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(64:07, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cuckoo 9:23 2. Knowledge 6:09 3. Let Go 4:54 4. Khajurao 5:22 5. Hero 10:13 6. UFO-RA 6:44 7. Falling Up 18:03 8. Palitana Mood 3:05 LINEUP: Tony Bianco – drums, percussion Jordi Grognard – saxophone, flute, bass clarinet Michel Delville – guitar, bouzouki; electronics, loops
Prolusion. The American band Machine Mass Trio (MMT from now on) presents its new release “As Real as Thinking”. The trio is led by drummer Tony Bianco, who is also a member of Doubt. Michel Delville is from the Belgian band The Wrong Object. Jordi Grognard is hardly a novice on the scene either. A supergroup?
Analysis. Musically, the album embraces impromptu/spontaneous improvisations, more ‘classic’ free-jazz explorations, traditional improvisational Jazz Rock, Central Asian folk music-inspired World Fusion and Jazz Metal, evoking Soft Machine’s “Bundles”. The trio navigates its way through these often striking juxtapositions with impressive precision and virtuosity, but nevertheless (like many, if not most, of the albums that are recorded live in the studio with no overdubs), “As Real as Thinking” by MMT appears for the most part as a free-jazz rather than a jazz-rock outing, since about a half of its contents are created on the spur of the moment. While the world-fusion pieces, Khajurao and Palitana Mood, both gladden the ear throughout, and most of the others are impressive at least in their own right, hearing only two of the musicians, the drummer and guitarist, almost randomly playing all over – the seemingly endless, 18-minute – Falling Up (the only really long track here), was a sheer hell in a way. There are neither soloing in the traditional sense nor adherence to the standard roles which define most impromptu music, making it sound meaningless, at least in terms of composition. Otherwise the trio often appears to be much more than your average chaotic jazzers, and as hinted above, the other tracks are either good or at least satisfactory. Cuckoo appears as a blend of traditional jazz-rock moves and free-jazz improvisations where, though, each individual player has something to express distinctly in direct line with the other two musicians, who are jointly listening and interpreting direction simultaneously. The most energetically saturated track on the album, Let Go, approaches Hard Rock (often bordering on Metal) as a platform/springboard for improvisations which rarely, if ever, leave the domain of cohesive Jazz-Fusion, also focusing on rhythmic singularity and at times unexpected syncopation. With the aura fluctuating from aggressive to delicately mysterious, this is my third favorite composition here. Knowledge is settled on two long sections: it begins and develops much the same way as Cuckoo does, but somewhere in its middle it transforms into a slow-paced piece with quieter improvisations, filtering a fairly vivid musical lyricism out of its jazz-ambient texture. Hero throughout sounds like the second half of Knowledge, and only the drumming consistently remains highly intense as well as varied – as it does almost everywhere on the album. Save its introductory theme (which brings to mind nothing but a rehearsing rhythm section), UFO-RA represents almost classic Jazz-Fusion. What sounds like organ here – and bass at one point – could only be created by using MIDI devices. Finally, Khajurao and Palitana Mood only feature guitar (often sounding like a Turkish saz), saxophone and flute. As mentioned above, both are good pieces of music.
Conclusion. Like all improvisational music, the results tend to be hit-or-miss, though the incredible diversity of drumming makes it a bit more interesting than many suchlike affairs. Nonetheless, only for those prog-lovers, who are sure they won’t be scared off from free-jazz improvisations, let alone free-form musical constructions, can I recommend this disc, whereas those who are into Jazz Rock (fans of John McLaughlin’s solo creations included) will be pleased with it, I’m sure.
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