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Monday, 30 May 2011

Confusional Quartet (Elica)

My knowledge of 20th century Italian art is really limited and I can only refer to the Futurists, whose ideas seem to saturate this CD. Even though it's recorded in the early 80s, this is fast, has that punchy prog of Area but filtered through a slightly punk edgyness -- and uses short song lengths almost as a reaction against the bombastic solo-heavy approach I associate with Italian progressive rock. So scanning the (poorly translated) liner notes, it's nice to see Futurism mentioned. Which actually makes Confusional Quartet a bit out of their time, too wild for the progheads and too proggy for the punkers, perhaps. It's not like these songs blaze by at speed metal velocity, but there's a neverending momentum driven by a pretty fantastic rhythm section. The guitars and keyboards twist and fight, with a pretty raw synth sound that is the Confusional Quartet signature (though not the centre). You want chops? You'll get em - time signature changes, quick shifts, and a whole lotta tight - but then there's also something wonderfully plastic about it all. The artwork makes me think of Dillinger e morte or whatever the hell it's called in Italian, though that film's laconic pace is somewhat at odds with things here. This was a great band and this CD sets a pretty good case for them as lost gods, though what the hell do I know about Italian new wave? There is a danger here that I can't quite articulate - not nihilism necessary, but a propulsive blast into territories unknown. Of course, the music is all rock - it never gets too improvised, but rather stays within tight boundaries. I like that - there's a focus and coherence of vision, and it defines the Confusional Quartet aesthetic as a mighty one indeed. There's a lot of radio broadcasts mixed in throughout, and one gets the sense of technological saturation creeping in as a statement of sorts. The songs are actually pretty catchy too, almost singalong despite being instrumental, and even the '1Sigla'/'4Sigla'/'6Sigla' suite (which is a gradual deconstruction of one compositions).

Sunday, 1 May 2011

John Coltrane - 'A Love Supreme' (Impulse!)

This ended up on my shelf because I got it for free or someone left it at my house or for some other reason like that. I'm not making an excuse because A Love Supreme is certainly nothing to be ashamed of; but I never actually listen to it, or any other Coltrane records for that matter. And I'm not sure why - I mean, certainly there's a lifetime of rewards to pull out of the grooves on all of those classics (or between the 1s and 0s here). Maybe I'm just a bit sick of hearing about A Love Supreme, and I just never came across any of the others on vinyl. This is certainly the Coltrane album that graces the most university dormitory CD shelves -- wait, who am I kidding? College kids don't own physical pressings of music anymore! But regardless, this is an insanely venerated record that is certainly a bold, confident statement of emerging free jazz spirituality -- I just prefer the more discordant explorations of the Alice/Ali years. Particularly Sun Ship! Now that's a record. But actually listening to A Love Supreme is a supremely harmonious act; the tone of Coltrane's sax is like a giant buttery raft and the Garrison/Tyner interplay is as telepathic as reputed. Everything swirls in a big ball of magic and it's a sound that has become such a template over the past half-century that is almost sounds clich├ęd. There are some solos of note - or duos at times, like Tyner's leading of the middle part of 'Resolution', with chords so perfectly chosen and Garrison/Jones responding to the chopping with the perfect support. Garrison's solo in 'Pursuance' has that classic, elegant feel, like a wood nymph stepping confidently out of the darkness, wrigging in the spotlight for a bit, and then retreating to some other role. I think a good reason for A Love Supreme's popularity is how peaceful and content it feels, and that it comes just on the precipice of total madness in his own life. Crescent, from about the same time, is just as confident (from what I remember) and it's like one last glance backwards before taking the door to Interstellar Space. Maybe I also have a bit of a snobby elitist chip on my shoulder, just thinking about how for many this might be the one free jazz or Coltrane disc they own. And ironically, the latter is true for me.