Leaves you a long way from whence you started.
Chris Jones 2009-04-01
Rob Mazurek may now be residing in South America, but he still has strong ties to his native Chicago. This new album by his quintet is unmistakably the product of the Windy City, containing as it does healthy doses of avant jazz, hard bop and, of course, that old chestnut post rock. It's a jazz record, but one that, while it glides past, leaves you a long way from whence you started.
The rock elements of the mixture that makes up Sound Is are provided by John Herndon on drums (Tortoise, the For Carnation) and Matthew Lux on electric bass guitar (Isotope 217, Iron and Wine). In the jazz corner, apart from Mazurek's cornet and keys we have Josh Abrams on acoustic bass (Town and Country, Black Earth Ensemble) and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes (Loose Assembly, Rolldown). The latter provides the link between Mazurek's more latent bop tendencies and the floating drifting hybrid that relies on repetition, glitchiness and a certain amount of distance.
This distance can often make it an oddly schizophrenic album where the lazy swing of The Hill rubs shoulders with the frantic bop of The Lightning Field, only to find itself washed up in the electronica and stately drone territory of Beauty Wolf. Microraptagonally blisses you out with ringing, Tibetan bowl-like tones only to have it segue into Aphrodite Rising which bludgeons you over the head with clattering noise.
That's not to say that there's no unity here, just a stretching of the arbitrary boundaries that keep rock and jazz apart (and have been so blurred by Mazurek and fellow Chicagoans). Mazurek coaxes microtonal subtleties but is equally happy to take a back seat. The finale of The Field (before Nora Grace's childish singsong sends you so sweetly off) is pure nu-jazz, where Mazurek lets the band go on a lovely meandering ride on the wheels of Adasiewicz's vibes before finally appearing at the end to add his approving tones as if to seal the deal. Interspersed with Zappa-like cut-ups this is one more nail in the coffin of boundary demarcation in modern music.