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TRACK LIST: 1. Mazman 2:20 2. Night Caution 4:39 3. Efiltsitra 3:04 4. Da Da Ack 2:22 5. Rowte 66 3:46 6. Death By Poetry 5:07 7. Ball Park Song 2:27 8. Electroflux 9:28 9. Cadium Red 2:08 10. Rolling 5:37 11. Epilog 5:35 LINEUP: John Maz – drums, percussion David Sterling Smith – synthesizers, grand piano With: Tom Jonusaitis – bass; accordion; vocals Ted Blood Buchanan – sax Gerrald Hill – flute Lori Payne – cabassa; voice
Prolusion. CONVENIENS is a duo based in the state of Illinois in the USA, apparently still active. They haven't released any new material since the 80's though, and "Clear" is a re-release of an album that first saw the light of day in 1987, at that time being the band's third and (to date) final release. New to this edition of the album is some extra content available if you insert the CD into a PC, and one bonus track not on the album when it was first released on vinyl. Related review.
Analysis. Conveniens writes songs that come across as experimental and challenging, residing somewhere in the borderland between noise and music. In addition, there's quite a lot of variety in the styles explored, thus making this CD a rather taxing listen. Mazman opens the ball with asynchronous drum sounds and some almost inaudible synths, evolving into a frantic rhythm workout with synthesizer textures on top. Night Caution continues with wind synths, rhythmic sounds and single, disjointed piano notes that slowly come together to form a melody as the wind synths grow in stature and sound like ghostly wailing. Efiltsitra is a nice, short piano melody with minimalistic tendencies that starts to evolve towards an asymmetric style before it ends. Da Da Ack is dominated by hypnotic rhythms throughout, accompanied by various electronic noises and sounds. Rowte 66 comes next and is a slightly blues-flavored tune with sax and distinct bass and synth noises more or less repeating the major musical theme. Death By Poetry explores a setting with slightly subdued voices and accordion that evolves towards a chaotic and scrambled finish, while the following track, Ball Park Song, consists of a bass line supported by an asthmatic organ sound and bursts of seemingly disjointed rhythms. Electroflux is the highlight in terms of song length on this release, and is a rhythmical experiment underscored by fragmented bass and synth sounds. Next up is Cadium Red, a surprisingly gentle and beautiful piano piece accompanied by flute. Finally, Rolling and Epilog end the album on a jazzy note, the former with dissonant and asynchronous leanings in a tune dominated by sax and piano; the latter more of a straight-forward composition with improvisational piano playing and saxophone as dominating features. There are quite a lot of adventurous performances on this CD, asynchronous rhythms and rhythmic instruments, disharmonies, synth noises, fragmented melodies and single notes and tones thrown into the soundscapes. In the instances where a more regular theme is played and repeated, it tends to be minimalistic either in nature or approach – either repeated without much (if any) variation, or a clear cut minimalist theme in style. And although the compositions all seem to be well-thought-out and planned, with room for improvisations created where needed, with some central elements of the tunes or soundscapes always present to give each piece a foundation, I have major problems hearing and understanding what the purpose behind the individual tunes is. The atmospheres explored extensively really aren't catchy enough or interesting enough to stand up to close scrutiny, the songs evolving don't seem to have a target in site – they change and then suddenly stop changing without bringing closure, merely issuing in an ending to the performance. Some tunes do sound intriguing, and the two piano-dominated mellow pieces are good, but first and foremost this release strikes me as somewhat directionless overall, experimenting just for the sake of it rather than using it as a tool to reach a goal.
Conclusion. As with all experimental music, this release will probably also have its followers. And I would guess that people enjoying material in the borderline, twilight territory between noise and music will be ones with the greatest chance of finding this one intriguing. Progressive music lovers should look elsewhere.
OMB: July 10, 2008
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