Out Trios Volume Two

Sunday Herald | Chicago Tribune Delusions of Adequacy

Sunday Herald

14 December 2003
By David Keenan

Jazz CDs: Jeff Parker/Kevin Drumm/Michael Zerang – Out Trios Volume Two [Atavistic]

HOT on the heels of Out Trios Volume One, a set that documented the spontaneous forms generated in the collision between free drummer William Hooker and guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Roger Miller, comes this titanic three way. Guitarist Jeff Parker is best known for his work with Chicago avantists Tortoise and the various permutations of Rob Mazurek’s experimental Chicago Underground ensemble but the root of his playing comes from somewhere deep within the tradition and he’s just as at home jamming with members of Chicago’s avant jazz association, the AACM, as he is weaving wires into the most complex of laptop- generated constructions. Out Trios Volume Two sees him reconcile these two approaches as he weighs the dialogue between fearless tabletop guitarist Kevin Drumm and percussionist Michael Zerang. Drumm is on particularly dazzling form, transforming the sound of his guitar via an array of effects so that it sounds closer to pure machine noise or alien radio broadcasts, generating a huge tonal backdrop over which Parker blazes trails of notes and great splats of keyboard, moving from jazz-inflected sighs to seeding organically blooming electronic soundforms. Zerang is left with the challenge of attempting to relate to these amorphous shapes using an armoury of slightly more defined percussive sounds. Rather than imposing some kind of overt rhythmic structure on the piece, drummer Zerang instead concentrates on the minute timbral capacities of his kit, moving from buzzing, juggling passages to scrapes, pops and deep booms, sounds that Drumm echoes with spidery guitar patterns. Yet it never degenerates into inane call-and-response improvising. Instead the whole trio move as one, intuiting direction and shape from the vaguest of textural prompts until it feels like the music is giving birth to itself, the players just as much spectators as the listener.


© Sunday Herald

Chicago Tribune

17 February 2004
Out Trios Volume Two (Atavistic)
By Bill Meyer

Local guitarist Jeff Parker’s versatility has bred ubiquity; whether he’s showcasing slick stylings with the instrumental combo Tortoise or lending his jazz licks to some pick-up combo, he’s always working. But percussionist Michael Zerang and guitar-electronics wizard Kevin Drumm take Parker to places even he’s never been before. From their opening salvo of fuzzy static to their closing foray into sullen chords speared like shish kebabs by sine waves, this radical trio treats music as a subset of sound, which it sculpts into marvelously strange shapes.

© Chicago Tribune


Delusions of Adequacy

19 April 2004
I like it, I just don’t know what it is.

I like it, I just don’t know what it is.

“Lacerate” opens with what sounds like a radio tuning in to an FM station that plays evisceration 24/7. Three minutes in and Chucky from Child’s Play has taken over the kitchen. The sounds are indefinable, bowel-scrapingly familiar, and the liner notes about as unfuckinghelpful as can be. Described by the label as jazz/experimental, it makes Coltrane and Coleman sound like 17th century courtside troubadours.

Track two (of the four lengthy pieces here) is the aural equivalent of Donald Duck being anally taken. As a listener, I couldn’t make out the enjoyment factor, but the buzzes, blips, and semi-rhythmic explosions with an equally seductive yet elusive S&M beat made up for that. Penultimately, “Onslaught” seems somewhat titularly anticlimactic – it’s the track where instrumentation (if you can call squelches, feedback screams, and general knob-twiddlery that) comes together with percussion in the most cohesive manner. I’m not implying there is anything resembling a 4/4 structure, but the sound of cymbals reminds us of the human, catty and erratic though we may be. Lastly, “Miss Big Meen” is almost Tibetan by comparison, bells, squeaking gates, and goddamn if that’s not a guitar being atonally strangled. So this is peace…

If the intent here has been to severely meddle with conceptions of structure, tone and harmony, ten out of ten. It’s not easy listening, but it feels valuable, intriguing, interesting, and how many Jackson nipples do you need to find that in these troubled times?

PS – I’ve just learnt more about these three, and the news is they’re huge on the Chicago scene (Tortoise etc.). That makes no difference as far as I’m concerned, and that’s a good thing – this freak-out stands tall on its own.