Chuck U.

The Ewe Suite

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Chuck U. -- real name Charles Rosina -- is a member of the Boston-based trio Urban Ambience. This skilled and provocative group inhabits a territory in which the border stations of free improvisation, industrial music, and progressive rock have been trashed and burned. This recording originated as a special "backing" track Rosina created for an Urban Ambience gig that he was unable to attend due to prior commitments. His fellow bandmembers were impressed enough to urge a release of this material as a solo project, inspiring the madcap sound inventor to go back into the studio to beef up the recording somewhat, adding a few other related to pieces to create a full CD length. Unlike many musicians who dabble in mixing, editing, and tape manipulation, Rosina does not play a proper musical instrument at all, other than the mixers and tape machines he sets up. His skill in this area is not to be underestimated, as he has put in countless hours of community radio production in which sophisticated segues and montage techniques are par for the course. He also is a superb recording engineer, so the sonic developments here are presented with total clarity, distortion, or other ugly sound techniques used only when appropriate. Rosina's knowledge of the broadcast medium and radical political outlook means he also has myriad spoken word segments and archive bits to mix into the proceedings, giving the material an added depth. In a typical segment, some slow-moving and not unpretty sounds form a backdrop for what sounds like an Eastern European talking about...who knows what? A few minutes later, a combination of interrupted jungle drums and what sounds like a typewriter and an exotic bird make for a delightful section. Some of the collected material comes from pre-recorded musical sources, including bits by his own band, as well as excerpts from the likes of Charles Ives. Here is where the only real criticisms can be made of the work, as there are excerpts from Miles Davis' "On the Corner" that are too recognizable, and go on too long. All music appreciation is obviously in the "ear of the behearer," as Dewey Redman put it so perfectly in an album title, listeners familiar with the original music may find themselves agitated by these passages, whereas those who are not won't even notice it. The faster Chuck U. is able to shift up or pile up his various excerpts, the more interesting the music becomes. This is a form of composing that can be quite interesting, and also a serious option for the Chuck U. type, who can't exactly sit down at a piano and pound out the framework for a symphony. But, does s/he need to? The epic nature of this work -- the title piece is divided in three sections and lasts nearly 50 minutes -- receives substantial support from the well-thought-out and carefully executed details within. Although Rosina would no doubt be the first to scoff at comparisons between himself and Beethoven, the quality of work he has done in the long form suggests that such a compliment would not be so far off the mark.

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