The Squid's Ear Magazine

Star City Survivor : Orbital Decay (Soul City Sounds)

Electric free improvisation with a caustic edge, stellar burns with titles like "Broken Navigation" or "The Sun is a Ball of Hate", from the North Carolina duo of guitarist Phil Venable (Tragic Assembly) and NY/NC drummer Tommy Jackson, who explore the atmospheric drag on their far-reaching dialogs through propulsive energy burns and moments of dark stellar voids.

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product information:

UPC: 195269217396

Label: Soul City Sounds
Catalog ID: SCS-0011
Squidco Product Code: 33071

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded by Todd Warner.


Phil Venable-guitar

Tommy Jackson-drums

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

""I wanted this duo to sound as feral and free as I could get it," says Phil Venable, upright bassist for Tragic Assembly. Influenced by the work of Nels Cline, Masayuki Takayanagi, and Sonny Sharrock; Venable asked drummer Tommy Jackson to join him in a guitar drums duo to explore an aggressive distorted sound.

Venable, a veteran guitar player as well as bassist, turns up the distortion and volume for Orbital Decay. Using all of the guitar to produce atonal chimes and volume swells coupled with Tommy Jackson's drums creates a free jazz wallop.

Jackson, a veteran drummer in the North Carolina jazz scene, provides a ferocious swing and stability that allows Venable to explore pure sound. The four pieces on Orbital Decay run the gamut of mood and tone culminating in the end with "the sun is a ball of hate," a fuzzed out amalgamation of deconstructed melody and noise.

Titles such as "empty and burning and empty" and "broken navigation" coupled with the duo's name and album title portray a sonic world of desperation and anger, eschewing cheap and easy resolution. Ultimately, it is up to listeners to .009 determine the meaning for themselves.

The tension between repetition and improvisation is abundantly clear in Orbital Decay making the album visceral stimulating and confrontational. "Jazz, and free jazz, especially seems to bring out the over-intellectualization in people. This duo is put together to overwhelm folks on a primal level and get them out of their heads and into the moment," Venable reflects. "For some reason in my 50s, heavy drone works by Earth, became very important and I wanted to try and put that into my improv work minus the repetition of drone" "-Soul City Sounds

Artist Biographies

"Phil Venable is a Chapel Hill, NC composer and multi-instrumentalist. He plays in numerous groups including Tragic Assembly and The Phil Venable - Paul Swest Duo."

-Soul City Sounds 5/31/2023

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Thomas Jackson is a New York City and North Carolina drummer based in Harlem, NY.

-Tommy Jackson Instagram (

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Track Listing:

1. Empty And Burning And Empty 7:40

2. Transmitter Malfunction 13:33

3. Broken Navigation 9:12

4. The Sun Is A Ball Of Hate 9:53

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Duo Recordings
Guitarists, &c.
Percussion & Drums
New in Improvised Music
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