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The prolific Chicago Underground expands its discography with a trio session featuring the fusion of laptops, acoustic jazz instrumentals, and charged free improvisations that defines their recorded output. The program of heated high speed interplay and cold techno ice caps displays a range of sonic intent rarely matched.
For “Protest,” Noel Kupersmith bangs the bass and the race is on. Taylor plays slap happy, and Rob Mazurek sounds a charge on coronet, occasionally sounding like an energized Don Cherry. Beginning acoustic, the band increasingly shares the presence of ambient electronics swelling around it. Kupersmith’s deliberate bowing shares the stability of the electro beat. Mazurek passes through the sound slabs overdubbed in duet. A menagerie of laptop chatter opens “Slon,” before a thick beat makes the Kraftwerk robot walk. Mazurek plays a haunting melody through the digital popcorn, occasionally giving way to subwoofer-withering bass tones.
Airy atmospherics with sharp edges open “Zagreb.” The aural dry ice parts for Kupersmith’s old school R&B bass, laced by Mazurek with muted blues. Taylor plays cymbal and varied drums lightly, giving the piece a spacious ease. A fun burst of energy, “Sevens” has Taylor playing all over himself, Mazurek and Kupersmith creating lively improvs of their own.
Beginning with electronics that echo Sun Ra, “Kite” unfolds as a computer piece with the trio improvising alongside. Its august landscape elicits color from Taylor’s percussion. A montage soundwash, “Palermo” uses sampled sounds of Palermo ambiently through cheerful computer loops. Back on acoustic instruments for “Shoe Lace,” the trio turns out a rugged thrill ride. Fading in down and late night, “Pear” features the trio with Mazurek muted and reflective. The highly romantic interlude fades out.
Inspired by the crazy melange of current events, Slon offers confrontation more often than consolation. However, these gifted improvisers at the top of their game make a strong argument for hope.