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Talibam! - Boogie in the Breeze Blocks

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Artist: Talibam!

Album: Boogie in the Breeze Blocks

Label: ESP-Disk

Review date: Jul. 24, 2009

Irreverence to idiom, while fairly commonplace in experimental rock, seems far less easy to locate in jazz. The reasons why aren’t entirely evident, though the weight of history and tradition likely have a lot to do with it. That presiding condition remains a handy point of contention in the recurring “Jazz is Dead” argument. Whatever the validity of the charge, it’s hard to dismiss completely the still born nature of much commercial “new” jazz.

Calling Talibam!’s Boogie in the Breeze Blocks a jazz record only hits the outer ring of the bull’s-eye, but the set still feels like an important counter to prevailing trends. Co-conspirators Matthew Mottel and Kevin Shea have something in common with John Coxon and Ashley Wales of Spring Heel Jack in their application of multiple instruments, electronics and collaborators to create an eclectic musical milieu, though theirs is a more outwardly dissociative approach to improvisation. Three-quarters of the provocation jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing are on board at various points along with a handful of guitarists and others.

Despite its countless twists and turns and resistance to color-by-numbers constructs, the album still feels highly orchestrated. Corny interstitial skits akin to those on De La Soul’s first few records thread through the music. Sun Ra-style keyboards and percussion freak-outs fold into a surf boogaloo sprint. Canned beats collide with real-time ones. It’s an evolution of the New York Downtown sound transplanted to Brooklyn with a “kitchen sink” strategy in full effect. Mottel and Shea weave in plenty of shock value with abrupt about-faces and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them signposts, the declaration “My nipples are hard” serving as a smirking early mantra. The two compile a Britannica-sized catalog of reference points and a big part of the fun is unpacking them all.

A complete taxonomy of all 12 tracks would take about five times the space available here and quickly cement into a boring read to boot so I’ll just focus on two cuts. “Jim O’Rourke” is an apposite example of the pair’s prankster proclivities, starting in the synth-heavy soul-to-funk territory of America Eats Its Young and moving into a collage of tight beats, febrile fuzz bass and swirling electronics. A splinter of Sabbath’s “War Pigs” bubbles up replaced by train sounds and a John Carpenter meets Vangelis coda.

“Schroder Meets Jagger” pulls in dub rhythms, vocalese and grooves reminiscent of early Fishbone as altoist John Irabagon channels his inner James Chance. An acoustic free-jazz finish caps the teetering edifice off in typical non sequitur fashion.

Bottom line: This is one goofy record and just the sort of revitalizing shot the intersection of experimental jazz and rock sorely needs.

By Derek Taylor

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