It could be argued that the music Miles Davis was cutting about forty years ago still casts a shadow. Iron Kim Style stands in its shade, and for all of the original, offbeat stuff going on it's hard to shake the impression.
According to the slipcase, all the music was freely improvised, which might be a little misleading for anyone expecting the literal results of such a process. The music is largely kept within the limits set down by bass and drums, but often the momentum generated from the bottom up is enough to sustain interest. The opening "Mean Streets of Pyongyang" initially comes on like a hard rock take on electric Miles, before the collective foot is taken off the accelerator. The guitars remain overdriven however, even while it becomes obvious that this reading of the fusion genre is driven by something other than empty virtuosic display.
"Gibberish Falter" makes this even more obvious, all the while getting closer to some free ideal. With Miles, bassist Michael Henderson even when dealing more or less exclusively with funky vampsimparted a sense of urgency, and that effect is particularly pertinent here when trumpeter Bill Jones moves beyond the Davis comparison; no mean feat, given the music's underlying ethos.
"Adrift" is testimony to how the band can deal in nuance and detail when the guitars are kept on a short rein. Restraint is always welcome when it results in music that catches and keeps the attention, and this is a case in point, especially as it also highlights how guitarists Dennis Rea and Thaddeus Brophy know their instruments well enough to realize what expressive beasts they can be.
"Amber Waves of Migraine," in this case, isn't a title chosen by a band intent on making themselves hostages to fortune. The music is another exercise in restraint, but it's also shot through with a brooding quality. In the absence of a groove drummer, Jay Jaskot broods the most, lending a dark undertow which, all the while, promises a freak-out that never comes.
At less than three minutes "Jack Out the Kims" is nothing less than a great "lost" post-punk single, circa 1981. Its brand of sonic terrorism is of the variety labeled angryand justifiably soand such is its ferocity that Jones's trumpet is the sound of a man overtaken by events. The resulting tension has its merits, though, and the same goes for much of Iron Kim Style.
Mean Streets of Pyongyang; Gibberish Falter; Po' Breef; Don Quixotic; Adrift; Amber Waves of Migraine; Pachinko Malice; Dreams from our Dear Leader; Jack Out The Kims; Slouchin' at the Savoy.
Bill Jones: trumpet; Dennis Rea: guitar; Thaddeus Brophy: guitar; Ryan Berg: bass; Jay Jaskot: drums; Izaak Mills: bass clarinet (1, 5).