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Here we have three crafty veterans of the British jazz-experimental scene who have assembled an extremely unique and thoroughly adventurous series of electrically charged improvisations as the results are often fascinating and beguiling. Guitarist Tim Crowther and keyboardist Steve Franklin have respectively or cooperatively worked with the legendary Canterbury bassist Hugh Hopper on projects such as the hip yet wild “Conglomerate”, various free-jazz ensembles, ex-King Crimson violinist David Cross and many others. Drummer Tony Marsh compliments his astute bandmates impressive resumes as he has also performed with many notables of the European free-jazz scene. Simply stated, these fellows generate enough energy and momentum to power a rocket ship! It is that intense!
Recorded live and improvised sans overdubs Shell Of Certainty is a series of powerful performances! From the opening moments of “Gravity Issue”, thoughts of Hendrix or Mahavishnu performing electric free jazz came to mind. Here, electric guitarist Steve Crowther blazes forward atop atmospheric yet darting keyboard work from Steve Franklin. The overall sound is huge and expansive as the soloing, interplay and feverish left of center or implied backbeats suggest wide open terrain which often leaves quite a bit of space for evolution and invention. “Council Of All Being” is multi-tonal, at times vicious and spacey as if a heated conversation was taking place somewhere in the cosmos. Here, Crowther is on fire with fierce and lightning fast riffs. Throughout, the often glistening sound quality seems multi-dimensional, as if this band were performing in your living room.
“Tremors” emits notions of an electrified homage to the British Free-Jazz scene through sparse passages, chatty dialogue between Franklin, Marsh and Crowther who also utilizes the guitar-synth. Clusters of solos, statements coupled with linear movement and a framework, which is constructed around gradual ascension, suggests a perceived notion of an earthquake or something equally ominous. “Permanent (washable)” features more of a pronounced backbeat by Marsh as the Trio stuns our senses with a somewhat bizarre foray into psychedelic fusion art-rock, accelerated by Franklin’s tasty synth-keyboard work. You may be entering an alien space craft for a quick tour of the heavens on “Aboreal” as the unusual yet hard edged sounds trick and deceive the imagination or how about some mutant electro-blues on the final track titled, “Angel Cakes”. At this juncture it may be time to take a deep breath and cherish the experience. Shell Of Certainty stands on it’s own, from a high vantage point – as if it were untouchable!........* * * * *
Additional information is provided on their “informative” website: www.visionlogic.demon.co.uk Distribution in the USA is handled byWayside Musicand in the UK byHarmonia Mundi
Steve Crowther; Guitar & Guitar Synth: Steve Franklin; Keyboards: Tony Marsh; Drums
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.