Good Grief! The Art Ensemble Of Chicago? These brothas’ really freak the far-out factor with the most thespian fulminations & flotted fanklingings. The culprits responsible for this delirium are Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors & Famoudou Don Moye (who had yet to join the junta & is not on these recordings), generally commanding Sax, Trumpet, Bass & flexile degrees of percussion on a myriad of implements & objects which also includes a full drum-kit. But this rabid rumpus also boasts endless gongs, log-drums, sirens, bells & chimes, conga’s, cymbals, whistles, hand horns, maracas & other self-fashioned devices (often termed “the little instruments”). The reeds are also constantly alternated, Soprano, Alto, Bass for the sax along with Clarinets Flutes, Oboe, Flugelhorns & an almost endless extensions of wind-power insistent on perdurable permutation & panoply. Vibes & even an electric guitar are also visible briefly, I suppose anything that can express sound & fall in2 their cache.
The boys also get comic, impersonations, theatrical over-reactions, shouts & ululations, hollers, hoots & howling’s, cantillations & intonations, poetry & piss-taking caricature. & lets get on that piss-taking. Don’t for a second dubiate on the tre-fucking-mendous musical prowess, conception & application of these monoliths of megrim, but understand that they exercise a ceaseless irreverence, intemperate ludic frolicking & humungous humour through-out their performance/metamancy. any accusation of inept musicality/flawed virtuosity would be inadmissible/instantly crushed, but fuming flippancy & severe sonic satire are reckless through much of the units recordings.
With such replete resources & such expert musicianship that operates with premeditated patterns/syncopations as well as predominantly autoschediasmic excursion, traditional time-coherent frames & complete free-fall void-exploration it’s obviously going to be near impossible to suitably summarize this astonishing olio of Avant-Jazz (well shit I gotta’ get something to work off). Deeply diverse & divagating constantly, you get to that fantastic & rare position where you have no idea what’s coming next, sonically, conceptually & even instrumentally.
So isolating some of the merits, for all us User-Hostile severity-junkies out there, these motherfuckers will NOT disappoint. When they are in that gear, which they frequently position, you are assured of having your head trisected & it’s contents scattered through out the four corners. They play some of the fastest, most corybantic & uncompromising smouldering deadly discursive horn harangue this side of the moon to terrorize & traumatize the senses to a state of collapse AT LENGTH! AEOC always had really’ really loud horns, the vigour with which they play, the mic placement or whatever, this is some strident stuff with an element of distortion that makes even the more um, “traditional”? segments an elevated joy to experience. These are definitely some of the loudest cats I have heard, certainly in comparison to other stuff at the time, the horns scream at a prepolleny I rarely here exerted by others. The levigating rapid-fire blow-outs is like watching two wild beasts fight, stupendously frenetic inconsolable sonic-epilepsy. As if Roscoe Mitchell wasn’t an arch bad-ass himself, he is now competing with Bowie & Jarman, stuck in the middle with percussion gnashing at your flanks as the masters battle for who is the most effusively-offensive will elate any User-Hostile die-hard. The lung power of these guys is extraordinary & there are no rules for these tantrums. The horns are often very bestial, like a shrieking chimpanzee or even mimicking industrial vehicles blaring horns before some cataclysmic collision. I detect a considerable inspiration from cartoons, Road Runner & Tom & Gerry, but that may not be a direct theme or intentional inclusion!? it could also be insisted that AEOC are the most Avant-Garde (in the original unadulterated meaning) of the lot. It’s difficult if not futile to think of another unit, certainly by my experience that can compete with the terrifically histrionic ridiculousness-recrudescence & rampancy that these dons consistently conjure. Discounting all the aureate, asperity, wildness & unpredictability of the music, you really need separate consideration to account for their profoundly theatrical construct. From costumes, face paint, poetry, African folklore & the absurd versatility available with such highly skilled multi-instrumentalists & their obvious immoderate intrepidity & complete disregard for audience safety or cogitation, they plough through frontiers that others only really nibble the edges of.
Another recurrent characteristic with this lot is there predilection for irreverence & parody, they play overly mundane or anaemic/generic styles with an excess of exaggeration playful pasquinade & blithe lampooning. substantial ridicule & further facetiousness is operated on “Get In Line” & “Old Time Religion”, with the military & ecclesial pedagoguery getting a basting.
It’s an irresistible formula. The depth of their individualism, their profound musicianship & the extremity of the operations shot into the clouds with a total indifference for reception or acceptance & the obvious kinetic roving mad synergy that they elevated in each other.
This CD combines two LP’s from the Actuel catalogue & is a magnificent starting cue for postulants wanting 2 entreat AEOC’s prodigious back-catalogue. It’s intensely varied sprawling nine tracks, quite rare for them as they mostly rolled out a single sprawl that would be sundered & put on a single 12” (I prefer this more compartmentalized track selection personally). If your into Noisecore or any mad Off-Road, far flung shit, this is essential listening/study. Beyond bad-ass.
Label: Actuel/BYG (CD re-release on Charly)