The Bureau of Atomic Tourism

Spinning Jenny

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Drummer Teun Verbruggen's Bureau of Atomic Tourism proved their explosiveness on Second Law of Thermodynamics, the sextet's 2011 Rat Records debut recorded live during a European tour that year. Thankfully, engineer Dieter Claes had the tape rolling during BOAT's 2013 European tour -- the result being the band's incendiary sophomore outing, 2014's Spinning Jenny. Four of these six tracks were recorded at AMR in Geneva, Switzerland, but the opener, trumpeter Nate Wooley's "Back to My Steel," is from Ermitage in Paris. It begins with Andrew D'Angelo (on bass clarinet) and Wooley in subdued mode over the careful and considered pulse of bassist Jasper Stadhouders, but this is merely a precursor to a tense buildup into free-blowing cacophony from the horns, with Stadhouders and Rhodes player Jozef Dumoulin lumbering below as Verbruggen slashes through the middle. The energy and pace escalate until everyone bashes into a monstrous pounding theme that collapses into fragmented noise as Marc Ducret's inimitable guitar pulls out of the fray. Ducret's emergence in the track's ragged conclusion provides a fitting link to "Canon" -- recorded at Recyclart in Brussels -- the first of his three compositions here. The guitarist's unaccompanied intro leaps from dirty blues-informed and funked-up picking to rapid-fire assaults, wide-interval leaps, and swooping distorted glissandi before the other bandmembers join him in a noisy collaboration that slowly permutes into animated riffing. The ensemble winds itself into ever tighter precision, Ducret and Wooley locking in and then suddenly dropping out to reveal Stadhouders, Verbruggen, and Dumoulin rumbling beneath D'Angelo's blistering yet soulful alto sax solo; the dynamic falls and then rises to a startlingly abrupt finish.

Dumoulin's 12-minute "19" begins as an almost gentle vehicle for Wooley to push from lyricism into noise. Midway through, the composer's mysterious and ghostly Rhodes introduces tentative, intermittent investigations from the bandmembers, through which Wooley and D'Angelo navigate with abbreviated unison and call-and-response lines; Verbruggen and Stadhouders tightly fracture the underlying pulse as Dumoulin and Ducret advance and retreat beneath the increasingly insistent sax and trumpet. D'Angelo's nearly 25-minute "FTDOY" begins with buzzing, abrasive electronic experimentation pitched against muted, then aggressive Rhodes and circular reed-horn accelerations before blasting into metal territory; a manic Ducret feature with wildly varied accompaniment is linked by a full-band bridge of striding polyphony to D'Angelo's showcase, the reedman cutting loose with utter abandon on alto sax amidst BOAT's rising tumult. The volume suddenly plummets to an interlude of barely there Rhodes tones before an abruptly accented walking motif accompanied by background electronics segues into a series of blurty stop-start tumbles and a rollicking, propulsive buildup into an angular finale that ultimately dissolves into unsettled quietude. Ducret's two concluding numbers, the pounding dirgelike "Blues de l'Ombre" and the spacious, drifting ambience of "Aquatique" from his stunning Le Sens de la Marche album, are poles apart in mood and dynamics, well illustrating BOAT's tremendous range. Here's hoping that the tape keeps rolling whenever this extraordinary international ensemble hits the road on future tours.

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