With improvisational music, the emphasis on free-form exploration often leads artists into unknown territories, resulting in music that, while interesting, can often feel shapeless and meandering. However, for a trio like the Unsemble, made up of the Jesus Lizard's Duane Denison, Einsturzende Neubaten's Alexander Hacke, and Silver Jew's Brian Kotzur, musical experimentation takes on a whole other feeling. While the Unsemble might have sonic exploration in their hearts, their sense of structure lives in their bones, making their self-titled debut, which gives listeners a front-row seat for a wrestling match between form and freedom. With a mix of improvised and composed tracks, the album creates the feeling of a journey into the unknown. On track after ominous track, the listener heads further into the murky world of the Unsemble, a mysterious place where every answer seems to lead to more questions. Although the album is consistently brooding, the Unsemble's ability to shift momentum keeps things from feeling monotonous. Propulsive numbers like "Act 3" and "Shadows" help get the blood pumping, while free-flowing tracks like "Improv 1" and "Improv 2" lure you further down the rabbit hole. With its members' sounds rooted in three very different styles, it's amazing how well the Unsemble are able to combine their musical sensibilities without sacrificing the distinct identities that made them interesting in the first place. Sure, no one is going to mistake this for an Einsturzende Neubaten or Jesus Lizard album (and most definitely not a Silver Jews disc), but the links to those acts can still be felt in the music here, making this self-titled debut an impressive collaboration between a trio of rather impressive collaborators.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney