Massacre

Meltdown

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This album takes its title from the fact that it was recorded live at Robert Wyatt's Meltdown Festival in London in June of 2001. It brings together guitarist Fred Frith, bassist Bill Laswell, and drummer Charles Hayward, who, in 1982 (with original drummer Fred Maher in Hayward's place), set the downtown New York avant-garde scene on its ear with the blistering Killing Time. The group reunited in 1998 to record Funny Valentine, an essential (if not quite as brilliant) follow-up. The group's third recorded effort finds them moving into more typical group improv territory, mostly setting up patterns and alternating solos. The fact that they are who they are keeps those patterns and solos from ever getting boring, of course, but a few tightly composed numbers like those found on Killing Time would have been nice. That said, there is gorgeous playing from Frith in particular on "For Good and Scatter," Laswell puts his formidable funk chops to work on "Hover," and "Figure Out" moves from complex improvisatory interplay to an eerily beautiful ambient coda. "The Empire Strikes Back" seems to consist entirely of electronically treated crowd noise -- a surprisingly effective two-minute interlude before the final number, an energetic and jazzy piece aptly titled "Over." The only thing that makes this album slightly disappointing is the fact that Massacre has previously set the bar for themselves so high; it would constitute no wave genius on the part of any other band.

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