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The Bureau of Atomic Tourism: Spinning Jenny

Karl Ackermann By

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The Bureau of Atomic Tourism (also known as BOAT) fittingly represents the image of Rat Records, given that the name is an acronym for "rare and treacherous." Spinning Jenny—the second outing for the group—is a challenge to both players and listeners with its mix of free improvisation, electronics, and avant-garde. Founded by drummer Teun Verbruggen, BOAT takes a radical approach to the configuration of the pieces on Spinning Jenny as each is built more on the collective momentum of individual strengths than on group dynamics.

Trumpeter Nate Wooley's opener, "Back to My Steel," was recorded live in Paris during a 2013 BOAT tour and is the only live number in the set. Emerging from an extended near-silence, Wooley establishes his presence followed closely by multi-reedist Andrew d'Angelo on bass clarinet. Both are quickly swept up as if swimming against a strong current of noise before the piece ends as suddenly and quietly as it began. Guitarist Marc Ducret's "Canon" features his trademark animated and bellicose style and long after d'Angelo and Wooley join in free improvisation Durcet's jagged playing cuts through all other sounds. Verbruggen and d'Angelo (here on alto saxophone) engage in a tandem of long exchanges, mixing but rarely matching as if in a passive-aggressive altercation.

"19" provides a brief interlude for Wooley's more introspective side but brief it is as the following ten minutes are dominated by sporadic harmonies ripped apart by keyboardist Jozef Dumoulinon's Fender Rhodes and Verbruggen's hyper-active attack on the kit. Simultaneously, Durcet darts in and out of the melee with spikey, boisterous stabs. He continues that approach into the twenty-four minute "FTDOY" briefly preceded by rasping electronics and the antagonistic onslaught of Dumoulinon. Semi-repetitive horn patterns play independent melodies as the whole shambolic setting abruptly collapses into quiet. Two of Ducet's three writing contributions— "Blues de L'ombre" and "Aquatique" close Spinning Jenny. The latter piece is a far cry from its original version on Ducet's large ensemble Le Sens de la Marche (Illusions Music, 2009). Though there is some of the original structure, the instruments are more at odds with each other while an almost imperceptible symmetry exists in the chaos.

Where there is middle-ground on Spinning Jenny, there is precious little of it. An intense and uncompromising collection, its rambunctiousness nevertheless has a pleasing element to it and certainly a sense that these musicians are enjoying themselves. Individually and collectively, BOAT pushes against the urge to create melody and harmony while subliminally exposing just enough of both to keep the proceedings from complete chaos. It's interesting listening for tolerant ears.

Track Listing: Back to My Steel; Canon; 19; FTDOY; Blues de L'ombre; Aquatique.

Personnel: Teun Verbruggen: drums and electronics; Andrew d'Angelo: alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Nate Wooley: trumpet;
 Jozef Dumoulin: fender Rhodes; 
Marc Ducret: guitar;
 Jasper Stadhouders: bass.

Title: Spinning Jenny | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Rat Records


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