Various Artists

Boston Underbelly

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For a compilation album, especially an "indie" one, Boston Underbelly is surprisingly good, constantly interesting, and varied. You already know by the title the area of choice. For its first release, the Sublingual label recruited eight acts fitting in the axis of experimental rock/free improvisation/noise. To attract listeners, they concluded the disc with a two-minute burst of guitaristic noise from Sonic Youth star Thurston Moore (residing in Northampton, MA, so he was close enough). Some material was recorded with limited means (like a four-track in the basement), but all the pieces sound good if not excellent and the mastering job ensured a homogeneous level. Opening the CD, Andrew Neumann's electronic pieces can't help but feel out of place starting with the second listen. His blending of analog and digital equipment (something that became much more common in the course of the next few years) is interesting but no match with the avant rock energy of some of the other bands. Saturnalia is a must: Jonathan LaMaster's group simply plays fantastic free jazz-meets-rock. The two lineups featured in the course of the five tracks include singer Keiko Higuchi, trumpeter Greg Kelley, and guitarists Elliott Sharp and Roger Miller. The latter also appears on piano in the duo Binary System, which would later record albums for Atavistic. Neptune and Mile Wide deliver good avant rock songs, enjoyable and slightly ear-tinging. Sigmoid Flexure (members of Plexure and Blinder) treats listeners to a thundering free improv. Bill T. Miller's Kings of Feedback project sounds a bit outdated, but his two Orgy of Noise tracks (featuring Melt Banana) are totally off the wall. This CD could be one good reason to move to Boston.

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