Reviews for 12/14/09

Pendulum – “Pendulum” – Medusa Critical Publications

Improvisational duo featuring Randall Hall’s extended saxophone technique and Jonathon Kirk processing and manipulating the sound via laptop.  Songs like “Continuity of Etz’nab” showcase Hall’s tremendous ability to wring new sounds from his instrument, such as the hollow percussive noise used to great effect here. During their best moments, each track blends Kirk and Hall’s contributions so thoroughly that listeners will be hard-pressed to determine who is creating a specific sound– indeed, a significant portion of “Pendulum” finds each performer musically tied to the other, with neither in full control of where their contribution will proceed. The result is an experience a bit more immediately engaging for listeners; as “Pendulum” takes form it dips, stretches, and reacts like something alive.

Art Jerks – “Dysphemism Treadmill” – Bat Hot Axe

“The things you like are in place, and are ready to be damaged.” Appropriate words, spoken by STARTLING MONIKER favorite George Korein, as he opens this superbly weird album. Not that this is a confrontational disc– if anything, the Art Jerks create a rather open musical environment throughout– but because each track manages to shrug off all intent save its own. Each outing becomes its own petri dish, letting music grow into new shapes that may or may not be useful. Take “Globe of Hubris,” for instance. Across what is initially a stuttered march beat, wheezing horns slink over a plodding bassline, terminating in a series of record-skip codas. The initial reaction is “huh?” Being more than a little odd myself, I’m inclined to think this kind of play is a good thing.  Although one might easily accuse “Dysphemism Treadmill” of simply screwing around in the studio, it might also be thought of as a kind of outsider science, challenging assumptions that music “has to” hit certain milestones before being taken seriously. “I did it my way and it sucked, but I still refused to give it up” Korein says at the disc’s closing. Perhaps he’s right… what’s the use of listening to an artist if they’re giving us anything less?

Keeping in theme with the album title, here’s a bad review of the disc. Turn it into what you will. Please note that their writers have been known to “eagerly await” records by Dream Theatre, and even enjoy them. Adjust your bullshit meter accordingly.

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