Chicago-based avant jazz musician and composer Rob Mazurek has produced his most cosmic, interplanetary work with the Exploding Star Orchestra, working with a rotating assembly featuring regular collaborators from his other ensembles such as Chicago Underground and São Paulo Underground to create his most science fiction-themed, Sun Ra-inspired compositions. Galactic Parables, Vol. 1, commissioned by the Sant'Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, Italy in 2013, is the Orchestra's most ambitious undertaking yet. Expanding on Sixty-Three Moons of Jupiter, their 2009 collaboration with Roscoe Mitchell, Galactic Parables features freewheeling improvisations for multiple percussion instruments, electronics, guitars, horns, and Mazurek's expressive cornet playing. The lengthy pieces are guided by striking poetry spoken by regular collaborator Damon Locks, whose intense, paranoid proclamations address subjects including slavery, ghosts, and the awakening of the world. Locks' vocals are often electronically manipulated and distorted, and are even mixed with samples of the unmistakable voice of Sun Ra himself, who inquires "Are you spotless? I have spots" occasionally throughout the first disc, a recording of the work's Sardinia premiere. The second disc of this release contains the same compositions recorded live at the Chicago Cultural Center, and the order and lengths of the compositions are rearranged, befitting the improvisatory nature of the work. The Chicago performance slightly tones down the abrasiveness of the Italian one, placing less emphasis on electronics, but still letting the work's powerful message shine through, particularly on the 22-minute "Make Way to the City" and the guitar shredding of "The Arc of Slavery #72." Galactic Parables, Vol. 1 is an astonishing, visionary work, and continues to document Mazurek at a creative peak, directly following Cuneiform's 2014 release of the utterly transcendent Return the Tides, Mazurek's deeply moving tribute to his departed mother recorded with ensemble Black Cube SP.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2