Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cactus Truck - Live in USA (Eh?/ Tractata Records, 2013) ****

By Philip Coombs

On Monday, June 18th, 2012, I had the opportunity to review Cactus Truck's recording, 'Brand New for China' for the Free Jazz Collective. I remember my ears being boxed by the sheer violence and it's power coming from their unbridled energy. I also made a comment that I would love to experience them live for full effect. Well, unfortunately, there was no Cactus Truck tour of Singapore this year but was pleased to hear that a tour of the United States did happen and was recorded for this release. Adding to my anticipation was learning that the core trio of Jasper Stadhouders (guitars), Onno Govaert (drums) and John Dikeman ( saxophones) would be joined by trombonist Jeb Bishop for two extended tracks and trumpeter Roy Cambell for the recording's closer 'Ninja'which clocks in at over 21 minutes.

Jeb Bishop (Trombone)

'Prairie  Oyster'  starts the album and for those of us who have been listening to these guys before now, there are smiles forming on our faces before this song has played for too long. What Bishop chooses to do with his horn in the face of such power is rather clever. He chooses to be an anchor instead of trying to one up them, giving them dramatic melodic lines and a crisp pulse to bounce off of. This in no way means that Bishop's contribution is minimal for it adds a dimension to the band's comfort zone that is both challenging and profound. If I were a snake, he would have me charmed. 'Seans Gone' relaxes a little and Bishop becomes more of a band member and less of a special guest. When Dikeman drops out, leaving Bishop to his own devices with Stadhouders and Govaert, he steps up to the microphone and lets loose on the opportunity with all the vinegar and thunder he can muster.

Cactus Truck (On their own)

The 4 track that are Cactus Truck on their own show real growth amongst the members in terms of their pacing, pauses, and power. I mean that in a maturation way not an old men lost their touch way. 'Hot Brown' is all I have to say to set that straight or the insane drum intro to 'Magnum Eyebrow'. Their sound doesn't sound forced, their speed comes naturally and their cohesiveness is seamless. Dikeman hits notes notes on that sax that make my jaws hurt.

Roy Cambell (Trumpet)

Right away Cambell punches through the upper register of frequencies like a machine on the closing track 'Ninja'. There are points in this track where you feel like you are in the back seat of a car that can't stop and the driver is laughing at you because he is the one who cut the brake lines. On 'Ninja', that driver has a co pilot who is yelling to drive faster. Amongst all of this cacophony, Cambell and Dikeman really tell a wonderful story, one where subplots weave and entangle again before the car hits the wall. They check to see if anyone is hurt, pick up the pieces, remove any glass from their faces and start all over again and again. They leave space to explore technique in the softer moments as well as the loud. Wonderful advancements from the last effort.

Can be purchased from

A clip of them here with Jeb Bishop


joesh said...

Wow, must be a very tiring gig. I can't say that there's much subtility in this piece of music, I wonder what the rest is like? I remember the John Zorn Spy Meets Spy project also screamed in your face like this, but in short bursts - if I remember correctly.

It's a bit like have a conversation with someone in a disco/club where you have to shout to be heard. At a certain point you're just exhausted (and losing your voice) by having to speak at a high volume all the time. In the end you kind of give up and wait till you leave the club at which point you can express some conversational subtilities.

By the way, I'm sure the music is fun, just wonder why it is they have to shout all the time?

Thanks for the review Philip

Martin Schray said...

It sounds like this is exactly my cup of tea.

joesh said...

Go for it Martin, I think we (Philip) reviewed another album of theirs, which he also praised. Must be something in it I guess.

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