage on "Mark Stewart," where spiraling oscillator sounds are pulverized by a disjointed collage of grinding noise, blasts of static, churning waves of dissonance, and other loud forms of unpleasantness. Pulling back a bit, various forms of noise-generated rhythm are the building blocks of "Joana Lee May Lin"; the dense and claustrophobic atmosphere is enhanced by some additional creepy sounds contributed by the always-bleak black metal artist Nekrasov. The final track, "Kwesi Renner," is the harshest thing here and a fitting closer, all jagged white noise shrapnel and out-of-control efx pedals being subjected to intense torture before ending in minimalist percussion (courtesy of Eric King) offset by bursts of noise alternating with silence at times and ambient fuzz at others. The genius of this particular collaboration is how at once the artists are similar enough to warrant being on the same disc, but just different enough to make things interesting. Excellent, and limited to 500 copies.

Joshua Norton Cabal

slMakita -- CLEVELAND, OHIO [Housepig]

His name may not be immediately familiar, but if you're down with noise or extreme metal, then you've probably heard his work at one time or another; he's spent the past couple of decades toiling in such legendary anti-pop bands as Apartment 213 and Lockweld as well as contributing to various releases by Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Fistula. On this six-track album of experimental noise soundscapes, which pays more than a passing nod to Nurse With Wound, he employs a variety of unorthodox equipment -- power tools, variable-speed efx gadgets, metallic and plastic percussion, and damaged recording equipment -- to create mysterious compositions built on eccentric clusters of sound. The tracks defy easy definition, but are informed mainly by a bedrock sound rooted in noise that's augmented by cryptic snippets of found sound, deformed instrumentation, and other forms of unidentifiable weirdness. Fans of his more well-known work may find this awfully abstract -- this is far closer to musique concrete in the vein of Tod Dockstader than the power-violence / noise-metal assault of Apartment 213 and Lockweld -- but the compositions are interesting and well-paced, not to mention profusely littered with bizarre noises and textures from a wide variety of sources. Not surprisingly, given his professed love for Nurse With Wound, much of this sounds like an obscure United Dairies release, which is not a bad thing at all. Inspired as much by the decaying urban sensibility of Cleveland as by the aforementioned band, this is definitely a work owing more suited to the sensibilities of experimental sound enthusiasts than metalheads or harsh-noise enthusiasts, and reveals a previously unexpected sensibility that deserves to be heard and appreciated. Limited to 300 copies.


Olekranon -- BILAL [Housepig / Inam Records]

The mighty and mysterious Olekranon returns with another mind-melting fusion of bleak beats and droning guitar, with a bit o' the atmospheric ambience thrown in for spice. The brainchild of Ryan Huber (Bobcrane, Vopat, Inam Records) started out with a sound that was much more skeletal and ghost-like, but over time the beats have grown fatter and the guitar meatier; in fact, some of these tracks -- "adamkan" and "bilal" in particular -- are downright heavy, with pounding beats matched by landslide fuzz-o-tronic guitar. A lot of this sounds like what My Bloody Valentine might be doing these days if Kevin Shields could be bothered to get off his ass and lay down some guitars; while the heavy beats are rooted in techno, the howling, fuzz-laden guitar can be traced all the way back to the glory days of LOVELESS. Which is not to say that it's derivative by any means -- they may share a love for noise-laden, overdriven guitars, but Huber's a far more psychotronic guitarist than Shields ever was and the beats are much more of the hocus-pocus variety than anything MBV ever coughed up. On "mouths flame," the sound is more spooky and unnerving than muscular, a throwback to the sound of the earlier releases that ends with vibrato-heavy swelling like the soundtrack to an undiscovered horror film. The slow-moving "sunblind" is another such throwback, with a minimal beat and heavy drone-noise action, while "daisycutter" straddles the line between the two extremes with heavy, tripped-out drums and the cyclonic sound of an army of guitars being shredded in the wind. This is the sound of post-rock drone at its best, and what a swell sound it is. Limited to 500 copies and, as always, decorated with the amazing art of Megan Abajian.

Inam Records:

Police Teeth -- AWESOMER THAN THE DEVIL [Latest Flame]

Are they punk or are they metal? I dunno, but I do know they're catchy as hell. So far I've only been familiar with the band via their association as tourmates with Mount Vicious (and more recently, Victory and Associates), but now that I'm finally hearing them, I regret not picking up on them sooner, because this is a pretty happening passel o' tunes. The awesomeness starts pretty much immediately, with the energetic "Send More Cops" leading into the amazing (and amazingly catchy) "Summertime Bruise," and while the tunes that follow vary in tempo and feel, the quality level never drops. The band are from Seattle, but their musical pedigree appears to have less to do with grunge and more with the city's long fixation on garage rock and weird mutations of punk and metal. A lot of the time, most noticeably on songs like "True Stuff" and "Christian Rudolph, A Man Of Science," their drill-press guitar attack is welded to clanging, high-end bass lines like the Cure and Joy Division used to favor (which is probably not accidental, seeing as how they cover Factory artist Tunnel Vision's "Watching The Hydroplanes"), and "Public Defender" probably owes more to early Public Image Limited than anything traditionally punk or metal. The band's high-octane sound and tightly-wound songs probably garner them a lot of of punk comparisons, but I suspect their influences are much weirder; their energy and aesthetic makes them sound like they should be signed to Columbus Discount Records, but the actual sound of their guitars is more art-metal than punk. So what does it all mean? I dunno, but any band that sounds this good and has a song called "Dude Handler's Permit" surely deserves your attention, don't you think? You don't need a musical flow chart to appreciate a band with this much energy and such swell songs.

Police Teeth
Latest Flame

Christian Renou / The Bastard Noise -- BRAINSTORMING II [Housepig]

The Christian Renou in question is probably better known by the name Brume, the name under which he has released a staggering number of cassettes, singles, and albums as a musique concrete / experimental noise artist. As the title suggests, this is not the first time he and Bastard Noise have worked together before; this is the sequel to BRAINSTORMING, a 2003 cd release on Desolation House. On the seven tracks here, Renou contributes the rhythmic pulse and harsh sound effects, while TBN brings... uh, pretty much everything else. If this sounds like a recipe for orgasmic noise on paper, it works out even better on the disc, with "Pollen" opening in most promising fashion with gruesome industrial rhythms, stucco-wall noise textures, unearthly feedback drones, and other ghostlike sonic effluvia that creates an atmosphere of unease and dread that's also surprisingly beatific in an alien sort of way. In the eerie "Concillia-Bullies," which sounds like it was recorded in a deserted canyon, a slow, choppy rhythm and bell-tones are juxtaposed with strange, floaty ambient sounds and slowed-down bursts of indecipherable speech; "Cut at 360" is filled with strange panning, more pulsing rhythms, swirling noises, and unsettling harmonic tones that convey the feel of faulty machines breaking down under intense pressure. On "Es Gebt Immer Weiter (Let It Be)," steel drums beat out a simple rhythm between gaps of silence until walls of white noise and dissonant, reverb-drenched shrieking rises to the fore, a sound that is eventually joined by a dark, fuzzy drone that persists among the chaos until everything fades out. The sounds on the other tracks are every bit as disorienting and inhuman, and while this is not a full-on harsh noise extravaganza, it's certainly a work of sinister intent. The packaging graphics are nice, too, especially that cover drawing of a hand clenching a grenade.

C. Renou / Brume
Bastard Noise

Seeded Plain -- SECTIONAL [Digital Vomit Records]

Strange sounds, cryptic noises, homemade instruments... it's definitely out there a minute. Recorded in Lincoln, NE by the duo of Jay Kreimer and Bryan Day, the three lonesome-sounding improv sessions on this disc are heavy on mysterious sounds and low (deliberately so) on compositional coherence. This is the sound of controlled randomness and the urge to see what sounds you can make with bizarre instruments of one's own devising. Having seen Day perform live using some really weird sonic contraptions built from found junk, I can only imagine what he and his pal are using to make the bumping, scraping, wailing noises found on this album. The sounds are used in service of relatively spare arrangements -- there's plenty of space in these peculiar soundscapes, not to mention a wide variety of sounds and strategies for parceling out the units of musical information. At the same time, the flow of sound is steady, largely devoid of melody, and tonally unpredictable. Your mother won't like it, but you might.

Seeded Plain
Digital Vomit Records

Shelf Life -- SCHEMES 1 [thecountersubmarine]

The avant-garde need to wallow in exfoliated sound continues. The latest release from this band (represented on this album by Bryan Day, David Moscovich, and Joseph Jaros) is very much in the same vein as their previous releases. Across five extended improv jams, they use standard and not-so-standard instruments and devices to create inscrutable soundscapes rooted in textural noises and a free-form approach to... well, pretty much everything. Who's doing what? How are they doing it? What the hell is going on? It's anybody's guess, but as improv jams go, these are filled with a vast array of weird sounds and arrangements that best described as intensely loose. You could probably induce madness by listening too closely and trying to decipher the complex auditory codes playing out here, but you're probably better off just kicking back and letting it all wash over you as incidental music. Weird and puzzling, yes... but you expected no less by this point, right?

Shelf Life

Tiptons Sax Quartet -- STRANGE FLOWER [Zipa! / Spoot Music]

The quartet -- composed of Amy Denio (alto sax / clarinet / voice), Jessica Lurie (alto and tenor sax / voice), Sue Orfield (tenor sax / voice), and Tina Richerson (baritone / voice), with Chris Stromquist on drums -- is definitely sax-happy, all right, but there's a lot more to them than just jazzy bleating. This is the sound of jazz instruments employed in a wide variety of musical disciplines, inlcuding rock, gospel, world music klezmer, pop, and more. Each of the twelve songs are significantly different, encompassing far more styles than one normally associates with the use of saxophones; fortunately, the quartet's ambition is matched by their skill, and what could have been a train wreck is instead a remarkably varied journey through divergent musical styles, all united by the quartet's generous yet concise sound. It's interesting to note that the quartet itself is all female, but the presence of a male drummer creates a useful yin / yang energy that adds an extra dimension to the tracks with percussion. World music grooves and beatific jazz sounds make for laid-back but intriguing listening; there's nothing calculated or stodgy about this album. As with many such musical ventures including Amy Denio, what at first glance might appear to be eccentric turns out to be quite listenable, sometimes even mesmerizing, with plenty of verve and originality. Strange, yes, but swell, too.

Tiptons Sax Quartet
Spoot Music

No comments: