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Drummer, composer, and bandleader Ches Smith is an artist with indisputable abilities who thrives on the fringes whether supplying tight rhythms for notable musicians such as guitarist Marc Ribot, saxophonist Darius Jones, and the indie rock band Xiu Xiu, or creating self-produced works like his solo multi-instrumental electronic project Psycho Predictions (Preposterous Bee,2012).
One of Smith's working bands is These Arches, a group of like-minded artists that provide plenty of forward thinking music in Hammered, the appropriately titled follow-up to 2010's Finally Out Of My Hands(Skirl Records). From start to finish, Smith's eight "tunes" deliver a sonic maelstrom of tonal contours and interchanging themes which are filled with intensity and chaotic movements.
Heavyweights Tony Malaby and Tim Berne express their saxophones in a variety of screeches, growls, and piercing runs on the opener "Frisner" and the title track where Smith's free-jazz/ rock attitude is in full bloom. Its "garage band" appeal is thick with a stomping backbeat, an array of cool effects from guitarist Mary Halvorson and Andrea Parkins's rustic accordion intonations.
The music is at times disconcerting and makes no qualms about its brash intent, although the quieter theme of "Limitations" allows a brief moment of respite. Turbulent winds begin to stir again in the unsettling "Learned From Jamie Stewart" which was originally penned for the band Xiu Xiu and a rave-like party ensues in the boisterous "Animal Collection" before the set closes with "This Might Be A Fade Out" highlighted by a memorable solo from Smith.
These diverse sounds collide and coalesce, blurring the music lines between improvisational and not-so-mainstream music. Smith states the origin behind these peculiar selections, "They're sort of rock reject tunes, and that gave a shape to the whole record." Like the sentiments of the 1997 rap song by the Shop Boyz, Ches Smith and These Arches "Party Like a Rock Star" with Hammered albeit in totally different ways.
Track Listing: Frisner; Wilson Phillip; Dead Battery; Hammered; Limitations; Learned From Jamie Stewart; Animal Collection; This Might Be A Fade Out.
Personnel: Ches Smith: drums, percussion; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Andrea Parkins: accordion, organ, electronics.
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.