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The return of Big Satan finds alto saxophonist Tim Berne, guitarist Marc Ducret, and drummer Tom Rainey playing the edgy, astonishing music associated with the reedman's recent outings. Despite Ducret's easy access to loud and rough hues, his work with Berne drains the denseness lodged in Berne's recent Science Friction , more fully revealing the convoluted structures underpinning the compositions. While Ducret and Berne compete as scene stealers, Rainey's busy omni-beat technique fills the spaces while comfortably supporting the melodicists' jagged flights.
Ducret demonstrates dexterity and imagination on his shiny acoustic intro to "Ce Sont les Noms des Mots." Groundbreaking ECM guitarist/sound chemist David Torn handles the production, unobtrusively tweaking the tracks with occasional sparkle. Berne joins Ducret in a thoughtful reading of the theme. Rainey jumps in with a taste of the unique flutter and punch approach that he utilizes throughout. Berne takes plenty of blow time with Ducret's rubber band riffs pulling over Rainey's machine gun drums. "Hostility Suite" begins as thorny interplay but goes out sultry cooperation.
All three players romp through "Geez," ending in a static metallic funk. "Rampe" ups the ante and Ducret pulls some limber strings before settling into a rumbling riff for Berne to play through, Rainey volatile. A mistily romantic "Emportez-Moi" leads into "Deadpan." Rainey spreads rhythm around before a carefully plotted, disjointed-seeming theme unfolds. Berne takes a reserved solo before Ducret enters with effects pedals on overload and sprays Rainey's ever-moving target. Returning, Berne joins Ducret and Rainey for high heat.
Ducret slashes and tears to open "Mr. Subliminal." Berne slows it down with electronically haunted solo musings. All three skillfully explore the prickly landscape. As reminder of their home label, "Plantain Surgery" features more of the electronic effects associated with Thirsty Ear's Blue Series. After the relatively uncluttered performances that precede it, the tune seems contrived until it coalesces into a clear counterpoint.
Big Satan should please Berne fans who've followed his experiments up to this point, as well as win listeners previously overwhelmed by his rich musical stews.
Track Listing: Ce Sont Les Noms Des Mots; Hostility Suite; Geez; Rampe; Emportez-Moi; Deadpan (for Mat Maneri);
Mr. Subliminal; Property Shark; Plaintain Surgery.
Personnel: Tim Berne, alto sax; Marc Ducret, guitar; Tom Rainey, drums.