Seven that Spells - Future Retro Spasm [Beta-lactam Ring - 2010]
This band mixes a variety of musical genres into a compelling, satisfying and very well crafted sound. First off, there is a big modern jazz influence here, with the weighty, luscious saxophone up-front a lot of the time, driving, or seconding, a lot of the melodies and rhythms. The drummer knows how to keep the various elliptical elements together, with a hard, often punky beat, on a lot of the tracks; the bassist keeps to a simple, yet effective staccato bullet-time, and the guitarist plucks and coerces his strings in a delightful, resounding way. They are all obviously adept and highly talented musicians, who have studied all of the classic 1970's prog-rock, jazz-fusion and early post-punk/electronica albums very carefully.
Of the highlights, tracks 2, 3 and 5 stand out - 3 starts off with a basic, strong rhythm, which is contained throughout, but then the edges of the sound begin to blossom out as the various instruments begin to fill the space. The main sax oscillates speedily, quavering and straining at its physical restraints, then the guitar joins in, and duets with the sax in a strange, bleeding whirlpool of frenetic energy. All the background instruments continue the beautiful assault - there is real depth to this music. This track - and some of the others - is most reminiscent of the post-modern, late 1970's and early 80's punk-jazz-rock sty-lings of Robert Fripp's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But their influences are much more wide-ranging than that - I picked up on the uber-rock-rave doodlings of the Ozric Tentacles, and there are elements of the post-punk experimental rock of The Pop Group, Rip, Rig and Panic and John Zorn here as well: track 5 being a standout homage to the kind of speed-freak, semi-improvisatory order vs chaos discordia that Zorn and his cohorts excel in. And of course, there is a good smidgen of the type of edgy jazz-fusion harmonies spearheaded by the likes of Miles Davis and Weather Report.
Perhaps the only track that really didn't do it for me, was the slower, more 'ambient' track 4, which doesn't really escape its own rather average guitar/sax melody-refrain - it felt less powerful and imaginative then the rest, and in this light, it could perhaps be said that they could try pushing at least some of the music into an even more radical, discordant and experimental zone, as Zorn and countless others already have. However, regardless of this one caveat, going by the rest of it, this is a fully-formed, finely tuned album that is intelligent and invigoratingJames DC