Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chicago Underground Duo - Age of Energy (Northern Spy, 2012)

The Chicago Underground Duo consists of Rob Mazurek on cornet, electronics and voice with Chad Taylor on drums, mbira, drum machine and electronics. Together they get a fascinating sound, influenced by 70's Miles Davis, electronic music experiments and their own jazz sensibility. The lengthy opener "Winds and Sweeping Pines" has a long progressive electronic opening passage, developing into a moody and beguiling soundscape. Taylor's drums enter a little ways into the nearly twenty minute long improvisation, playing his drums off against waves of electronics. Mazurek doesn't move to the cornet until nearly fifteen minutes in, but he does so with a finely honed tone that fits in well with the surrounding music. Taylor's drums build the pace and the music gradually increases before slowly fading out. Droning electronics and sampled voice usher in "It's Alright" laying down a subversive and unusual foundation, based as much in science fiction sounds and modulations as jazz. Mazurek's cornet slowly glides in sounding like a post-modern homage to Miles Davis's In a Silent Way album. The electronics evolve into a moody and distorted, overdriven section building anxiety and taking the song into much more ominous terrain. The acoustic track "Castle in Your Heart" has a gentle African vibe with the smoothly percussive mbira providing an unusual but interesting sound. Together with cornet, they make for music that has compassion and kindness. This sets things up for the extraordinary finale, "Age of Energy" which begins with drilling electronics and drums. Taken at a blistering uptempo pace, the shape-shifting electronics and rock-inspired drumming make for a very exciting track, especially when Mazurek adds cornet smears to the boiling cauldron. This was a fresh and thoughtful look at jazz and improvised music from a thoroughly modern perspective. Building from both electronic and acoustic instruments the group facilitates a truly unique sound. Age of Energy - Age of Energy

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