Membrana

Membrana

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The double-CD set of these two volumes might be more than a listener will need of this material, archived from the '90s activities of a Russian avant-garde music group. Those whose tastes run to the extremely uncompromisingly noisy may find it appealing to have this material in its entirety, yet it will not make the desert island list of a noise fanatic -- at least not both discs. Membrana, whatever it is, makes an enjoyable job of the liner notes, providing credits such as "some spasmodic parts sung by the mid-frequency hoopoes" or describing the actually fairly boring "Metis Miasmata" as a "sound code of anti-locust solution recorded in the termite diapason." One of the natural phenomenon that actually did rid the prairies of locusts was Native Americans burning out and stomping down on massive egg beds, and it should be noted that members of households that have inadvertently been subjected to some of these tracks have threatened similar action against the boom box. Much of the first disc is a tea party for broken record players, lacking in marmalade. The second disc is entitled John Silencer Infra-Jazz Quintet, promising "six unforgettable classic sketches in infra-jazz," but it is really more of the same type of material as the first disc, although supposedly recorded live. Long sections of this music just aren't really that interesting to listen to, and one of the biggest problems is the reliance on musical devices such as letting a record skip or dragging the needle across the surface repeatedly. The rhythms which result from the skipping sound of the needle are not what one would call fascinatingly complex; in other words, it is the artistic opposite of what avant-garde listeners really want to hear. In sections when little effort is made to change the sound, or provide much needed variety, the listening becomes quite monotonous. Tracks such as "Gimp the Masseuse" and "Fumiattacks" are infra, yo, but not jazz. If a member of a jazz combo repeated a phrase with so little variation, there would be murder on the bandstand. An exception might be jazz with ostinato basslines or repeated rhythmic patterns such as Pharoah Sanders, but Membrana hardly seems interested in developing that kind of emotional catharsis in its music. Nor should the group, although it might help make such repetition more listenable. At any rate, it isn't really fair to stake one's ground in such untraditional musical territory, then use aspects of traditional music to justify the existence of the boring parts. 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 creators of this material are continually inventive, or at least trying to be. They can get good results, produce striking effects, serve up delicious distortion, and even create entire pieces of satisfying music, such as the climactic "Apocalyptic Sax Pirouette," a piece that really presents the group at its artistic height.