Chicago Underground Duo

In Praise of Shadows

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Playing 16 instruments between them, Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor -- once again playing as the Chicago Underground Duo -- embark on an adventurous, multi-textured series of sonic explorations that exist between the worlds of experimental music -- jazz, free and structured improvisation, and conceptual music. The sheer, dreamy melodic flow of "Falling Awake," with Mazurek's cornet and Taylor's vibes hovering around one another as the lyric flows effortlessly amid random percussion sounds like a lullaby. Immediately after, however, once the dream state has been established, they enter more difficult territory with the title cut for over 12 minutes. Here, percussion, piano, drumming, trumpet smatterings, and all manner of musical effluvium are employed for the sake of establishing silence between spaces. But it doesn't prepare the listener for the glorious "The Glass House," which is a percussion journey utilizing mbira, to vibes, gongs, celeste, prepared vibes, and more. For nine minutes it carries the listener in a magical world where tonalities glide, swoop and slip inside one another. Here, the rhythm has its own melody; it is a soft place to lay one's body down and be carried inside its beauty. The grainy trumpet bleat that introduces "Cities Without Citadels" is followed by some serious tom toms which make for a jarring awakening, but not an unpleasurable one. It too, seeks to carry one hypnotically into its core and let you sit there between the percussion and brass to find the song in it -- and there is a song, as blues, R&B, and free jazz meander, then collide, in Mazurek's trumpet. The other collision occurs between the electronically driven noise of "Pangea," and the mysterious layers of percussion that drive "Funeral of Dreams." Ultimately, this is a recording of textures and dimensions, one where the elasticity of sound is tested, bent, turned inside out and reveled in. Shadows of other music are evoked but never fully engaged. In Praise of Shadows is a provocative and rewarding listening experience that will take any listener brave and patient enough to give it a fair shake on a musical journey unlike any other.

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