The Upshot: Free jazz and fusionesque funk on one platter of extended improv, and mindfucker/synth-strafed Prog for eco-warriors on the other.
BY FRED MILLS
Where the fuck did these Talibam! guys come from?!? Though extant for nearly a decade and a half, their labors upon the downtown NYC jazz, avant, and experimental scene don’t seem to have penetrated the, uh, mainstream mind to date. And it’s vexing to realize I am apparently part of said “mind,” but luckily I’m making up for lost time via these two records. That the venerable ESP-Disk label is simultaneously releasing not one but two of the Talibam! projects would suggest an article (pair?) of faith that we underground musique aficionados should take note of.
First up: Talibam! Proper, with Endgame of the Anthropocene, a document of extreme synth damage that only Aphex Twin’s mom could love. But you will too, and from the get-go, as electronicist Matthew Mottel (CSC Funk Band, Alien Whale, etc.) manhandles his Mini-moog, wrestles his Roland, and yammers with his Yamaha, while accompanist Kevin Shea (Rhys Chatham, Mostly Other People Do The Killing) damages his drums and occasionally takes a percussive detour via his MIDI Marimba Lumina. I did not know they made MIDI marimbas.
It’s a concept album, an extended prognostication upon the eventual fate of Antarctica, for which Mottel and Shea predict international war over who will control the continent’s natural resources, and of course the accompanying eco-destruction. By track three, “Reign of Primordial Tenure on the Ice Shelf,” the duo has locked into a pounding, pulsing, Prog groove easily embraced by contemporary noise-headz and greying veterans of the kosmiche wars of the ‘70s alike. Several tracks take a neo-industrial tack, while others shoot for more minimalist style of psych that’s very Silver Applesish, and it’s all heady, disorienting stuff as befits its presumed dystopian-landscape theme.
Hard Vibe, on the other hand, finds the dynamic duo teaming up with tenor saxist Matt Nelson (Battle Trance, tUnE-yArDs) and Hammond B3 ace Ron Stabinsky (Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Peter Evans Quintet) for a 40-minute improv set titled “Infinite Hard Vibe” (Pts. 1 and 2, representing sides A and B of the vinyl version; they are not stitched together as a single long track for the CD and digital versions, however). Mottel and Shea restrain themselves to a great degree here, at least compared to the Anthropocene session, with Nelson, as the dominant instrumentalist, issuing Ayler-like clarion calls and dissonant clanging tones run through an echo box at times. He’s answered consistently by Stabinsky, like two guys aggressively playing out the windows of their opposite-facing tenement apartments, a grimy alley separating the buildings, each trying to prove to the bums below that he is the neighborhood’s resident badass. Meanwhile, Shea keeps the pulse steady, if at times quite jittery, and Mottel colors in the gaps and around the edges, not necessarily ceding any presumed bandleader duties, but instead lending a unique and consistent texture for the entire session. Apparently somebody picks up an old Keytar at some point, too. And wait’ll you get to the soaring, ecstatic climax during the final minute and a half of the album.
This is not jamming for the sake of keeping a festival audience of seriously baked Deadheads on their toes, but a hearkening back to the great ‘70s jazz/funk/rock/psych jammers of yore. Each of the two tracks is, at turns, intoxicating and awe-inspiring, challenging in the sense that great jazz needs to confront the listener with hard choices.
Consumer note: ESP-Disk and the musicians serve up tasty treats here for the vinyl audience. Hard Vibe is pressed on heavyweight translucent yellow wax, while Anthropocene offers the collector secret handshake with a platter pressed in red with orange and white splatters. Wham-bam, thank YOU, Talibam! gang.
DOWNLOAD: “Cost-Effective Drilling Enabled By Pioneering Technologies and Warmer Climates in the Southern Ocean” (from Anthropocene—damn, I loved typing that title just now); “Infinite Hard Vibe Pt. 2” (Hard VibeI)