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Friday, October 24, 2008

Red Sphere - H-Alpha (Skirl Records, 2008) ****

Here is the most down-to-earth trio of astrophysicist stargazers you have ever heard. For the non-physicists among you : H-Alpha is a specific emission line created by hydrogen at 6562.8 Angstroms. H-Alpha filters are used in telescopes to look at the stars. A Red Sphere could as well be a proton or a red giant, a huge star. Whatever it is, it is clear that we are both in the world of tiny elements and huge elements. Now, how does this relate to this music? First, the band consists of Briggan Kraus on sax, Ikue Mori on laptop and Jim Black on drums. Three stellar musicians. Two, all 17 tracks carry names of stars : "Sun", "Alpha Centauri", "Barnard's Star", "Lalande 21185", and so forth, until we reach "Groombridge 34". Those interested in the exact distance of these stars from the earth, can educate themselves by looking it all up on Wikipedia. Three, there is of course the music itself : mostly short tracks with an exquisite story to tell, ranging from violent to chaotic, from scary to screechy, from rhythmic to abstract, from industrial to spacey, but never boring. One thing is sure : each track is highly energetic, with subatomic particles bouncing away against each other and in every direction, in a process of intense interaction, with electronic crackles and beeps, rhythmic and a-rhythmic percussion sounds and a wailing sax, a droning sax, a power sax. No doubt, this is weird music, but it's so coherent and uncompromosing in its approach that it's great fun. The most amazing thing about the album is the incredible interaction between the musicians. Krauss and Black seem to have been made for each other, both skilled, disciplined and creative powerplayers, and Mori does more than just provide some background noise. Her contribution is absolutely essential for the overall effect, however sparse it may be at times. It is not easy listening, but this kind of space travel is definitely worth more to me than the $ 30 mio this loser paid for, today. What a ride, indeed!

© stef