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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Triumph of the 16 Deadly Improvs


The 16 Deadly Improvs
The Triumph of The 16 Deadly Improvs
Rosemont Recordings


Collective improvisation is a tricky affair at the best of times. A delicate, mercurial thing, it’s especially sensitive to even the most minute changes in musical temperature. In an instant it can bloom into something wondrous or wither on the vine; victory or defeat are only ever a beat or note away.

The good news is that in the case of this New Jersey combo the results are rarely less than spectacular. Skilfully edited down from a single session, and with minimal overdubs, the results are, as the title accurately suggests, a triumph for a band that’s been taking risks since its formation in the mid-90s. It’s an inventive approach yielding impressive results.

The stylistic compass points in several directions with moods ranging from explosive freak-outs, moments of ethereal ambient quietude, spiky avant-pop interventions, soaring passages of Kosmische-like laser-beam guitars, and bursts of Zappa-esque extrapolation. Remarkably, it all hangs together.

Alongside punchy instrumentals, some decent songs are also scooped from the air. Dear Me offers a cautionary observation on the pitfalls of telling the truth, whilst Spirit or Matter becomes a lugubrious existential ballad that David Sylvian might’ve tinkered with in his darker moments.

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