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Thinking Plague cofounder/guitarist Mike Johnson penned the lyrics and composed the music for the group's meticulously engineered sixth album. Considered one of the premiere Rock in Opposition units, Johnson's lyrics presage an anarchistic domain with offbeat allusions to life's injustices. As band newcomer, vocalist Elaine Di Falco summons notions of an angel in despair throughout these complex pieces, spiced with dour implications and contrasting thematic flows, modeled with odd-metered cadences.
Di Falco harmonizes with the instrumentation amid some harrowing background choruses that spawn chamber-rock motifs, polyrhythmic diversions, and multihued tonalities. There's never a dull moment as the album presents a fête designed with superb musicianship and an overall sound that is indubitably unique. Bristling rhythms coupled with moments of slanted whimsy and apocalyptic vistas broadcast diametric occurrences, with woodwinds ace Mark Harris spicing the impacting pulses with lilting accents, countering the band's slippery unison breakouts and intensely fabricated dialogues.
The ensemble's perpetual motion, glistening textures, and unanticipated detours are not executed simply for bravado purposes; its music poses an alternative approach that staggers the mind's eye. On "A Virtuous Man," Kimara Sajin opens with an antiquated keyboard sound, followed by Di Franco's eerily low-key vocals and a motif-generating exercise, intimating that Armageddon teeters on the horizon. Surging onward, the musicians render a few mini-breakdowns atop irregular beats and a clandestine mode of operations, twisted into regal choruses that signify mass destruction or triumph. Thinking Plague yields a cinematic panache, iterated via song forms that duly mirror an off-centered world dictated by calamity, intrigue, and sardonic escapism.
Track Listing: Malthusian Dances; I Cannot Fly; Sleeper Cell Anthem; A Virtuous Man; The gyre; Climbing the Mountain.
Personnel: Elaine Di Falco: voice; Mark Harris: saxophones, clarinets; Mike Johnson: guitars; Kimara Sajn: drums, keyboards; Dave Willey: bass; Robin Chestnut: drums (5); Kaveh Rastegar: bass (1); Dexter Ford: bass (5).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.