Home » Jazz Articles » Junk Magic: Compass Confusion


Album Review

Junk Magic: Compass Confusion


Sign in to view read count
Junk Magic: Compass Confusion
Density. Shifting ground. Textural discord. Sharpness like glass. Resonant emptiness. Explorative improvisation, electronica sound spaces and electric beats. Released by the Craig Taborn project Junk Magic, Compass Confusion moves the fusion of live performance with electronica to the next level, making the division between the two often difficult to discern.

The album incorporates a cross section of electronica techniques, including often lesser recognized subgenres like ambient, trip-hop, and minimalist industrial. This diverse representation of electronic music coupled with the quintet's animated live performance results in an unusual and potent effect throughout. Compass Confusion establishes equality between traditional instruments, electronics, and postproduction, each becoming a valid tool for expression. The manipulation of pace, depth, space, and sonic layering native to both electronica, especially its later manifestations, and abstract jazz are underscored by the group's alchemy. For example, the opening composition "Laser Beaming Hearts" layers ambient sound sculptures, traditional techno rhythms, and drum and bass beats in a mounting surge of energy, all interlaced with individual and group improvisation. In contrast, the dark dub bass, minimalist spatial effects, and Mat Maneri's gaunt viola lends "Dream And Guess" its somber quality. In a similar vein, the tidal dynamics of the titular "Compass Confusion" oscillates between understated tension and vibrating pockets of calm. Tunes like the discordant, yet evocative, "Sargasso" and the temperate "Sunsets Forever" dispel the perception that electronic music is limited in its ability to convey complex cerebral and emotional content, a notion that has plagued it from its inception. Here, the emotive content is reliant just as much on Taborn's survey of electronica's finer qualities as it is the quintet's fine instrumental mastery.

Compass Confusion is not an electronica album with jazz inflections nor is it a jazz album masquerading as electronica. It stands as a singular creation, best absorbed via emersion rather than dissection.

Track Listing

Laser Beaming Hearts; Dream and Guess; Compass Confusion; The Science of Why the Devil Smells like Sulfur; The Night Land; Sargasso; Sunsets Forever.


Craig Taborn: piano; Chris Speed: saxophone; Mat Maneri: viola; Erik Fratzke: bass; Dave King: drums.

Album information

Title: Compass Confusion | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Pyroclastic Records

Post a comment about this album

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.




Francesca Han & Ralph Alessi
Baker's Dozen
The Muffins
Blues & Bach: The Music Of John Lewis
Enrico Pieranunzi Trio & Orchestra
The Border
Douwe Eisenga

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.