Shane Ballard

Audio Is Bad

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Shane Ballard continues his series of short discs released under the People's Temple imprint, this time presenting pieces created all by himself, without partner Aaron Dunn with whom he records as the duo named Facetious. Only the vaguest notion of his desires as a solo performer can be gleaned from these five pieces, which begin on the weird side of the room and wind up solidly in the land of melody and song, complete with a Talking Heads cover. Vague might be the message, after all the CD's title, Audio Is Bad, is kind of hard to interpret because the word "bad" has several different meanings, as even a square knows. Some people confronted with the first sections of this recording might suggest that audio is a bad thing as in harmful, allowing oddballs the chance to document phenomenon such as extended alto saxophone solos and yet another attempt to wring something expressive out of the sound of electronic feedback. These creations are in turn used to torture people: bad. Then again, the aforementioned acapello reed rotation reveals Ballard's affinity for Anthony Braxton as well as David Byrne, a good thing. A listener who has digested much more of the former musician's work than the latter reacted with a shrug to the presence of either, however. In the case of the saxophone piece, entitled "O.T.," it brought to mind bassist and recording engineer Bobby Kelly's maxim: "Of all the gigs I have ever done, this is one of them." Except, of course, in this case it would be "Of all the saxophone solos I have ever heard...." A version of "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" comes in like a tuxedo on casual day following several appealing pieces involving electronics. The best is actually entitled "Several" and involves treated voices. The opening "Adam" is a bit of a piffle but demonstrates that Ballard is not afraid to use space, an interest that if stimulated and satisfied almost guarantees music of great interest in his future. The development of such interest in terms of the present isn't exactly squashed by the bouncing ball of the Talking Heads cover; the strange ambience that has been established is gone, though, replaced by one of questioning. The most immediate query that comes to mind is "Where's the bathroom?" This CD is a bit like walking for 15 minutes around a campus building looking for just such a location of relief, only to find it is back where one started. Yet to be fair to Ballard, it has to be put in writing that a group of college students actually chose Audio Is Bad to play at the start of their body after hearing it filtering out of the reviewer's inner sanctum earlier in the day.

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