Wednesday, November 11, 2020

CD Review: Mantic Trio - Neighborhood Changed Fast

Mantic Trio
Neighborhood Changed Fast

Mantic Trio is what happens when the drummer of '80s punks Negative Approach gets together with a jazz pianist-turned-songwriter and an improvising guitarist. Respectively, Chris Moore, Lee Feldman and Rob Price create 10 spontaneous tracks that span tranquility and bedlam, often morphing from one to the other often in the space of one track. The trio's album has drawn comparisons to the Butthole Surfers, Eno and Psychic TV. While these touchstones are not completely off base, their interactions as improvisors also recall the loose, anything-goes feeling of Australian improvisors the Necks with the Dirty Three's ragged beauty also coming to mind when the Mantic Trio comes together on an idea.

The latter comparison has a lot to do with the sound of Moore's drums. His kit is mixed like a rock kit, with a powerful low boom that doesn't come with jazz improvisation. When "Gangly" opens the album, Feldman's piano is caught in a "Tubular Bells" type of riff, until Moore explodes onto it, shattering any sense of eerie calm. Moore also drives the VU meters into the red during "Clipped," a title which describes Feldman's Cecil Taylor-esque attack. Price's guitar sounds a bit restrained on this one, which is good because when he does play, he's plenty loud. 

The 73-second title track is all chaos, with wailing feedback and crashing drums and a piano in there somewhere. Since the album was created from a marathon studio session, there was probably more where this came from, but the brevity works in the band's favor. Besides, it follows the 11-minute "Crest" which features a slow build of roaring piano and one-string guitar riffs with a sense of calm coming at the end. 

Throughout the album, the trio strikes a good balance between lyricism and frenzy. The quiet electric keyboard in the interlude "Mannerist" is shattered by Price's effects-heavy guitar in "Pesky Orbs" the next track, where it jousts with the piano. "That Club Spirit" begins with an industrial 4/4 pulse, and while a steady tempo is maintained, it ends up somewhere else by the end, evoking a pile of smoking speakers and splintered drum sticks. And that poor piano. 

One of the reasons Neighborhood Changed Fast works so well, aside from the way the edits create different tunes, relates to the way the trio never seems settles into musical styles or limitations. This could be a punk band or it could be an avant jazz group, or maybe a free prog group. But rather than decide themselves, they let the music make the decision.