Controlled Bleeding

Can You Smell the Rain Between

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With almost 20 years of sonic experimentation under their collective belt, the duo of Paul Lemos and Joe Papa can be expected to come back after a four-year break with some unusual and maybe even difficult ideas to share. But Can You Smell the Rain Between may dumbfound even longtime fans. Ultimately exhausting without ever being anything that could conceivably be called "fun," this album evokes more shades of darkness than one might think existed. It opens with the droning "Red Hands Waiting," which starts off unsettling and then quickly turns simply boring. Ditto the initially pretty "Birdcan." But "Poisoner Pt. 3" reverses the process, starting off tedious and then gradually becoming quite interesting, with its hypnotically gloomy, echoey ambience and subliminal beat. Several tracks explore chaotic free jazz, and while "Schist" manages to generate an interesting collage of sounds and textures -- think of a summit meeting between Derek Bailey and Fred Frith with Michael Blair on percussion -- and actually lapses into something like a groove at one point, it never turns into anything worth paying attention to for seven and a half minutes. The rest of the avant-jazz material doesn't even get that far; for the most part, it sounds like seven-year-olds set loose in a studio. "Trawler," on the other hand, is a fascinating composition made almost entirely out of bowed bass and what sounds like computer glitches. There are two cover tunes: a fun but way overlong rendition of Brian Eno's "Here Come the Warm Jets" and a (hopefully intentionally) hilarious version of the Doors' "Yak, an Outro." In short, there are some true gems hidden within this sprawling mess of an album, but finding them seems hardly worth the considerable effort required.

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