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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Caterina Palazzi SudoKu KilleR - Infanticide (Auand Records, 2015) ****

By Antonio Poscic

Every once in a while, a band comes along that revisits and refreshes genres that might seem stagnant and lacking any innovation. In the case of SudoKu KilleR, the quartet led by Italian double bass player and composer Caterina Palazzi, we’re offered a twist on the often stale, old paradigms of jazz-rock. However, while jazz-rock really is a prominent element in the foundation of their sound, an idea fleshed out in the contrast between the guitar and the saxophone, their sophomore release Infanticide actually presents a delicate blend of different approaches and styles.

The adopted sound and employed idioms feel more like a symptom of Palazzi’s and her cohorts’ concepts that revolve around a certain loss of naivety and innocence in perceiving the world, a dedication to Nirvana and Cobain’s demons that extends beyond the record title. It’s from these thoughts that ambience and atmosphere emanate, accompanied by a predominantly noirish, brooding, and melancholic vision resembling film music. The band thus often resorts to slow, patient buildups during which the instruments move sinuously to each other, leaving behind a taste of carefully constructed, fragile structures and sparse yet lush notes within a negative space left by the lingering music. With all the looseness and sparseness in the playing, a false sense of lack of compositional maturity comes to mind. False, because even when they’re visiting and drawing from the worlds of surf rock, psychedelia, and post-rock, each composition on this record is nothing but carefully thought out. The only real criticism can be directed towards the lack of more improvised, freer segments that fit so nicely on, for example, the eponymous “SudoKu KilleR” and the wonderful “Futoshiki”, and that can be heard during Caterina Palazzi SudoKu KilleR’s live performances.

Noisier freak outs, that tend to appear after brusk transitions, are question marks and exclamation points, not constants. There’s not much straightforward rocking out here. Instead, the music is dominated by Giacomo Ancillotto’s distorted scratchy guitar improvising freely but subduedly and Antonio Raia’s saxophone rising to the forefront with interesting melodies, while everything’s being held together by Palazzi’s double bass that also gives a note of mystery to the sound and Maurizio Chiavaro’s mercurial, but firm drumming. Because of all this, Caterina Palazzi SudoKu KilleR appears to be a pure jazz band playing occasionally rock influenced songs rather than a fully melded jazz-rock unit. Their five long, cohesive tracks could even be described as Scandinavian contemporary jazz with a smidgen of avant-rock mixed in. And it’s for the better.

Contrary to what the names of the quartet and the album suggest, Infanticide doesn’t feel like an aggressive affair nor a mind-boggling conundrum. Instead, it shows four masters cultivating a dark but vital bonsai tree, patient and careful. It’s rare nowadays to craft a unique, recognizable sound within a well-established genre - something that Caterina Palazzi SudoKu KilleR achieve with apparent ease and by stepping outside of the genre’s boundaries. Recommended for listening during those warm, insufferable summer nights.


Colin Green said...

I wonder at the name of this band and the album title, and thought I'd wandered into the review pages of Kerrang magazine. The adolescent mentality of using names that will piss off your parents is rather old-hat and frankly, just embarrassing.

And although I'm not that fond of labels, on the basis of the video excerpt, is this really free jazz or improv? Ironically, it all sounds rather tame to me.

Antonio said...

I don't think they were going for an angsty approach. Rather, the title is a reference to one of Nirvana's records, something that fueled the bandleader's early musical curiosity. I'm fine with a bit of tongue in cheek with regards to names and titles.

The excerpt is a bit unfortunate since they definitely have their fair share of improvised and fiery sections dispersed throughout the record. I'll agree that it does sound a bit tame. Still, enjoyable.

Colin Green said...

Tongue in cheek? Right: I expected irony or humour, or possibly both, as the answer. Amazing what you can try and get away with by invoking these things. Of course, there remains the question: is it even remotely funny or ironic, or is it just posing? But I imagine it's best not to go there.