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It's Miller Time. M3, a power trio of Millers, launches Unearthing with a frenzied full-on assault reminiscent of the heaviest heavy metal: guitar, bass and drums ablaze. The opening blast on "Crossing Guard" leads through attention-deficit territory, where members of the group regularly waylay themselves in pursuit of sparkling accents and crumbling free cascades. But the musicians always return to the relentless energy of the chorus, which rises like an anthem above the smoke below.
After this grinding three minute assault, Roger, Laurence, and Benjamin Miller settle into a much more open-ended sonic field. Operating in the realm where silence plays as much of a role as sound, M3 builds soundscapes based on abstract scratching guitars, ripples of electronic effects, and intermittent punchy drums. Unearthing is, in large part, freedom in its most abstract sense. With acoustic and electronic tools at its disposal, the group pursues a loose-knit interactive form of exploration. It's clear from early on that very few rules govern the situation: the rest arises from spontaneous improvisation in the moment. Unlike Roger Miller's work with Larry Dersch in Binary System, the rhythmic aspect of Unearthing remains quite flexible. During the exposition of these short pieces (only a couple over five minutes, and a pair clocking in under one) the Millers play musical chairs. Roger Miller steps in for some fine color drumming early on, then settles into a anchoring role as bass foundation. Laurence plays the guitar and keyboards, and then occupies his primary position in the drummer's chair. Benjamin hops through roles on violin and drums amidst various guitar efforts.
During the heavy rotation, the instruments evolve through a variety of distinctly personal approaches. When Roger Miller activates the electronics (as he does most spookily on "Then I Walked Further On"), the music acquires an ethereal, otherworldly character. But during the four tunes (Tracks 7-11) where M3 stay purely acoustic, the sound returns to earth. These tunes reflect a greater degree of order, at times offering a distinctly post-rock flavor straight out of the Chicago tradition. The closer, "Plow," pulls insistently forward, steaming along a looping bass riff toward ecstatic resolution.
M3 aims to break stereotypes, and this the trio does with abandon. As a document of order, chaos, and rebirth, Unearthing offers a little bit of everything. It's a challenging record (not for the weak of heart) which takes risks in order to break new ground.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.