Dusted Reviews

John Shiurba - 5x5

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: John Shiurba

Album: 5x5

Label: Unlimited Sedition

Review date: Jun. 29, 2004

John Shiurba is a Bay Area guitarist and improviser with an instantly identifiable tone - he sounds like he plays through a tiny portable Marshall amplifier that's about to run out of batteries. He's joined here by clarinettist Matt Ingalls, saxophonist Dan Plonsey, percussionist Gino Robair and the late bassist Matthew Sperry. Shiurba's crew are among the most active players in the Bay Area free-improv scene, and they frequently appear together on record in various combinations. Although few have noticed, these are among the best, most consistently interesting free improvisers in the U.S. Their obscurity has more to do with their relative geographical remoteness (they don't live in New York) and the whims of writers than talent.

Most of 5X5 consists of the sort of improv that Shiurba and company have already practically trademarked - it's jumpy, scratchy and jittery, and the musicians pay a great deal of attention to texture while maintaining the busy, call-and-response logic of free jazz. It's also fun and full of personality: the playing is often loud and irreverent, and its squealing, feedback-like qualities often bring to mind some of noise rock's more playful acts, such as the Boredoms and Naked City (although Shiurba and friends aren't as aggressive).

5x5 is every bit as challenging as any experimental improv record, but its playful and unassuming qualities keep it from feeling like an experiment. It doesn't seem like the musicians are trying to sound challenging, but the music is anyway.

The only drawback here - and with some other group improv sessions led by Shiurba - is the composed sections, in which the musicians stumble around each other in near-unison, sounding like the clarinet section of your high school marching band might have if they'd regularly sneaked behind the bus before football games and ingested something strong. These sections are occasionally weirdly charming, and they’re consistent with the sense of humor present in the improvisations, but the composed parts are far simpler and less subtle. The group's complex, unpredictable and thoughtful improvisations deserve better.

By Charlie Wilmoth

Other Reviews of John Shiurba

5 x 5

Read More

View all articles by Charlie Wilmoth

Find out more about Unlimited Sedition

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.