Thirteen Bar Blues

Luc Houtkamp

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Thirteen Bar Blues Review

by Steve Loewy

For those accustomed to Luc Houtkamp's intense freestyle improvisations, his group, pow3, might be off-putting or scintillatingly attractive, depending on perspective. Not that the saxophonist hasn't immersed himself in electronics before. But this one takes an entirely new direction, and in typical Houtkamp fashion it does something entirely different, applying radical computer technology to down-home blues. The closest thing might be some of the experiments of guitarist Eugene Chadbourne with his often silly lyrics and twisted pyrotechnics. pow3 is different in its greater focus on electronics and computer sounds, although some of the vocals sound like parodies. What is so much fun about it, though, is that you don't know what to expect next. There are ambient electronics, warped computer noises, old-time blues singing, and, of course, a dab (but too much more) of Houtkamp's avant-garde sax. There is also a John Zorn-like disregard for convention, so much so that an apt description might be Otis Redding on LSD. Sometimes, when you think you understand what is happening, Houtkamp's irreverence bursts through with, well, something from left field. Han Buhrs' gravelly ruminations about prisoners, cigarettes, and the travails of life, punctuated by static and pleasantly distorted, come across as something strangely dreamlike yet familiar, a worthy contradiction. There are times when it is somewhat thin and slightly puerile, but for the most part it's just plain fun -- Holland-style, by way of south Texas.

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