Cosmologic - "Syntaxis" (Circumvention Music 2002, CD035)
Nathan Hubbard - "Born On Tuesday" (Circumvention Music 2002, SA-081)
From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)
California based quartet Cosmologic play free jazz that recalls the pioneering days when Coltrane and the like were blazing new trails in jazz, as well as more avant-garde free-improv explorations. The band consists of Jason Robinson on saxophone, flute and electronics, Michael Dessen on trombone and percussion, Scott Walton on bass, and Nathan Hubbard on percussion. I've been familiar with Robinson and Hubbard's music on the Accretions label, including the wonderful Trummerflora Collective set.
Tracks like "Restless Years" and "A Secret No One Knows II" best exemplify Cosmologic's powerful horn driven free jazz that recalls tasty memories of the 60's, with the latter having a fuller big band sound and a wee bit of thrash. Other highlights include "Artichoke Heart", with its excellent fiery dual and dueling horns, along with flailing precision and heavy attack bass. "Axis" is similar but with lots of quirky rhythms and wailing horn phrases that remind me a bit of Dr. Nerve. And I love the cool flute, steady percussion and electronics on "Ten Directions", which is like a cross between Sun Ra, Univers Zero and Peter And The Wolf. This is actually one of my favorite tracks, having a strong narrative style but with avant-garde tendencies. Another standout track is "Mr. Hubbard's Shock Installation", a slower paced piece that combines jazz, sound art and ambience. Opening with saxophone, percussion and string manipulations, the music is very much in the experimental free-improv realm, with percussion and non-musical sounds playing a leading role. Hubbards drumming is responsible for much of the character in the first half of this nearly 13 minute piece, though the entire band start to gel nicely in the latter half. Cosmologic now return to a more free jazz mode with passionate horns blazing quietly subtle trails, before the full band launch into higher volume free jazz territory for the remainder of the song. An excellent tune that traverses a gamut of musical variety and emotions.
On his debut solo album, Nathan Hubbard explores the world of rhythm and sound-art using drums, percussion, found objects, electronics, samplers, drum machines, and "frames" (metal instruments strung with various objects and amplified). Hubbard is first and foremost a drummer. Yet his interests are varied and the music on Born On Tuesday is an avant-garde journey into sound construction, focusing on everything from frenzied chaos to ambient soundscapes. Tone and texture are key, though rough edged noisier elements are given equal emphasis. There are some outstanding moments in which Hubbard gives the drum kit front and center stage, with patterns and sound characteristics coming together to create a near symphony of pleasing aesthetics and dark aggression. Hubbard does an excellent job of communicating a range of atmospherics and emotions, playing the role of small orchestra that offers the attentive listener much to digest over the course of this 65 minute performance. Some of this conjured up images of a duo of jazz improv drumming and Fred Frith performing a found object attack on his prepared guitar. Hubbard also gets into some dense electronic segments with layers of sonic volcanic eruptions, colored by various noise and tonal patterns. Lots here for the sound-art fan and an interesting stew of percussion and freeform sound.
For more information you can visit the Circumvention Music web site at:
Visit the Cosmologic web site at: http://www.jasonrobinson.com/cosmologic.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz