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Rob Mazurek - Sweet & Vicious Like Frankenstein

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Artist: Rob Mazurek

Album: Sweet & Vicious Like Frankenstein

Label: Mego

Review date: Mar. 30, 2004

Chicago's Rob Mazurek is largely known as the cornetist for the Chicago Underground Duo, Isotope 217, Tigersmilk and various post-rock groups. So it's a surprise that Sweet & Vicious Like Frankenstein doesn't feature any cornet at all. The only instruments credited are computer, minidisc player and tone generator.

What's more surprising is that Mazurek doesn't sound remotely out of his element. Mazurek has used electronics before, but he usually uses them in tandem with acoustic instruments. His pieces also often tend to be under 10 minutes, whereas Sweet & Vicious consists of two tracks that collectively last over an hour.

On "Body Parts (Spectral White)," the longer track of the two, Mazurek solves the problem of how to organize a half hour of sound by dividing the piece into a number of discrete ideas that don't obviously have anything to do with one another and are interrupted by silences. This is, of course, what's usually done on albums, where each discrete idea is one song. Why Mazurek chose to combine all these ideas into one track is a mystery - if there's any unifying concept or narrative guiding them, it's hard to identify.

Still, most of the ideas are quite nice. They range from clanging, distant sounding field recordings to echoing ambient pulses. Most of Mazurek's ideas hold up well to repeated listenings because they're deceptively complex: the loudest parts of the mix are usually very simple, but there's typically a layer or two of tricky, busy noise underneath.

The tricky, busy noise is in the foreground on "Electric Eels (In Half Light)." After a long crescendo, the piece becomes a pileup that sounds like it was inspired by Mazurek's friend Kevin Drumm. Like much of Drumm's work, "Electric Eels" is a drone in the sense that there are a lot of sustained sounds and the piece is so texturally dense that it's easier to let yourself become overwhelmed by the noise than to follow the paths of individual sounds. Unlike most drones, though, "Electric Eels" has no tonal center, and it's more confrontational than meditative.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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