Good for Cows

Audumla

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    7
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Good for Cows started out as an acoustic bass-and-drums duo, heavily influenced by the free jazz of Ornette Coleman and by their combined background in ensembles like the Nels Cline Singers, Xiu Xiu, Traditionalists, and Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog. But drummer Ches Smith and bassist Devin Hoff have been listening to death metal and noise rock lately, and their fourth album sounds less like the "crust jazz" they explored on Bebop Fantasy and more like a stew of elements from horror movies, Bill Laswell projects, John Zorn game pieces, and the occasional partially digested chunk of funk or jazz, thanks in part to the electronics now wielded by Smith along with his acoustic drums. At its best, the duo's music is varied and wildly interesting: while the album's title track feels like a random patchwork of elements (half-formed rock riff followed by haunted-house synthesizer followed by a plodding Black Sabbath bit), "Secret Hobbies" features a complex harmonic scheme (no small feat, given this instrumentation) and transitions that come across as more logical while no less abrasive. "Solfell (Mountains on the Sun)" is especially Zorn-ish, to its credit, while "Legion" starts out in horror movie mode before shifting into punk rock mode. The program ends with the quietly brooding "The Last (When All Bonds Are Broken)." Some of this stuff ends up sounding suspiciously like aimless noodling, but when Smith and Hoff lock in and develop their more interesting ideas, things get compelling pretty fast.

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