October 2006

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Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Biosystem

psi

2006

A re-issue of the original 1977 Incus LP featuring thirty-five additional minutes of previously unreleased music. Drummer and cornetist John Stevens' groundbreaking freedom-of-expression unit is given some nice packaging, featuring historical factoids by Ian Vickers and former SME member, saxophonist Evan Parker. The band itself was akin to a collective, yet this outing marked a diversion, largely due to the absence of horns (although Stevens blows the cornet in spots). The organic, homespun stylization of the music emanates from Nigel Coombes' salty violin lines complementing acoustic guitarist Roger Smith and cellist Colin Wood's nip and tuck forays. The frenetic perimeters of the music demand the listener's utmost attention. There is mention of the original, negative Melody Maker review, which apparently caused Stevens some dismay at the time. But as history frequently demonstrates, innovation does not necessarily become recognized until years after-the-fact.

Danik Lazro/Thierry Madiot/Dominque Repecaud/Camel Zekri

Rekmazladzep

Vand' Oeuvre

2006

This French avant-garde quartet presents an album title that is a play on the musicians' names, while signifying the understated complexities of group-based interplay. With its asymmetrical structures, angst and minimalism, the music is quite didactic, especially from a free-form improvisational stance. Slow burningly climactic, it's partly about grunge style distortion-based guitars, layered horns and jagged dialogues. Overall, the artists pursue an evolutionary and unhurried discourse, spanning various cycles in parallel fashion. The coarse tone of the proceedings present a few challenges to the discerning ear, but the free-floating nature of the program reveals hidden surprises upon repeated listens.

Cactus

V

Escapi

2006

In 1970, they were hailed as "The American Led Zeppelin, and released four albums, straddling a brief life cycle that ended in 1973. Thirty-years later, the ex-Vanilla Fudge and Jeff Beck Band rhythm section of Carmine Appice (drums) and Tim Bogert (bass) realign with guitarist Jim McCarty. Vocalist Jimmy Kunes replaces the quartet's original singer, Rusty Day, who passed away in 1982. Nonetheless, this is a worthy reinstatement of what was a truly powerful and rollicking boogie/blues/rock outfit. Consisting of tuneful themes, McCarty slams the pedal to the proverbial metal here. In essence, he extrapolates upon motifs founded by Beck and Jimmy Page. Appice's pounding double-bass pedal movements add oomph and zest to hard-driving tracks featuring Kunes' high-spirited vocalizations. In sum, this is a worthy re-entry into the rock scene by a band that made an indelible impression during its prime.

White Willow

Signal To Noise

Laser's Edge

2006

This Scandinavian unit commenced as a folk-rock aggregation in the mid-1990s. Now, with its fifth release, the band has projected a multi-hued aura, steeped in memorable compositions. The group effectively overcomes that sometimes opaque musical terrain in which progressive rock can lean towards the neurotic-rhythmic. To that end, the unit saves some of the technical gymnastics for choice segments, but it's the attractive harmonic interplay that separates the music from the humdrum. Female lead singer Trude Eidtang's angelic iterations are enhanced by radiance and confident projection. She handles herself with aplomb atop her band-mates' wall-of-sound. It's a quasi, pop-progressive, rock date, awash with divergent angles along with odes to early-1970s prog and 1960s West Coast psychedelics. A standout effort that reaps voluminous dividends upon repeated spins.

Wintsch/Weber/Wolfarth

WWW

Leo

2006

Swiss pianist Michel Wintsch has produced some of the WWW record label's finest recorded moments. With the WWW trio, he pursues a polytonal and largely improvised path, where airy passages enable the listener to digest the acute three-way dialogues. The unit explores darkly-hued soundscapes in often turbulent flurries. Amidst characteristically ascending choruses, the musicians join in contrapuntal exchanges embedded in fractured swing vamps and expansive rhythmic constructs. They attempt, no doubt, to keep the listener on guard. Drummer Christian Wolfarth is a textural rhythmic machine who occasionally accents his band-mates' probing developments with oscillating cymbal swashes and polyrhythmic drum rolls. In sum, this outing generates a comprehensive study in the art of intuitive improvisation—at its very finest.

Rob Symeonn

The Chosen One

Redbud


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