Thrill Jockey seems to have an unassailable knack for finding the oddest, most purposefully experimental music being manufactured in the United States. While the music produced from the Chicago label can at times be inaccessible to the common listener, there exists a new, intriguing perspective most frequently in the style of modern jazz music on their output. Underneath the admittedly difficult surface of Chicago Underground Duo’s fifth release, Boca Negra, lies a radiating being, a pure and jazzy essence that cordially grants access to listeners who wish for it. While the duo seems to suffer from a mild case of adult ADD with the quick twists and turns from track to track on the album, the condition seems less to be a result of an indecisive nature and more so a byproduct of their loquaciousness, so to speak, musically. Imagine the erratic, stylistic divergences yet ultimately progressive and cohesive quality of CAN’s seminal Tago Mago record and add an even greater sense of minimalism and you start to get the inner workings of Boca Negra, an, at times, fractured but chiefly complex and focused effort.
Their music, which incorporates the improvisational flair and mixed meters of jazz as well as the structured instrumentation of compositional music, offers an approach that is monitored yet frenzied. This is the very music that acid jazz should strive to define. By all accounts, it is what Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter would have become had they stuck around long enough to bear witness to their own protégés, the innovators of the ’70s avant-garde scene and then been filtered through the electronic/ambient movement of “the aughts.”
In true jazz fashion, “Green Ants” kicks off Boca Negra with a wailing trumpet line that sprawls against an arrhythmic drum pattern that never quite reaches a steady beat. Opting for a far looser, ad hoc feel, the duo introduce their fresh set in a sporadic manner over the course of first four tracks before coalescing on the organic groove in the rollicking “Confliction.” The album’s sixth track, “Hermeto” is a quick departure from the catalyzed mood established on the previous track. Instead of developing the momentum built primarily on the virtuosic bass and drum performances turned in on “Confliction” the duo delivers a rather tranquil synthesizer based track that harkens back to Brian Eno’s “Ambient” music.
“Vergence,” the albums closer, and in many ways its clincher, boasts a Kid A/Amnesiac feel. The track opens with a reverse affected keyboard loop, evoking the ethereal sounds of Boards of Canada. Accompanied by a cool drum beat and a wailing trumpet hovering subliminally, the keyboard acts as the principal agent in the mix. Between the highs and lows of the wavering keyboard a melody is drawn that persists after the rhythm section fazes out and an eerie reflection of the song’s introduction remains buzzing while an unsettling chime track pensively harbingers the end of the record and with it three years of thorough alchemizing by the Chicago Underground Duo.
The Ornette Coleman Trio – At the Golden Circle
Can – Soon Over Babaluma
Isotope 217 – The Unstable Molecule