A group involving the likes of Charlie Looker and Chuck Bettis, this is one I have had my eye on. Their quite obviously second release now opening with an almost free-jazz esqe drumming to minor 2nd chords played up and down the neck by Looker. As the drums begin to swell the guitar picks up with a more structured set of riffs, cymbals beginning to lightly follow forming an outfit more apposite to rock. This sort of mixed bag intro was tried when Steve Noble collaborated with Stephen O'Malley and I was quite ambivalent then. Mike Pride provides the drums on this (notably working with Boredoms) and he certainly has a sense of appropriate timing. And that, as well as the very idiosyncratic style Looker has, is what stops it sounding like your usual bedroom jam between-noise heads. Because the occasional pick-up of structure and coherence is teased but never totally established in the longer tracks. Ten minutes and they don't wear their welcome but it disappears without any sort of fade out or goodbye. Meandering too much. Following are screamed, moaned and whooped vocals over a very awkwardly timed riff and complementary drums, all now in time. Something of a dichotomy but the lax nature of the album opener gives a nice contextual nudge to the album. Your typical development on the riff occurs. Processed vocals become more atmospheric, weaving in and out of the now slowed guitar and drum punctuations; which is very much what these drums seem to be, at times. Punctuation marks rather than the text itself. Each track seems to bring in a new instrument. A saxophone comes into Ten (the third track - one would assume these were the works chosen to be put into the final album rather than an arbitrary series of numbers thrown around) and it starts to sound like a faster Ensemble Pearl mixed with John Zorn. Charlie needs to learn to play in a different style, that's for sure. There's having your own playing style and there's nailing and riveting yourself to it, refusing to budge and accommodating solely by working with other musicians. Sunn O))) are comparable in this sense in that without other collaborators they'd be in a lot of trouble right now. Saying that, there are a few moments where he will utilise simple muted strikes and very mellow feedback in conjunction with other instruments, forming an industrial mess of sound that really cheers me up. But then it's back to Extra Life/Psalm Zero/Time Of Orchids/every other project he's ever been involved in samey samey riffy GOD.
Onkyokei - a movement which utilizes silence in conjunction with timbre and texture to create sound studies - is probably an influence what with the aforementioned punctuation sometimes taking a more structured, subtle approach such as quiet parp of a horn surrounded by nothing else but ambient sound. And then a while later a crash into a more rock-style composition. A classical guitar even pops out and your usual structure-to-free improv fades through once again. The only reason this doesn't wear is because of the introduction of different techniques and instruments.
So why am I being so harsh on this? Well, I'm not entirely sure. Despite everything I've just said this is one of the best works Charlie's been involved in and despite it being a total cluster-fricative it's certainly not fair to level that criticism at it because that's actually what I like about it. Sure, the guitar playing is nothing new, the sax is nothing new, the drums are nothing new (are you seeing a pattern here?) but collectively every single musician has their own distinct sound that I actually feel somewhat connected to on a more personal level. I can feel these musicians. I can feel their distinct influences and styles merge into what is less an amalgamation of people into band or name but a circle of them sitting talking among one another as a collective. There is an understanding between them which is much more segregative than in other collaborations I've heard. And it works.
I don't do numerical ratings because I'm here to criticise/give my pompous opinion, not let it get summed up in a reductive number. So let me say that anyone who's a fan of either of the main duo, free jazz, experimental rock, or saxophones in general will like this, and that if I'm giving it a cruel final summation, it's certainly above average. So, time for links!
Have a listen here.