Starship Beer

Nut Music: As Free as the Squirrels

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Beefheart-style skronk, spoken-word jive poetry, free jazz improvisations, and just plain noise collide on this lone release from upstate New York weirdos Starship Beer. The best known of this trio, Kevin Whitehead, went on to be a jazz authority on NPR's Fresh Air; here, he lets his hair down, providing bass gurgles, clarinet bleats, and howls form the darkness. Pat O'Brien's lunatic rant "Black/White White/Black" opens the disc, followed by a dissonant and chilly solo piano piece, a silly scat and alto recorder number, and a winding piece for solo clarinet. Next, "Cavalcade of Stars" brings an almost heavy metal-sounding guitar/bass jam session to the mix, followed by a short but energetic improv session for clarinet, alto sax, and percussion called "Plumbing." "Ghost of Owls" is an all-vocal experiment and "You Fly in My Brain Like an Airplane" returns to the spoken-word ramblings of the lead track. Then there's the all-out aural barrage of "(At the Noise) Circus" before the wild ride ends with the somber (if eerie) "Air or Wind" and the cautionary tale "Chris the Nasty Boy," adding organ and melodica to the guitar/bass/voice mix of the first track. Far from original or groundbreaking, Nut Music gets points for its sheer intensity and proud defiance. Unpredictable, erratic, uneven, and often annoying, Nut Music is not for the casual listener or the faint of heart. The 2001 reissue from Atavistic's Unheard Music series adds nearly 30 minutes of bonus material, most notably the hilarious faux-country disaster tune "10-4 Big Buddy" and the 14-minute noise-fest "Tiffany Lounge."

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