Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CD Review: Digital Primitives- Hum Crackle and Pop

Digital Primitives
Hum Crackle and Pop

A few Saturdays ago, Digital Primitives came to town and played Garfield Artworks. Not to be confused with Digable Planets, this band is a trio consisting of tenor saxophonists Assif Tsahar, multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore (specifics are forthcoming) and drummer Chad Taylor. Tsahar and Cooper-Moore played here a few years ago as a duo, following an album they did on the saxophonist's Hopscotch label; and Cooper-Moore and Taylor also made an album for that label as Triptych Myth, with bassist Tom Abbs. Now the Planets have recently releasedtheir second album Hum, Crackle and Pop.

I got to the show late and only caught about 20 minutes of their set. They were in the midst of reworking "Over the Rainbow" when I got there. Then Cooper picked up the didley-bow and they played a raunchy groove that blended well with the gruff tenor sax. The evening ending (too quickly for me) with a number that featured the mouth bow, which was basically a bow that Cooper put in his mouth and bowed with another bow, opening and closing his mouth to alter the pitch of it. I was a little disappointed that I only heard that much music (and paid $10) but figured these guys could use the cash.

Hum, Crackle and Pop sounds like the work of several different groups, since the sound changes shape every time Cooper-Moore picks up a different instrument. The title track recalls Morphine, with a dirty low-end bass groove and some raunchy tenor, which almost sounds like it's run through a bit of distortion. You almost expect the ghost of Mark Sandman to show up and start singing. A few other songs find Cooper playing a string instrument (either banjo or twinger, according to credits) that sounds like a guitar, thanks to a heavy dose of either chorus or flanger. These tracks sound like funk a la Downtown New York, where musicians don't seriously attempt to make booty-shakin' music but still come up with something highly groovy. Still others have an almost backwoods country twang to them.

To that end, "Over the Rainbow" has a free, almost swampy background from Cooper and Taylor while Tsahar shows off his lyrical side. Tsahar, who in the past has come out of a Pharoah Sanders-style screaming/searing approach to his horn, doesn't get as intense this time around and even when he cuts loose, it works well to have the support of a riff underneath him. Taylor, who has played in the various Chicago Underground groups (Duo, Trio, Quartet) contributes the opening tune "Walkabout" a riff built around his m'bira, bass clarinet and mouth bow, in addition to the credit he receives for what are likely improvised pieces. Aside from a spoken word track, that succeeds in getting more abrasive than political, the trio never meanders whether they're working on an improvisation or a pre-conceived idea. This is one of those albums that can't be filed under jazz or improvisation, thanks to the range of music on it, and that's a mark in its favor.

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