March 2006

Glenn Astarita BY

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Sludge Test

Cantaloupe Music


It's not often that you'll listen to a hardcore jazz-rock outfit transcribing classical composer Olivier Messiaen's "Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes. But as it stands, this high-octane quartet pulls it off, although the correlation might not be overtly noticeable upon the first few listens. Yet, these folks mean business via their intense ensemble play, abetted with quirky time changes and in-your-face soloing. And the good news is, that this band's heady arrangements coupled with silly song titles, translates into an action-packed and somewhat lighthearted affair. It's akin to thrash jazz-rock, highlighting the artists' conveyance of good-cheer to complement their energetic artisanship.

Zero Crossing

My Kinda Funk

Groove Attack


Germany's Zero Crossing (Andreas Angerer) garners some assistance from rapper Kool Keith and others during these funk-drenched mixes. With synth strings, compact beats, and spacey spoken word overlays, the main ingredient resides within the snazzy funk-bass sequences. Angerer implements some colorific background treatments, but the outing is more about snap, punch and in-the-pocket rhythmic exercises. It's entrenched within the dance/party genre and not quite as compelling for the traditional, sit-down listening experience. Angerer doesn't chart newfound terrain here. With that notion in mind, the listener might be apt to dance the night away, as Angerer mimics the rhythms of life with a funky, electronics-induced slant.

> Slave to the System

Slave to the System



The quartet is comprised of metal-rock bands Queensryche and Brother Cane. And the premise for this album—as the title indicates—is centered upon the "corporate system, where artistic control is generally sacrificed. Therefore, when the musicians hashed out the format and songs for this album, they just let their creative juices flow. Sure, the music firmly resides within the metal category, but tips a bit more towards the progressive schema. Constructed upon power-packed bass, drums and guitar motifs, the music generally surges onward via knotty time signatures. Add to that, guitarists Damon Johnson and Kelly Gray emphatic vocalizations. The band integrates a few catchy hooks into the grand scope of matters. However, it's fairly apparent that they are doing their own thing, sans any dictation from record company marketing honchos. The overall results are generally satisfying.

Vinny Golia Quartet


Clean Feed


Recorded in 2003 at a Lisbon, Portugal studio; Southern California based woodwind specialist Vinny Golia parallels his visually oriented artistic proclivities with this high-flying jazz romp. Featuring longtime associates; trumpeter Bobby Bradford, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Alex Cline, this energized modern/free jazz set cuts to the chase. Brimming with raw power and intersecting thematic frenzies, the band's methodology consists of counterbalancing frameworks and rapidly moving dialogues. Here, Golia and Bradford dissect motifs into subdivisions, propelled by the rhythm section's polyrhythmic aplomb.

> Push the Triangle

Cos La Machina 1

D' Autres Cordes


This French quintet pushes the envelope while garnering high-marks for originality and breadth of implementation. Franck Vigroux cranks out atypical avant-rock sounds from his electric guitar and turntables. As the remainder of the band comprises, cornet- drums-saxophone-vocals. It's easily one of the more captivating music marvels of 2005, where the band's experimentalism spans rock, free-jazz, and classical concepts. Howling guitars seek a happy medium with difficult time navigations and wild jazz parts. The ensemble's genre bashing transforms into an unswerving makeup, spiced with stabs at humor and a quasi, electronic-organic tone. They even fuse indigenous folk/rock musings into the heart of matters. Three cheers are in order for an ensemble that transcends a good deal of experimental muck, surfacing within European and American music circles. Given the unorthodox chain of events, these folks somehow seem to pull it all together.

Malcolm Goldstein & Masashi Harada




Here, two master Improvisers, violinist Malcolm Goldstein and pianist Masashi Harada veer off into some sort of transcendental improvising exposition. Encompassing fractured themes and lucidly conjured imagery the artists' toss caution to the wind during these multifaceted performances. Goldstein is an amazing improviser, as his violin often sounds like it is an extension of his body and soul. Ideally, attributes or notions of this nature would signify a pinnacle of artistic success, to varying degrees. He extracts an abundance of multihued sounds via innumerable techniques during these interlacing call/response type deconstructions and realignments. Harada is a strong foil with his pumping block chords and vocal chants. And as the title might infer, this is an improvisational foray that shines forth with organic overtones and an oscillating sense of the dynamic.

This Heat

This Heat

ReR Megacorp


This is a newly issued remastering of archival material culled from this cutting edge trio's late-'70s and early-'80s output. The British band was ahead of its time. Superb musicians, they integrated John Cage-like theories into a spacey, progressive-rock sound. Along with elements of minimalism and injections of the macabre, the artists' multitasking abilities signify an intricately devised methodology. The distinct musical behavior of this relatively short-lived band is beyond comparison! And the experimental implementations transmitted here, surface as uncannily nouveau and irrefutably inviting. Sometimes bizarre ideas strewn together by like-minded teammates will click. In any event, these gents beat the odds. (Essential avant-rock.)

Quinsin Nachoff

Magic Numbers



This recent release serves as the first SACD that, played on my new and relatively high-end DVD/SACD unit. And while I wasn't expecting miracles, the results proved to be gratifying, namely with the glistening and rather capacious sonic attributes. Tenor/soprano saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff commingles lyrically-charged choruses atop the buoyant, four-member strings section. Topped off with 3-D like stereo separation, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Jim Black add some zip into the overall game-plan. On the flip side, this isn't a mellow third-stream engagement. On the contrary, Nachoff mans a tightly integrated ship, where the strings section offers more than simply providing ornamentation. But there's an uncanny splendor set forth, comprised of unswerving momentum and lush harmonies. Nachoff bridges the best of several jazz-drenched frameworks throughout a bevy of shrewdly developed harmonic encounters and up-tempo soloing endeavors.

Univers Zero




Belgian Rock-In-Opposition acolytes Univers Zero sort of encapsulate its sound and climactically centered tactics on this wondrously recorded live set. In fact, this outing presents an all-encompassing picture of the band's unique characteristics. Spanning three decades, the sextet's horns-strings-keys-rhythms makeup is largely about melodic overtones coupled with driving pulses and complex time signatures. The sextet blends a radical approach to familiar progressive-rock musings with horns and strings that occasionally drive the rhythmic pulses with booming unison lines. There are gentle moments, especially when the artists merge delicate chamber passages with ethereal treatments. No doubt, this newly issued disc will stand as one of the ensemble's finest recorded documents to date.

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