The sole album by this Connecticut-based ‘70s band may have lapsed into obscurity had it not been for Destijl’s tireless search for obscure but deserving reissue projects. Much of the second attribute is due to the presence of Paul Flaherty, an improviser whose work over the past 30 years is only now beginning to be recognized appropriately. In the Midst of Chaos, released in 1978, was Flaherty’s first recording, and it’s certainly worlds away from the wildly experimental and varied releases he would issue in the late 1980s and early 1990s (much of it in collaboration with drummer Randall Colbourne and falling into the free jazz category). Lately though, with Flaherty in the company of Wallie Shoup and C. Spencer Yeah, scree and electricity have reappeared on his radar, making this reissue a timely and revelatory look into his formation.
The album opens with a hint of things to come, as far as Flaherty’s future projects are concerned. “Golden Falcons” exhibits the freedoms inherited from “New Thing” pioneers, especially in the drumming of Glen Peterson, who evokes shades of Andrew Cyrille or Rashied Ali in his meterless and multitimbral approach. Guitarist Barry Greika takes a convincing run at trumpet and fife duties, long tones and shimmery percussion conjuring Eastern visions as bassist Bob Laramie’s harmonics rain pleasantly over everything. Similar, if harsher, terrain is traversed in the title track, volume and energy levels raised as Flaherty leaves tightly-wound vibrato and a more meditative style behind midway through the tune, launching into gritty multiphonics pervaded by braps, squeaks and nameless flutters.
The album is diverse, and if the musicians’ affinities lie with jazz, their inclinations go much further; the beautifully delay-inflected “Peace” and the hazily flanged “Sunset Beyond the Safety” reference mid-’70s Gong in their multileveled drone and semi-staticity, rattling in and out of focus as Dan and Dave Flaherty, Paul’s cousins, make cameo appearances.
“Subway Over the Rainbow” is the perfect summation, all members in high gear and deep in a rigidly funky groove, Flaherty’s saxophone effected almost beyond recognition as the album fades on a long mechanical slide akin to the departure of some cosmic train. The final moments even presage the piercing volume and density of Acid Mothers Temple in a non-pretentious way that only a late-’70s nod to psychedelia can.
It’s a fun listen, making me wonder what the group might have done if given a chance to document further evolution. Nonetheless, In the Midst of Chaos provides another historical footnote in the evolution of experimental music.