Luc Houtkamp

Exercise in Swing

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Luc Houtkamp has built a small, but nonetheless important, reputation as an adventurous saxophonist who carves a unique style sprouting from the genre of free improvisation. His many independently produced albums on his own X-OR label have consistently impressed with their ability to shed clichés and their daring, sometimes almost appealingly reckless, in-your-face audaciousness. The instant album is a new direction for Houtkamp, who relies here entirely on what he calls "digital pulse conglomeration." For most listeners, the static, alternating with occasional digital pulses, is not going to inspire or hold attention. For those familiar with Houtkamp's discography, this album is likely to come as a bit of a shock and a disappointment. For one, Houtkamp does not perform at all on saxophone (or, if he does, it is not identifiable.) The opening piece, "Exercise in Swing," does not swing at all; it is unrelenting minimalist radio-like static that sounds as though a two year old has latched onto a radio frequency that just is not there. None of the other pieces "swing" either, and the only discernible melody comes on Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye," which has to be one of the most bizarre versions of the song on disc. There are some people who view a blank white canvas and see beautiful art. For listeners of a like mind, this recording might make sense. For the rest of us, Mr. Houtkamp's impressive output as a saxophonist will suffice.

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