Spectrum Orchestrum — It's About Time
(Atypeek Music, 2018, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2018-10-08
French five-piece Spectrum Orchestrum started back in 2007, and has been pretty much flying under the radar all this time. We were introduced to them with their last release Suburbs (from 2014) but there are four releases prior to that, beginning with Improvisarium in 2008. This newest release, It’s About Time, subtitled Improvisarium V, contains only three tracks, from the one-minute opener to the 33-minute title track, and then a ten-minute closer. And as you might have accurately guessed, this is all improvised, although this is all too tight to not have been rehearsed a dozen times or more before the recording session. The band features guitar, bass, drums and percussion, Fender Rhodes and organ, and last but not least, alto sax; there are voices as well, though not credited. That one minute opener “Three to One” as a minute of complete chaos and madness, every player making as much noise as they can for the duration; think of that ending coda to “21st Century Schizoid Man” and you will be almost there. Going forward, we have the main course, “About Time” in three parts, although one might have no idea where the parts begin and end because everything just morphs along as it goes with an intense groove, beginning with a drum cadence and throbbing bass, then a gentle keyboard atmospheric later joined by a conversation between guitar and sax, slowly building in intensity and power, ratcheting up at a steady pace, reminiscent of some mid-70s Magma sans vocals, just a little more gnarly and freaky. Around the eleven-minute mark a series of whistles go off and the groove descends into a mysterious corner, less hard-driving, with mettalic gongs and bells and odd percussion that may remind the listener of Indonesian gamelan, but in truly free-improv style, piquing the imagination. As we approach the 18-minute mark, the bass and electric piano groove begins to return to its previous strength, slowly but ever so surely, driving forward like a march into the abyss, with sax joined by wordless voices, snarly guitars, and general chaos, beginning a slow fade at around the 31-minute point, with the voices becoming more promonent. The closer, with its reassuring title “Not the End,” is a slower evolving piece without a uniform driving groove, pushing out in all directions until it all winds down around the ten minute mark. Fans of 70s Magma, Combat Astronomy, and similarly inclined power-improv units should definitely add this to their list.
The release is available on the French digital label Atypeek Music, with physical releases on micro DIY-labels La Société du Spectral, Bang Bang, L'étourneur, Do It Youssef.
Related artist(s): Spectrum Orchestrum
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more