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Sam Kulik: Escape From Society

Dave Wayne By

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The basic premise of Sam Kulik's Escape From Society was to make a modern-day song poem recording using Craigslist to attract would-be lyricists, instead of a cheesy printed advertisement. Those not immediately familiar with the whole song-poem concept may well recognize the little ads—often seen on the back pages of comic books, men's magazines, and tabloid newspapers—promising to produce hit songs from anyone's poetry submissions for a fee. The results were often an embarrassing mish-mash of banal lyrics accompanied by pedestrian and often pre-recorded music. Occasionally, the lyrics were a bit bizarre and the musicians would cut loose—so some of these things, while still a bit goofy, had some real artistic value.

Using a similar approach, sans the promises of superstardom for a price, Kulik has crafted fourteen unique and relentlessly quirky pieces from his solicited collaborations. Unlike the original song- poems from the 60s and 70s, Kulik places a high premium on musical artistry. Moreover, these tunes span a dizzyingly wide stylistic range; from quirky pop à la The Talking Heads, to drum machine-driven proto-hip hop, to low-fi free improv. As it turns out, Kulik himself wrote the lyrics to two of the songs, one was penned by songwriter Alex McDonald, and another was contributed by the well- known author and musician David Greenberger. Though he also plays guitars throughout Escape From Society, Kulik's main axe is the trombone, and he solos quite often and very effectively.

Kulik, who's also worked with Anthony Braxton, Talibam!, and Amanda Palmer, has a smooth baritone voice and a completely deadpan delivery that sounds like a hybrid of Bob Dorough and Lou Reed. The backing band is tight and efficient, grooving away in a countrified fashion on "More Than Your Dog" and "Middle of Nowhere" and sweetly negotiating the less familiar, art-rock inspired contours of "Last Train To Paradise," "Amy's Song," and "Ten Little Indians." For all the pop, folk, and funk threaded through these songs, Kulik's first love is experimental music and several of the pieces land on the extreme end of the avant-garde spectrum. "I Flip My Rhythms" features a collage of sampled and live trombone-generated gasps and wheezes, while "The Verge" juxtaposes crafty pop and a chamber-y free improv ensemble in a cunning fashion. The closing track, "Infinite Shit," is a howling wind tunnel full of attenuated vocal utterances, drones, guitar feedback, digital delay tomfoolery, and unidentifiable sizzling percussion. The overall effect of this piece, though it requires some patience to get through, is not easily forgotten.

While it's not really a jazz recording, per se, Escape From Society has a freshness and stylistic pliability that sets it equally apart from the world of indie rock. While it's a bit too high-minded and beautifully executed to appeal to orthodox song-poem fans, the gently but genuinely surreal tone of this CD is really quite unique.

Track Listing: Thank You; Last Train to Paradise; More Than Your Dog; So You Want To Be a Slug? Middle of Nowhere; Bellarthur an Albino; South Philly Daze; Amy's Song; The Winter Storm; I Flip My Rhythms; Ten Little Indians; Tres Dedos Marron; The Verge; Infinite Shit.

Personnel: Sam Kulik: vocals, brass, guitar; Kyle Forester: bass, keyboards; Ian Antonio: drums; Matt Nelson: saxophones; Moppa Elliott: bass (14); Tom Blancarte: bass (13); Jeremiah Cymerman: clarinet (13); AmyWeiss: violin (13).

Title: Escape From Society | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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