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The Necks: Vertigo (Northern Spy)

The Necks 18th album finds the trio of drummer/percussionist Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and pianist/keyboardist Chris Abrahams in a vertiginous 44 minute dark excursion punctuated by cliff hanging moments through homemade instruments and unusual textures. ... Click to View

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The Necks 18th album finds the trio of drummer/percussionist Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and pianist/keyboardist Chris Abrahams in a vertiginous 44 minute dark excursion punctuated by cliff hanging moments through homemade instruments and unusual textures. ... Click to View

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Midnight Doctors: (Ourodisc)

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Anthony Braxton : Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993, 2nd Set (Hatology)

Remaster of the exhilarating second set from saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton's concert at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, CA, 1993, one of 7 nights performing with the quartet of Marilyn Crispell on piano, Mark Dresser on bass, and Gerry Hemingway on percussion. ... Click to View

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Uwe Oberg : Work (Hatology)

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Anthony Braxton / Derek Bailey: First Duo Concert (London 1974) (Emanem)

A much-need reissue of the 1974 Emanem LP presenting saxophonist Anthony Baxton, also on flute, with guitarist Derek Bailey on acoustic and electric, performing at London's Wigmore Hall for twelve duets of a diverse, playful, and accesible character. ... Click to View

Veryan Weston / Jon Rose / Hannah Marshall: Tuning Out [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Improvised pieces for tracker action organs and strings recorded in five English churches from the trio of violinist Jon Rose, Veryan Weston on tracker action organ, and cellist Hannah Marshall, inviting the public to re-imagine the nature of pitch relationships. ... Click to View

Steve Lacy Quintet: Last Tour (2004) (Emanem)

The Steve Lacy Quintet's final tour with vocalist Irene Aebi, trombonist George Lewis, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, performing live in Boston for an impressive set punctuated with words from Burroughs, Waldman, Kaufman, Creeley & Schelling. ... Click to View

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John Zorn: James Moore Plays The Book Of Heads (CD/DVD) Of A Film By Stephen Taylor (Tzadik)

Zorn's "The Book of Heads" is performed by guitarist James Moore, heard on CD and seen in a DVD by Stephen Taylor, using prepared guitar to interpret Zorn's hermetic language of meticulously notated sounds inspired by contemporary classical extended techniques. ... Click to View


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  Execution Ground  
  (Subharmonic (1994)) 

   review by William Burke
Painkiller: Execution Ground (Subharmonic (1994))

Being a fan of Peter Brotzmann and other hard experimental jazz, I sought out Execution Ground with some anticipation. The idea of John Zorn doing a jazz-thrash hybrid band more than caught my attention. I was however somewhat skeptical and made it a point to get a hold of some Painkiller to see just what in the world was going on. I put in the CD, got a cup of coffee, and sat back with a sort of 'oh yea, show me' disposition. About half way through the first track I realized that I had spilled the coffee and hadn't even noticed. This was music that demanded to be listened to and after that initial playing it pushed several of my other CDs to the back of the shelf.

As I listened, I understood very quickly that this was a very focused effort. In many ways it was a logical step for Zorn between Naked City and Masada. Gone are the tricky jazz hooks that sometimes populated early Naked City albums, gone are the calculated chance of other projects, gone is the miscellaneous noise that sometimes seeps in. What is left is a pure blowing album with three highly skilled and focused players. Not only can they flat out play, but they also listen to one another in a way that is rarely accomplished in any kind of music. No filler, no empty calories, just pure clear focused sound.

Zorn, on sax and vocals, is joined by Bill Laswell on bass and former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris. They began their collaboration in 1991 when Zorn was listening to metal/grindcore groups such as Napalm Death. He discovered an intensity and creativity in this music that rivaled the 1960's free jazz players. From this admiration grew Painkiller, which successfully merges grindcore intensity with hard jazz sensibilities. The music is at once challenging, listenable and fairly unique. The only band that comes near it may be Last Exit, however the Painkiller sound is thankfully more sparse and the playing has a more carefully constructed lens.

Execution Ground is arranged in a series of strategic attacks on two discs. On disc one Zorn is in full-out, back-to-the-wall, straight-on thrash. He dips in and out of the weave of sound created by Laswell and Harris with graceful precision. There are no false steps, no misplaced notes. The drummer, Mick Harris does not overplay, often a danger in experimental music, but keeps things moving with well placed breaks, rolls, and melodic tom tom work. The glue, however, is Laswell, who thunders along with great timing and atmosphere. He moves through a wide range from ferocious rock licks, interesting hard bop, and even a little dub thrown in for good measure.

Disc two, which is labeled "Ambient," has more atmospheric playing, with a dark feel not unlike moments in Naked City'sTorture Garden but with a more ambient space: it's background music for the early morning darkness. It has the same unique merging of grindcore and hard bop, but in a more spacious and drawn out setting. Zorn holds long notes, then zigs and zags eerily through a series of ghostly patterns skillfully drawn by Laswell and Harris. It still grabs you and thrashes around, but in a more restrained way than disc one.

The moods achieved and the range of influences on this album are staggering. Even though at times the music is aggressive, anxious and intense, Painkiller manages to merge seemingly divergent directions in the music into a completely satisfying and engaging experience. The music cascades effortlessly through a series of different dynamics but always with an energizing point of convergence. While Zorn and Laswell have individually played in many different styles over the years, Execution Ground may be their most focused and complete vision to date.

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