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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Arts and Sciences - New You (Singlespeed Music, 2012) *****

Posted by Joe

I met Michael Coleman (the leader of Arts and Science) in Brussels quite a few years ago. He was on the usual European tourist trip with a friend of his - maybe Jordan Glenn, the drummer on this album? Michael told me about another interesting project called Schumann's Humans, a group playing the music of Schumann, but re-imagined. I remember checking out via MySpace the group and being highly impressed, but of course since then I'd lost track of Michael's groups and career. Well, time has caught up and here we are in 2012 with a record from Michael Coleman under the title 'Arts and Science - New You', and it's to my ears a corker! I should also add, for all those that read the recent Aram Shelton review, that this is another record out on the excellent Singlespeed Music label.

If you're ready to be taken on a burning trip of musical ideas and styles, then this is the one you might indeed be well advised to check out. If you remember the free wheeling blowing and sheer eclecticism of Human Feel then you'll already have a vague notion of what the music could be. Although not as 'free', it does however have a power and imagination that easily matches that genre breaking group. The groups makeup does (in a way) mirror some of Human Feel's elements as it's two sax front line, no bass, drums and in this case keyboard may suggest. Each of the musicians deserves a mention as everybody plays sublimely well, blowing hot and cold all over the music, prepared to take the risks needed to give the music an excitement and energy that keeps the listener pinned to their seat!

Both Jacob Zimmerman (alto sax, flute, percussion), Matt Nelson (Tenor sax, effects, percussion) are new names to me, and a revelation also. Both players seem to mold together to form a front line that instinctively thinks as one. Their solos sometimes scream out of the speakers and at others come together to form tight ensemble work. Jordan Glenn (drums) is certainly a key player in this complex music which at times sounds not unlike early King Crimson in it's ensemble work. The modern melodies fly out at you never letting one guess which direction the music will take. 'Seram' (Tk 7) swings away at a fast tempo, whilst the gorgeous melody of 'Shunting' (Tk 8) has an almost sinister obstinate riff for the two saxes to blow around. Baby Boner (Tk 3) turns into a polyrhythmic piece, like a pigmy melody taken straight from the rain forests. 'Scientology' (Tk 9) makes use of gongs and bowed cymbals leading us to a beautiful and delicate melody with extra horns and a guitar. And the final brooding 'Jazz/Shadow' (Tk 10) with strangely distorted recorded horns and keyboard, roll like the sea with the two horns wailing above. Every track is a winner!

The myriad ideas of Michael Coleman really keep each track fresh, and although there is clearly a huge range of musical styles, somehow Michael manages to make the whole thing completely coherent. His keyboard playing (only keyboards) never dominates the ensemble, yet there are constant ideas flowing back and forth. His use of the sound palettes available is always well chosen ; mellotrons, percussive glockenspiels, tiny pianos, old wurlitzers, etc. However, what is clear is that this is no solo record, but a true group project that live must be very exciting to hear indeed! The recording technique and sound also used on this record is also very interesting, at times clear and at others heavily treated, all of which (I imagine) is intended.

Highly recommended to all those who love King Crimson, rock, out jazz, Human Feel, downtown scene, pygmies...!         

Listen and download from their Bandcamp page.     

© stef