Thursday, April 27, 2006


Here are the two CD reviews I have in the May 06 issue of The Wire, the one with the icily lovely AGF on the cover. (I also have a lengthy Invisible Jukebox with William Parker in the issue, but I'm not reprinting that whole thing here.) May these guide you well on your next trip to the wrecka stow.

Battle Kommand
A photo of a drum kit and a guitar is prominent in Leviathan’s half of this CD’s booklet. Being a one-man Black Metal outfit means proving or at least asserting that you played ‘real’ instruments at some point during the recording process. Laptops are not Metal. And indeed, part way through the first Leviathan track here, “Odious Convulsions (They Are Not Worthy Of His Name),” a bass is heard, dominating the mix in almost post-punk fashion, a gesture quite shocking in Black Metal, which usually prides itself on a hissy, treble-soaked sound. The drums still sound programmed, though, photographic evidence be damned. At one point, the guitar gets slightly out of phase with the blast beats, creating a whop-whop effect like a helicopter and a pavement saw in competition. The vocals are typically indecipherable, and no lyrics are provided. The confident newcomer Sapthuran, who offers three tracks here, plays acoustic guitar, but also incorporates the sound of wind through trees (presumably at midnight, in a long dead forest) along with the usual blast beats and inhuman growling and screeching. With Black Metal, small differences are everything. An acoustic guitar or a Big Black bass break keeps the diehards coming back for more. Count me in.

Shot X Shot
High Two
Shot X Shot’s two saxophonists, Dan Scofield (alto) and Bryan Rogers (tenor), interact with grace and consideration, never grappling at centre stage like John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders (to whom they’re inaccurately compared in the booklet) or Borbetomagus’s Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich (to whom they’re somewhat more accurately not compared). If anything, Shot X Shot recall the New York group Test, whose music, gentle and introspective, belies the amount of time its creators spend playing in crowded subway stations. The group’s debut, recorded in a Philadelphia church, documents a battle between the participants and their environment. Natural reverberation is the fifth instrument – delicate horn duets shimmer away into Ambient haze, as Dan Capecchi’s drums thump and rattle and bassist Matt Engle struggles manfully to make an impact.
Things begin slowly, with Capecchi eliciting sounds very much like feedback from his cymbals, before the horns come in РRogers droning, Scofield playing slow, beautiful sequences of notes that seem only tenuously connected. But each sound chosen is indisputably right. From that moment on, the five tracks are more similar than different. All stride purposefully beyond the ten minute mark, but stop shy of becoming the 15 or 30 minute blowouts credulous audiences continue to endure from older free jazz groups, like parents sitting indulgently through school talent shows. And all leave an impression, upon completion, of being neither solipsistic nor beholden to clich̩ Рa small miracle, these days. This calmly assured debut bodes well for the future of all involved.

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