On Stringy Rugs, the second Cuneiform CD by Dutch avant rockers Blast, the group demonstrates its ability to navigate tricky and complex compositions, in which scored themes and improvised ideas are presented in rapid succession or even simultaneously. Recorded in New York, the Netherlands, and France, the album balances progressive rock, creative improvisation, and even contemporary classical elements in convincing fashion.
Various ensemble configurations perform the CDs ten pieces, which include episodes of often startling intricacy. "Litho 1" and "Litho 2" are short pieces (each just over a minute in length) scored for quartet performing on saxes, guitar, and marimba. At the other extreme is "Communifade," in which austere chamber music builds to orchestral proportions thanks to an eleven-piece aggregation featuring multiple trumpets, trombones, and tubas. "Bouncing" provides a chance for soprano sax to expound on a slow melodic line over stop-and-start rhythms performed on guitar, bass, and drums; horns join the mix after an improvised passage, and the piece concludes with a noise guitar solo that is equal parts Robert Fripp and Arto Lindsay.There is also sputtering baritone sax on "E se di Questo vòi Dicere Piùe" and a free-jazzish baritone solo over dirge-tempo massed horns and percussive outbursts on "Ink.." Much of the music on Stringy Rugs is brittle and angular, but purposely so. Conventional relationships between soloist and accompanist are studiously avoided in Blast's rigorous compositions, and sound and noise explorations are always presented within a cohesive context. Stringy Rugs is challenging, uncompromising, and often wonderful; repeated listenings are needed to absorb its many facets and reap its full rewards.