Saturday, July 14, 2012

Contortionist Jazz Exotica (2012)

Some noise artists have attempted to elevate the genre to a new level of sophistication and subtlety. Aube creates entire albums out of a single, sometimes surprising, source. Merzbow has theme albums that utilize bird songs and prog rock samples. In general, there has been a gradual development of noise music from anarchic racket to cultured sound manipulation.

Contortionist Jazz Exotica resists this evolution with every fiber of their being. The band refuse to provide any  information about themselves or their music, and the tape they sent me (not CD, tape! I had to go out and specifically acquire the hardware necessary to listen to it!) contains no track titles or any other text at all.

Don't let the name fool you. There is no jazz, much less exotica to be found here. It's a chaotic, sometimes terrifying listen that sounds like a wild, drug and alcohol fueled Saturday night gone horribly wrong. It's very, very noisy, with few identifiable sources for the sounds. There's a lot of feedback, much screaming and a few repeated loops. The only time the wall of sound breaks down is to make way for a few vocal samples that are no less incomprehensible and disturbing.

 It's kind of refreshing to hear modern experimental music stripped of the glitzy Pro-Tools trappings and bared down to pure DIY noisemaking. In a way I am reminded of early Einst├╝rzende Neubauten or Foetus. Still, Contortionist Jazz Exotica is a harrowing, though never boring, experience. Fans of the underground noise scene will surely find much to appreciate about the band.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Liminal Phase - LP (2011)

This is the debut album from Liminal Phase, a sort of free form psychedelia ensemble recorded live in the studio with barely any preconceived ideas for composition. The result is an extremely diverse, sprawling set of tracks that traverse a wide range of influences and genres.

Despite having only six members, Liminal Phase really has the feel of an avant garde big band, perhaps due to their jazz-informed practice of structured improvisation with alternating solos, as well as the fact that every member plays several different instruments. However, jazz is only one of the many styles brought to bear here, with a good deal of inspiration being drawn from world music, such as Indian raga and Middle Eastern motifs.

A trippy vibe is maintained throughout, and one is put in mind of modern day jam bands like Ozric Tentacles only with a more varied sound, and improvisational collectives like Volcano the Bear only less weird. However, the album's greatest strength is also its weakness.

Because the material was edited down from several hours of jamming, there is a certain discontinuity that is noticeable as some of the tracks don't flow into each other as well as they might. Still, for those who relish the wild side of free-form psychedlia, there is much to enjoy here.

The "songs," all of which are instrumental, range from under two minutes to over thirteen in length, and there is sure to be something for everyone. Personally, I prefer the long, drawn out pieces where themes really have a chance to develop into something special, but sometimes a bite sized chunk of weirdness is just what the doctor ordered. It will be a pleasure to watch how this fledgling group develops over the next few years and I will certainly be curious to see what their next release brings.