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(22:43, Table & Chairs Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Chemical Clock 3:09 2. Blind Topographer 4:32 3. Undercurrent 3:04 4. Neurotic Bricklayer 4:04 5. People in Particular 2:40 6. Gumball Machine 5:22 LINEUP: Cameron Sharif – keyboards Ray Larsen – trumpet Mark Hunter – bass Evan Woodle – drums
Prolusion. Hailing from the American city of Seattle, CHEMICAL CLOCK presents its self-titled debut EP. The band embraces four young musicians, and I wonder whether they know that their hometown and mine, Tashkent, are twin cities.
Analysis. There are six instrumental tracks here. While all of them are composed by keyboardist Cameron Sharif, the album appears as a genuinely group effort, on all levels. Three of the pieces, the title one, Blind Topographer and Neurotic Bricklayer, sound like brothers-in-spirit of John Zorn’s 2010 masterpiece “Epsissimus”, with one foot in avant-garde Art-Rock and the other in avant-garde Jazz-Fusion, albeit the former two additionally feature some heavy riffing courtesy of the bass, plus show an appreciation for a good groove in places. Attentive ears will also discern hints from King Crimson and Ozric Tentacles, circa “Discipline” and “Jurassic Shift” respectively, but these guys proceed mainly from a chamber rock attitude, their music bereft of voice and song structure. Capturing the extremes of textural, tempo and thematic contrast, they leave classic progressive rock influences in favor of a more avant-garde form of rock, which is not RIO yet. The latter remark explains why I omit providing a parallel between this stuff and “The ConstruKction of Light”, the most RIO-ish album by King Crimson. This music is ever-changing, without repeating patterns at all, but is almost as both cohesive and fascinating as any of the cited creations. In all cases, the musicians from time to time create incredibly intricate joint arrangements, while on the track titled People in Particular they do so throughout. Full of intensity and eclecticism, this one is a ceaseless avalanche of tempestuous bass, crashing drums, swirling synthesizer and positively wild trombone. Avant-garde is the word, at its best. Gumball Machine is also an enjoyable composition. It begins in a clearly avant-garde manner, but then follows with a quasi symphonic move with Frippertronics-style backing, after which the piece drifts into some sparser areas, now evoking World Fusion, now experimental electronic music with cues from Guapo, finishing very much in the way of classic Symphonic Progressive. The remaining track, Undercurrent, stands out for its relatively transparent structures. What makes it worthwhile is that the band always leans towards Jazz-Fusion, despite the fact that the pace is slow throughout. All of the Chemical Clock members are quite remarkable musicians. Bassist Mark Hunter displays a wide range of sounds and techniques with some killer-heavy fuzz parts and some dexterous pulsating tones. Ray Larsen on trumpet runs in his turn through a wide range of moods, from lyrical and melodic to rather aggressive. The playing of drummer Evan Woodle is always effective, the man sometimes working wonders ‘via’ his drum kit. Band leader Cameron Sharif, who handles electric piano and synthesizers, is frequently the driving force, but can only at times be considered the primary soloist – most notably on Gumball Machine, where his keyboards sound like a symphonic ensemble in places. Enough said? I hope so.
Conclusion. Unlike some avant-garde rock music, this quartet never falls into the trap of repeated riffs with jamming on top; neither does it resort to squalling walls of noise – unlike Guapo, for instance. All in all, highly contrasting in style and structure, this EP is musically more eventful than some, if not many, full-length modern avant-rock albums, such as the most recent ones by Uz Jsme Doma, Gosta Berling Saga or even Thinking Plague, to name quite a few.
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