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Chicago Underground Duo Boca Negra Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Atmospheric, exploratory music that creates worlds as it progresses.

Colin Buttimer 2010

Chicago Underground Duo is one part trumpeter Rob Mazurek, one part drummer Chad Taylor.  Expanding at various times into quartet and orchestra formats, Boca Negra is the duo's fifth album since 1998 and it sounds delightfully unfamiliar.  

Green Ants is stripped down to essentials and then some. It's a skeleton framework of beaten skins and blown pipes. Melodies appear as if dropped suddenly by a prairie wind. Left Hand of Darkness makes its way on the spider legs of what sounds like a well-worn thumb piano and a handful of effects pedals. Progress is slow, twitchy and spooked. It discovers its form gradually and the realisation is a pleasure to experience.

Broken Shadows fumbles like a sinister old man pummelled by Chad Taylor's percussive attack: heavy on the cymbals, lighter on the vibraphone. Mazurek blows streamers of parched notes that flit quickly in and out of focus. It's an Ornette Coleman composition – though you mightn't know it without being told – and it's exciting and strange. 

Hermeto is a ghost melody hypnotically repeated and almost drowned out by passing traffic. It may put you in that meditative state where your vision blurs a little and you take in the music without having to think about it (this is a good thing). Laughing With the Sun revives the thumb piano for a bleached journey through warm and dusty textures. The album concludes with a fitful syncopated beat, echoing chimes and trumpet-sounded vapour trails.

Boca Negra's cover sports a LOMO-like over-exposure, a mixture of reflections and silhouettes. It's a fitting visual for the duo's high, haunted music. There was a time when it seemed anything emanating from a Chicago zip code was essential. That time may have passed, but if you're in any way interested in atmospheric, exploratory music that creates worlds as it progresses, seek Boca Negra out.

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