On Iron Kim Style, guitarist Dennis Rea has created a CD of entirely improvised music, set against themes mostly about North Korea and it's nefarious ruler, Kim Jong-Il. Rea might not have possibly foreseen just how much the tension between North and South Korea would escalate as it has in recent times. The art work on the outside of the CD portrays a very militant landscape of North Korea, with a perfectly scaled photo of Kim Jong-Il inserted into the band photo inside the CD. With Kim's son sitting in the wings to take power in the next several years, this release may serve as a future requiem to its comically dark protagonist. Instrumental political musicjazz or otherwiseusually asks, with subtlety, for an active, empathetic connection between the stated titled themes and the music within, so that a story can be told in emotional aural colors rather than lyrical words.
In the band, also named Iron Kim Style, Rea leads the proceedings with standout guitar chords that the other players follow. There appears to be an obvious and inescapable Miles Davis/Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) jazz-rock fusion era feel; using the Bitches Brew template is not new in itself, but understanding this as a baseline makes it somewhat easier to appreciate the newer vocabulary applied to the surface of Iron Kim Style's music. Davis' tone is heard in Billy Jones' trumpet on "Mean Streets of Pyongyang," as much as Bennie Maupin can be heard in in Izaak Mills' bass clarinet.
It is the rock part of Rea that appears to provide this improvised music with enough form to keep it very interesting. That said, the music still comes off much looser than Rea's other fusion band, the very compositional Moraine, with songs like "Don Quixote" and "Dreams of Our Leader" almost possessing the slow, moodily produced quality of an ECM recording. In contrast, "Jack out the Kims" goes for a raw, restless blast that brings out duel guitar shredding, with twelve-string guitar accomplice Thaddaeus Brophy in full force.
Iron Kim Style provides evidence that the Seattle music scene remains as vibrant as ever. The next television news special you see on about the tenuous North Korean situation, sit back, hit the mute button on the TV, and turn up this recording; let it be your soundtrack.
Track Listing: Mean Streets of Pyongyang; Gibberish Falter; Po' Brief; Don Quixotic; Adrift; Amber Waves of Migraine; Pachinko Malice; Dreams from Our Dear Leader; Jack Out the Kims; Slouchin' at the Savoy.
Personnel: Dennis Rea: six-string electric guitar; Ryan Berg: bass guitar; Bill Jones: trumpet; Thaddaeus Brophy: twelve-string electric guitar; Jay Jaskot: drums; Izaak Mills: bass clarinet.
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