Massacre

Killing Time

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Of the many obscure and wonderful albums recorded by members of the downtown avant-garde elite in the early 1980s, this is one of the most obscure and most wonderful. Massacre (despite its heavy-metallish moniker) was a challenging but quirkily charming "power trio" consisting of guitarist Fred Frith, bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Fred Maher, all of whom had already established themselves as movers and shakers in the experimental-music world. Some of the tunes, such as the charmingly offbeat "Legs" and "Aging With Dignity" were clearly composed ahead of time -- probably by Frith, given his already-established penchant for combining weird instrumental textures and unusual time signatures with cute melodies. Others, just as clearly, are group improvisations. Those who think they don't care for improvised music are advised to give "Subway Heart" and "Tourism" a try before making any judgments. Again, the credit for the consistent appeal of these performances goes largely to Frith, whose bag of sonic tricks is bottomless and who (unlike most of his peers) seems genetically incapable of making an uninteresting note choice. It's difficult to imagine anyone with a taste for unusual rock & roll not being seduced by this rough gem of an album. (Massacre reunited, though with a different drummer, in 1998 to record My Funny Valentine on the Tzadik label.)

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