Ode to a Tractor

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The roster reads like an international exchange program between the downtown Celluloid crowd (bassist Bill Laswell, saxophonist Peter Brotzman) and the Scandinavian avant-jazz crowd (keyboardist Jens Johansson, drummer Anders Johansson, bassist/bandleader Jonas Hellborg, etc.), and that adds up to a pretty promising crew. As it turns out, the results are hit-and-miss, but the hits will certainly appeal to those who are familiar with these artists and know more or less what to expect. Misses include "Pork," a sprawling six minutes of improvised noise that never coalesces into anything interesting, and the comparably ho-hum "Land of the Dead and Dying." Hits include another apparently improvised, but much funkier, track entitled "The Freezing Desert" (which is rather hilariously mistitled "The Freezing Dessert" on the album's back cover), a creepy piece of ambience and found sound called "Stay Where Your Are," and two surprisingly lovely pieces: a guitar-and-synthesizer duet titled "Head of a Monk" and "Konkret," which combines chugging drums with eerie drones and then lapses into orchestral samples. Don't let the socialist-realist title and cover art fool you -- this is not music of which Chairman Mao would have approved.

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