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Review

Marc S Tucker, e/i magazine, no. 2, September 1, 2003

Ostensibly a showcase for a quartet of groups, this 4-CD ‘box’ is actually a rostrum for Sam Shalabi (better known in the eponymous and justly lauded Shalabi Effect) and friends. It’s also ostensibly ‘free jazz’, as far as that tired old sobriquet will go, though ‘free music’ would probably be more apt, but suspicious. Even more to the impalpable point, the first CD documents the Po foursome, wherein the far fringes of a transmutational psychedelic consciousness invade the proceedings, so what we open with is an organic free interplay effort somewhat akin to portions of old Amon Duul II anarchy. With two guitars and a drumset capturing the front stage, what’s actually of seminal import is Alexandre St-Onge’s undercurrent contrabass work, the very plasma of each song, where and when it occurs. Feedback supplies surrogate keyboards and the group pays close attention to every shift in dynamics, thus this isn’t a completely random affair by any means. One merely need pay attention to follow the lines. The ’Gypt Gore disc dives straight into Philémon’s gabbling sax, with Shalabi tweedling his axe like an undistorted James Ulmer, both scampering for rabbit holes and skyhooks, jetting off in seven directions at once. Five of the nine tunes feature the pair racing through surprisingly coherent colloquy, not at all the disparate individual self-indulgences that might be expected, the otherfourfeature either Thierry Amar, bassist, bringing a more fidelitous mainstream taste into contrastive play, or a second guitarist. Stymie Stime is of immediate interest, as it pays tribute to and mocks rock and fusion guitarwork. Again, in each selection, a concentrated listen reveals the subtleties of intercourse within the duet. The Burns, Caloia, and Heward Trio populates the third disc and comes the closest to recognizable forms, but their deviational twist is what makes the seven cuts attractive. The trio, like ’Gypt Gore, breaks down fusion (little of this could be called jazz) with some reverence and a lot of sloppy grace but also a knowing grin, slowing it way down and presenting the measures in connected packets, seasoned with lightly scattered noise, though some cuts are pure sound generation and just as fetching. In sum, a lazy quaalude reverse-dithyramb for zoned essences. Balai Mécanique, a sixheaded hydra, closes out the set in riotous Trummerflora-ish fashion, a convocation of Jovians down for a weekend freak-and-gossip session. Four long songs, and three very short ones, give the visitants all the room they need to ramble, argue, hght, philosophize and loll about, which they do with uninhibited abandon. The most noticeable vibe to this is its collective nature, more intense and much thicker than the mating discs. Saving it as the final installment was a good choice; the listener (and the critic) exeunts flushed and sated.

… not at all the disparate individual self-indulgences that might be expected…

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