Immerse head in big bucket of New York downtown saxophone skronk. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. That's kind of what listening to Briggan Krauss' 300 is like. Krauss is a bit of a madman on the alto saxophone, even by the standards of the downtown scene, which -- after all -- is not populated by a bunch of shrinking violets. Leading this two-session recording with keyboardist Wayne Horvitz and drummer Kenny Wollesen, Krauss is positively unhinged a good deal of the time; most of his work with groups like Babkas, Pigpen, Sex Mob, and even the Andrea Parkins Trio (which also features Wollesen) is comparably restrained. He cuts loose with scalar runs that permute into screams, wails, and gravel-voiced roars -- as well as mews, sputters, flutters, and burrs that seem to mimic a variety of fantasy forest creatures (or bizarro aquatic denizens, as in "Sea Monster"). On the DX-7, Horvitz unleashes his own assault of funkified synth distortion, while the always inventive Wollesen contributes everything from wild thrashings to subtle colorations to spot-on delivery of the rhythmic pulse. 300 moves through sometimes wrenching mood shifts from one piece to the next: Horvitz's "Bingo," an understated piano and saxophone duet with a lovely melody, is followed by the sheer hysteria of "Some Woman's Strange Laugh," with its flurry of low-register sax notes followed by a high-pitched downward glissing squeal, over and over again (that's some laugh all right). Most of the tunes are improvised by the band, and a third are composed by either Krauss or Horvitz. Scored or not, many of the pieces are like sonic snapshots rather than extended-form cinematic excursions; Krauss and his bandmates don't usually roam far afield from the beginning to the end of a tune, choosing instead to discover and fool around a while with particular (sometimes lunatic) ideas that will either tickle or drill into your ears, and then abandon them before they've worn out their welcome. Krauss does actually display a sensible streak, at least knowing how long to push his repetitions before they get too bonkers, unless of course getting bonkers is the point. Then after working up a thick lather, Krauss will rinse it all away with a touch of simplicity and beauty -- before dumping the crazy stuff all over your head again. And when you step out of his shower of saxophone squeals, your ears will be squeaky clean.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Lynch