Trying to describe the texture of music is a bit of a vulgar theology. But the imperfect metaphor of texture is nevertheless the only way to discuss Jim Black's most recent release with Axis No Axis, Dogs of Great Indifference. It is an electric soundscape one might think of hearing on Hearts of Space. The core of this tactile-aural experience is formed by the leader, a drummer, with bassist Skuli Sverrisson and guitarist Hilmar Jensson. They lay down the craggy grit over which saxophonist Chris Speed conjures his reed alchemy. Black's beats are mostly simple rock backdoor bombs, occasionally smothered in polyrhythms. This results in music of simple complexityeasy to listen to, until you listen too hard.
Speed, usually a well-behaved soloist, goes unhinged on pieces like the disturbing "Tars and Vanish. Black stirs the pot while the saxophonist slowly injects a horrible truth serum, driving the piece to its violent end. "Spins So Free is a brief, nervous dream highlighting Sverrisson's arco bass. "Spins abruptly spins into the relentless "Star Rubbed, featuring Speed's meandering tenor floating over a structure reminiscent of the Police, circa Regatta de Blanc (1979). The tracks insinuate themselves into one another. Chris Speed, a level above the texture of the rhythm section, summons sounds from the Middle and Far East, dovetailing with Jensson's electric guitar. The saxophonist serves at the anchor of the recording, keeping everything just a bit askew.
Dogs of Great Indifference is that rare brand of music one can eat with a spoon. It is of a droning sort, highly improvised with minimal form. As such, it does not tax the open-minded listener. With so much bad fusion music available, it is nice to find some fresh, clean musical sand to walk on. After so many fine and enjoyable recordings, perhaps we are becoming spoiled to the genius of Jim Black. I hope to see many more.
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