John Silencer Infra-Jazz Quintet

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The idea of "infra-jazz" is good. Well, the name is good, anyway. As for what "infra-jazz" is, listeners will have to wait for some other sonic example besides this recording. A label that incorporates the term jazz should actually have something to do with jazz; that is a kind of a ground rule, whether we are climbing the stairs toward "loft jazz," holding our ears during a bout of "noise jazz," or raising a fist in salute of "left wing jazz." The music on this recording doesn't have much to do with jazz at all, other than the fact that the people that make this kind of music like to sample and even mutilate jazz records in the process, along with just about any other kind of medium they can get their hand on. Like its companion volume, Membranoids Gimpotheka, this is documentation of experimental music activities in Russia in the '90s. Like the Residents, the individuals behind these creations do not use their real names, and create an amusing mythology behind the actual existence of the music. Were the music to live up to such elaborate fiction, then this collection would really be something. Unfortunately, text can be written up so easily, in a fraction of the amount of time that it takes to create a really elaborate piece of music. It has always been a very strange world of music that is created when performers, some of them actually incapable of playing a musical instrument, begin messing around with records and record players, tapes and tape players, samplers and mixers. The freedom that is granted such creators is really a wonderful thing. There are listeners who will accept just about anything that anyone comes up with. Such an open definition of music makes a good companion, up to a point, to the outrageous anecdotes of the liner notes, as do composition titles such as "Woman in Infra-Red Confusion" or "Swampy Twist: Live at Neurosonology Lab." The listener will find good moments -- bouncing rhythms, portions that sound like an attempt to make a sandwich out of a radar lab, and, in general, continually inventive effects with strange, delicious distortion. Sometimes entire pieces are worth returning to. "Apocalyptic Sax Pirouette" gives the group a chance to trade ridiculous ideas with a feel as festive as the main room at a wizard's reception. In fact, the magic flung back and forth is the musical equivalent of the climactic battle between the master wizard Boris Karloff and the upstart, Vincent Price, at the end of the film The Raven. It certainly sounds like at least three different players if this was really taped live at Grand Tumbler Hall, and it brings the CD to an end much more satisfying than the opening and middle act. Overall, the material is just too darn repetitive. The essence of every piece is a fragmented repeated pattern, and yup, it is often a skipping record, so the tempo will be instantly familiar. On top of this comes the layers, sometimes somebody coming up with a stroke of genius, nevertheless still hampered by the repeating thing which is still there, hammering away at the brain. The simplicity of these shreds of musical material, it must be stressed, are like the chain the bulldog down the street used to get wound up on when he was only trying to reach his water dish.

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