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An improvised-music summit offers contrasting experiences of community and austerity

The double album Houston 2012 captures a two-day encounter in October 2012 between English tabletop guitarist Keith Rowe and the experimental-music community of Houston, Texas. Rowe’s visit came about thanks to the initiative of Saint Louis double bassist Damon Smith, who lived in Texas at the time. While there Smith developed a strong working relationship […]

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Natural Information Society reaches a new ecstatic peak with Evan Parker

While it’s impossible to pinpoint a single peak in John Coltrane’s vast discography, Ascension is one of his most intense expressions of transcendental intent. Local musician Joshua Abrams knows his Coltrane, so it’s no accident that he’s given the name Descension to this summit between his group Natural Information Society and English saxophonist (and fellow […]

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The Best of the Miyumi Project celebrates 20 years of Tatsu Aoki’s culture-combining ensemble

Tatsu Aoki left his native Tokyo in 1977 to study experimental film and settled in Chicago two years later. In addition to making films, he improvises, composes, and conducts music, playing bass, shamisen, and taiko drums, and by the early 1990s he’d connected with the local jazz scene, developing a particular affinity with past and […]

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On May You Be Held, Sumac are a beast of free improvisation, noise, and metal

There’s a lot of room in the vast and aesthetically diverse landscape of metal, but one powerhouse trio occupies its own sound-deconstructing universe: Sumac. The heady metal-centric music that guitarist and vocalist Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles), and drummer Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) churn out is such a left-field beast […]

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Imperial Triumphant’s Alphaville soundtracks our civilizational suicide by capitalism

The overlap between extreme metal and avant-garde improvised music is admittedly slight, but that tiny patch of ground produces some extravagantly bizarre fruits—among them New York City trio Imperial Triumphant. Drummer Kenny Grohowski frequently collaborates with downtown-scene daddy John Zorn, most notably performing his music in Simulacrum with guitarist Matt Hollenberg of Cleric and organist […]

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The transnational Rempis/Lopez/Packard trio converges in Chicago

The seven tracks on the Rempis/Lopez/Packard trio’s superb debut CD, The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic), are named after prehistoric avian animals. Anytime a jazz band invokes birds, the ur-Bird—Charlie Parker—inevitably comes to mind. And while no one’s going to mistake the trio’s music for bebop, it does swing more than you’d expect given the backgrounds […]