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(42:36 / 'Conveniens')
TRACK LIST: 1. Rain Kite 4:07 2. Know It Ain't 6:53 3. Morning Lobotomy 1:21 4. Barney Klark 4:05 5. Regular Grind 2:58 6. Druhm Rum 3:03 7. Procession of Bone 3:14 8. Afrishanki 5:04 9. Blink 7:41 PERSONNEL: John Maz - drums, percussion Sterling Smith - synthesizer, grand piano, organ
Prolusion. CONVENIENS are an American duo comprising drummer John Maz and keyboardist Sterling Smith. I want to believe the recording under review is really the CD reissue of their eponymous debut LP, as there is no other information on the LP in the disc's 6-page press kit, apart from the notion that it was originally released in 1984 (by whom, how many copies in number?). According to the men, they have two more LPs to their credit, both being nowadays considered collector's rarities, whose titles however are never mentioned in the press kit which, instead, twice offers the duo's own description of each of the disc's nine instrumental tracks ("alternative approach to the blues" etc and so on).
Analysis. About five minutes of the CD's total playing time (42:36) are assigned to a sort of blitz interview with both the musicians (more often laughing than speaking), which takes place after the last tune is ended. Perhaps the fun amuses the protagonists themselves, whilst personally I find it to be nothing other than a trick done with the purpose of somewhat lengthening the recording, as it's indeed quite short by today's standards - at least from the statistically-average purchaser's mind. The album is not without originality, but this is not a case where I can put that matter at the top of the list, since the music is both one-dimensional and rather colorless at its most structured and is just chaotic at its, hmm, most eclectic, the former species being predominant - perhaps thankfully. The sound is just what you might expect from a duo, lacking dynamism everywhere on the recording, the keyboardist never using synthy-bass pads, besides which the drums have a strong synthetic feeling, sounding usually like an archaic drum machine. The press kit says John Maz's equipment includes some 'primal drums', which makes me think the word 'electronic' between those two is omitted unjustly. Rain Kite and Procession of Bone, each finds a melodious synthesizer solo hovering lonely over straight drumbeats, the tunes' overall picture remotely resembling a kind of symphonic Space Rock with no pace changes. The two cuts that follow the opening one, Know It Ain't and Morning Lobotomy, both develop in a similar way during their first halves, later on revealing random spacey effects in conjunction with extemporaneous percussion solos. Barney Klark, with its toy piano-like sounding keyboard weaving a few plain patterns over some extremely monotonous machinery, brings to mind the thought "It's like a parody of Klimperei" (a French outfit whose profanation of classic Minimalist music is, well, not my cup of tea either). The synthesizer solos on Regular Grind, but more particularly the piano improvisations on Blink, would've been fine had these always been properly supported by the percussion; meaning, some diverse movements on the part of the latter can be found on each of the said tracks, but only in places. The remaining two pieces, Druhm Rum and Afrishanki, each should probably be regarded as a benefit performance for John Maz and Sterling Smith, respectively. The chaotic percussion solos that dominate throughout the former don't impress me at all - unlike the piano passages on the latter, which is in my view the only decent composition on this disc.
Conclusion. In spite of all its innovativeness (which is just cosmetic in the final analysis), the eponymous Conveniens CD is a mediocrity at best. All these tracks could have easily been produced impromptu, during one recording session. I wonder why the duo decided to reanimate this their originally abortive project - if it was really previously released of course. I see I am rather rude in this review, but, frankly, this is just one of those very rare cases when I find myself reflecting on the matter of the quick development of modern digital technologies and - as a corollary - the strong reduction of prices for manufacturing CDs, which automatically increases the number of second-rate musical productions.
VM: March 28, 2007
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