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The Metal Quan Yin - Destinations Suite

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Artist: The Metal Quan Yin

Album: Destinations Suite

Label: Edgetone

Review date: Jan. 23, 2003

Destinations Suite

The Metal Quan Yin looked like trouble from the start. It's got third rate cover art, a list of musicians I've never heard of, and a lot of emphasis on poetry. The drop sheet mentions something about being the cream of west coast avant-garde and you get the idea. These folks are as reactionary and predictable as a French existentialist, but their music isn't that bad.

The first track on Destinations Suite we could have done with out. A series of self-important poetic odes entangled with heavy reverb, it will scare away all but the most seriously pretentious open mic dramatizers. The second track is when The Metal Quan Yin's magic begins to grow. "Burning with the Fever of this here Star," (capitalizations as denoted in the liner notes) is a fine piece of retro-seventies European Jazz. Peter Brötzmann comes to mind. C. J. Reaven Borosque's self-described, "stark truths about society at large, and the ever-changing mindset of the world and it's myriad of cultural ethic, enveloped in abstract futuristic fantasy," poetry provides a counter point to what are well-developed and lush bops in a minimal style.

"Space Bay," could be a lost Gong track only slower. An electro sci-fi wail pops up like a thermion while a thonking bassline keeps the whole thing pinned down to driving percussion and numerous guitar and violin off-shoots – a really great track and the Boredom-esque vocals that come in every once in awhile are an even better touch. "Curtains of the Night," returns to Jazz and does a good job of providing a dusky and free composition with many quirks, reminiscent of The Art Ensemble of Chicago. These cats know what their doing and can play in a variety of styles. "Reaven's Gate," even borrows a Don Cherry-appropriated turkish riff with Jessie Quattra playing the part of Don's wife Moki. The bass carries this theme for awhile while the saxophones elaborate on newer ideas.

The poetry is the biggest problem with this album. It's nice to see the Bay Area developing some European avant-jazz tradition, but importance comes from the content of the work, not the accompanying artists’ claims. What makes a poem important, is its importance to people. Nothing here will destroy the heirs to modernist poetry, or even challenge post-structuralist poets that "enact the text" or "perform the text." If anything the influences that C.J. Reaven claims are mostly 60s sci-fi writers. Fun, brooding, and valuable, Philip K. Dick and other proponents of the 60s dark sci-fi movement prophesied a world that has come eerily to fruition. J.G. Ballard once foresaw an era where speed bumps damaged cars that sped (so we'd have to buy new cars more often). Well those speed bumps have been in place since about 1987. What does C.J. Reaven see coming in our future? "The blue/ Corroding/ Sameness/ With no lines," in "Space Boy," and, "Too many loose fitting souls," in "Metaphor". Hardly stark truths about society. With so much nostalgia for the 60s in American culture it's refreshing to hear the Jazz from that period recreated so faithfully, but we could do without the poetry.

By Andrew Jones

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