The Muffins — Double Negative
(Cuneiform Rune 199, 2004, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2005-03-01
I suppose any time a band that has been around as long as the Muffins puts out a new album, there’s going to be some disagreement among fans about its merits. Whether they changed too much or too little, people will complain. You can’t please all the people, etc. I’m going to come down on the “love it” side for Double Negative. It has many of the elements present from the beginning of the band’s history: compositions that change drastically during their course, jazzy sax parts, wild non-melodic guitar, repeating rhythmic motifs, a mixture of improvisation and composition. The overall impression here is that the composition side dominates, especially due to the frequent use of guest musicians to augment the core quartet. Strings, trombone, and extra saxes pump up the arrangements to levels beyond what we’ve heard before. There is less Canterbury and a bit more RIO than there used to be; the sound is probably closer to Birdsongs of the Mesozoic than Henry Cow (I always felt the Muffins were kind of like a mutated combination of Henry Cow and National Health). But still, behind the added frills, there are some great tunes with strong individual performances, and I don’t begrudge these guys the chance to stretch their arranging muscles. What is lost in immediacy (compared to something like the remixed tracks on <185>, for example) is gained in a broader palette, and there are plenty of contrasting moments when it drops down to just bass, drums and sax.
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more
Joel Vandroogenbroeck RIP – Word has reached us of the death of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, best known as one of the founders of Brainticket, He also recorded electronic music under a variety of names. He was born August 25th, 1938 in Brussels, Belgium and died December 23, 2019 in Arlesheim, Switzerland, aged 81. » Read more