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(52:57, MoonJune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Cobale Di San Luca 3:05 2. Laughter 6:25 3. Over Birkerot 8:53 4. Sea 7:57 5. Passing Cloud 4:08 6. Cosmic Surgery 6:45 7. Aeon 7:28 8. Beppe’s Shelter 8:16 LINEUP: Alex Maguire – el. piano, organ, synthesizer, Mellotron Michel Deville – el. guitar Tony Bianco – drums With: Richard Sinclair – bass; vocals (1, 2, 5)
Prolusion. DOUBT is a group of three British musicians, none of whom are familiar to me – unlike Richard Sinclair (of Caravan fame), who plays bass on three of the eight tracks that are featured on the trio’s debut release, “Never Pet a Burning Dog”, additionally singing on two of those.
Analysis. The musicians describe their creation as “The missing link between vintage Terje Rypdal, Ennio Morricone, Sun Ra, John Zorn’s Masada and Sonic Youth”, which sounds very DouBtful, in the adverb’s original/general sense above all. IMHO, there is no direct connection between such creatively different artists as the listed ones, who, moreover, are five in number. Besides, while revealing some influences of the first of those, the recording has nothing to do at all with the last three – or even four, unless the band hasn’t confused :-) Sun Ra with Ash Ra. Already the fact that this musical material was recorded live – only during two days or, to be more precise, two studio sessions – suggests that it is either created spontaneously or is largely improvisational in nature, no matter that the band’s performance equipment consists of what is widely recognized as rock instruments. In short, my intuition didn’t let me down, and although the album is neither chaotic nor, say, heavily experimental in appearance (i.e. it doesn’t sound like it’s done on the spur of the moment), most of its contents indeed have a strong jazz quality to them. Okay, on the two vocal tracks, Cobale Di San Luca and Passing Cloud, the implied feeling isn’t too distinct, let alone pronounced, but anyhow, I wouldn’t believe anybody – save neophytes into Progressive – would define these otherwise than Anglo-jazz-fusion or Canterbury-style ballads. The album’s main musical events unfold on its other six components-tracks, all of which are instrumentals, ranging in length from 6-and-a-half to 9 minutes. On four of those, Laughter, Over Birkerot, Sea and Aeon, the outfit, while playing improvisational Jazz Rock of a typically British/European fashion, doesn’t seem to be directly influenced by anyone else, and only the aforementioned Ash Ra (exactly) from time to time comes to mind when I listen to these. As the music has strong psychedelic tendencies in addition, the arrangements are most of the time highly eclectic, particularly those on Sea and Aeon, where the drum solos – in contrast to the others – are fast-to-rapid throughout, which brings a lot of rhythmic variety to the stuff on the one hand, but creates too many conflicting soloing lines at once to sculpt a totally cohesive mosaic of those on the other. However, Laughter and Over Birkerot are both surprisingly tight and compelling (plus energetically saturated) pieces, despite being for the most part as highly improvisational in nature as the previously described ones are. Axeman Michel Deville sits prominently within the mix, providing dexterous lines that float over the diverse, elaborated electric piano and drum patterns. Nonetheless, it is the remaining two tracks that are the real highlights of this release, to my mind. Beppe’s Shelter only at first displays the same compositionally-performance approach as the above tracks do. Very soon its outlines become distinct, and the music itself takes the shape of jazz-tinged Prog-Metal, striking for its structural integrity and thematic diversity alike. Often dark, dissonant and distinctly heavy alike, Cosmic Surgery brings to mind Rock-and-Metal-in-Opposition of a mid-‘70s King Crimson – rather than Henry Cow – variety. (By the way, did you know that the main, i.e. musical, basis of the RIO genre was pioneered by Van Der Graaf Generator? If not, just lend an attentive ear to their 1971 album “Pawn Hearts”, and you’ll become certain of that.) The music is full of dynamic contrasts and harmonic variety, coursing through many aggressive and reflective substances, with interesting ideas emerging constantly. Although it doesn’t have as strong an identity to its sound as the other compositions do, it is definitely the best, with the skilled guitar work being but one element of this exquisitely balanced and captivating piece. This is also the only track here, revealing all the keyboard instruments that are declared in the CD booklet, Mellotron in particular, though the organ seems to be mainly used only as a provider of deeper tones (perhaps via the bass pedal) – on all the tracks the trio performs alone.
Conclusion. “Never Pet a Burning Dog” is in all senses a highly uncommon jazz-fusion album, since much of it combines purely jazz improvisations with those referring to Psychedelic Rock. If you like paranormal music of a sort (personally I do), don’t hesitate to purchase this disc.
PS: By the way, DouBt, if you find any these expressions: “Never Watch the Crapulent Sphinx”, “Never Die Yesterday”, “Never Chase a Lazy Echo”, “Never Break in a Fiery Horse” to be cool, feel free to use any as a title for your next recording/release :-)
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: July 5, 2010
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