Wednesday, July 15, 2009

CD Review: Talibam!

Boogie in the Breeze Blocks (ESP)

To call Matthew Mottel and Kevin Shea irreverent would be stating the obvious. They named their musical project Talibam!, after all. But aside from that, there’s the cover shot on Boogie in the Breeze Blocks, where their tousled-but-styling looks could help them pass for a couple of hip New York DJs. And then there’s the program on this release, which numbers somewhere around number 12 in a discography of CDs, CDrs, singles and 10”s, and has already been followed by a new release.
Boogie has a recurring bit that casts Mottel (numerous keyboards) and Shea (drums, “detritus”) as either ambulance drivers or cops. They receive radio dispatches, which sound like samples of real thing, and respond to them with zany comments (“Oh! That’s a strange thing!”) before the sound of motorcycles and sirens segue into the next blast of spazz jazz. Sometimes the group goes for pure noise (“Predetermined to the Master Plan”), sometimes they get downright funky (“Not Just Any Kind of Vegetable”) and sometimes they do all that and more (“Nike Rim Johb,” which includes some growling horns and bird field recordings).
Like with most of his work, Shea’s drumming often sounds like he’s dismantling his kit, throwing down a flight of stairs and making it sound good. Mottel who plays everything from piano to Rhodes to Roland, is the perfect co-conspirator for the drummer, being able to jump into any style at a moment’s notice. (If John Zorn every wants to get a new Naked City together, he should recruit these two.)
Thirteen guests show up on various tracks, including all of Shea’s bandmates from the jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do The Killing. Tim Dahl’s bass gives seven of the tracks some much needed bottom. Danielle Kuhlmann adds some chanteuse-y moments to various tracks, which is the perfect foil for the chaos of “Predetermined.”
I’ve only heard one other Talibam! disc, which was admirable for its focus but got a little tiring after numerous splattering, free form assaults, even as different musical guests moved in and out of the fold. Boogie in the Breeze Blocks has one track that goes over the top with spastic screaming in the not-so-background. But for the most part, the disc maintains interest because it keeps changing shape; some songs even sound like two different tracks fused together. Plus the crazy personas that keep popping up add some much levity.

(In case you haven't read my interview with ESP founder Bernard Stollman, here’s the first part and here’s part two.)

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