The All Rectangle's core rhythm section of Alana Rocklin (bass), Brad "Kali" Bowden (electronics and keyboards), and Derek Crawford (drums) are all based in Chicago, and it's not difficult to hear the influence of that city's post-rock experimentalists in the band's style on this debut CD. The music on Ke Ala Mano often takes the form of lengthy, fusion-inspired jams with room in the mix for hot soloing from trumpeter Mark Kirschenmann, guitarist Fareed Haque, and tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano, but Rocklin's deep riffing, Bowden's mix of electronica (both as crisp percussive embellishment and coolly ethereal textural backdrop), and Crawford's insistent groove remain central to the band's appeal. Chicago's Isotope 217 and Tortoise have succeeded where others have failed in using jazz elements to imbue electronica with organic qualities, and the All Rectangle seem to have taken taken this lesson to heart. But make no mistake, the band truly sings the body electric throughout Ke Ala Mano, starting on electric Miles turf and then plugging in and wiring up even further. For example, the liners are careful to point out that Kirschenmann plays not just trumpet, but electric trumpet -- which explains why you'd be hard-pressed to identify anything that sounds remotely like a horn during much of Ke Ala Mano, even when Kirschenmann is right there in the thick of things. On "Little Friend," Kirschenmann jams over a rocking vamp from Rocklin and Crawford; one moment the trumpet sounds like a keyboard synthesizer in a '70s fusion band, and the next moment Kirschenmann is in heavy metal overdrive, crunching out power chords that might lead an old metalhead to get all misty-eyed reminiscing about Tony Iommi's classic early Sabbath days. Kirschenmann's sound-processing rig is deployed more subtly on the fourth track, "El Toro." Here, the trumpeter's heavy reverb and drawn-out lines invite comparison to Mark Isham and even to Miles himself. (Perhaps Kirschenmann, although a resident of Ann Arbor a couple hundred miles to the east of Chicago, might be considered this band's corollary to Rob Mazurek.) "El Toro" features simmering electronics from Bowden and agitated fretwork from guest guitarist Haque, who cuts loose with fleet-fingered abandon as Rocklin shifts the rhythm into up-tempo boppish swing with her swift walking bassline. Elsewhere, in another guest spot, Frank Catalano blows furiously over the top of the "radio edit" version of the mood-shifting "Dr. Such & Such." While the soloists are showing their chops on various tracks, it is often Rocklin who is called upon to fulfill a central melodic role in the lower registers -- and she is most certainly up to the task. The tightly constructed trio piece "Pinky Taun Taun" (also presented in a concise "radio edit" version) is a showcase for Rocklin's melodic skills. This track brings to mind not only the early-2000s Chicago scene but also some of the edgy dance music forays of Bill Laswell and Material in early-'80s New York City. Post-fusion or post-rock, the All Rectangle has released a strong debut, and there's reason to be enthusiastic about what the band may be cooking up for the future.
AllMusic Review by Dave Lynch