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Marsh, Franklin, and Crowther have recorded and toured extensively in British jazz/fusion and improvised rock, including Marsh's work with Harry Beckett and Franklin and Crowther's improv band Conglomerate. Shell of Certainty is their first CD together, and all tracks were improvised and recorded live with no overdubs.
These improvisations are sonically and thematically chaotic, loosely in the vein of King Crimson's live improvs in '73-'74, except containing a stronger jazz influence. Melodic fragments are jumbled; chordal features are short and clipped; and tonal palettes range from the traditional to the experimental. The jazz influence is most prominent sonically, but not compositionally, as the structures are more random.
Marsh's drumming has a light jazz flavor with delicate cymbal work that underpins the music with an airy feel. Franklin uses fuzzed synth sounds and clean piano textures to good effect. Crowther's smoothly played yet scattered lines sound spontaneously appropriate, rather than rehearsed licks or phrases applied over an improv situation. The musicians interact well, developing improvised themes and directions that remain engaging as they build.
Improvised rock is difficult to listen to, absorb, and most of all, judge, requiring repeated listening and reflection, and the highest compliment should be that a listener is intrigued enough to want to listen more. Marsh, Franklin, and Crowther's music definitely holds this appeal, and fans of sonic experimentation in rock improvisation should check out Shell of Certainty. Visit http://www.visionlogic.demon.co.uk for more information.
Personnel: Tony Marsh, drums Steve Franklin, keyboards Tim Crowther, guitar