Jugalbandi - "Bid For Legitimacy" (Great Artiste 89 Records 2005, GAJG008)
Jugalbandi - "Mount Pinatubo Sunsets" (Great Artiste 89 Records 2006, GAJG009)
From Aural Innovations #34 (August 2006)
Rock's foremost power duo returns with 2 new releases covering recordings done in 2003. Jugalbandi consists of Greg Segal on guitar, effects and other toys and Hyam Sosnow on drums, kalimba, tabla and other things you hit. The band is all improvisational, and each track is rated based on their 6 level range of improvisation, from fully improvised to including some degree of composition.
Bid For Legitimacy opens with a short ambient recorders/effects/kalimba piece before launching into the rocking title track. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Segal and Sosnow kick as much ass with just guitar and drums as any bass augmented power trio. The lack of bass really puts the pressure on Hyam's drums, and he steps up to the plate magnificently, with Greg's guitar jams often creating a foundation to put the spotlight on Hyam. "Purple Cabbage Moments" is a very cool piece that is simultaneously mellow and frantic, though in a restrained way. Lots of very subtle, intricate playing from both musicians. It's proggy, bluesy, psychy, dreamy… lots going on. Other highlights include the aptly titled "Music of Ghosts", a spacey but intense piece that has a rock symphony quality in the way Greg shapes the atmospherics, but with both musicians creating a developing thematic drive. Outstanding.
360 degrees away is the 10 minute "Fully Implemented", an excellent example of the kind of prog infused hard rock that Jugalbandi are so good at. Greg WAILS on this one, even going a bit metal at times. Finally, we've got the nearly 18 minute "Accide To Decept". The first several minutes consist of Greg doing his guitar and effects atmospheric sculpting while Hyam keeps a steady rolling rhythmic drive going. But then he launches into a jam where he's constantly shifting between psycho metal, ambient space jazz, and good old rock. And it's all so fluid… just a kick ass jam that incorporates a variety of styles and puts Greg's own unique stamp on them. These are the HOLY CRAP!! tracks of the set.
As usual, there's a mixture of shorter tracks and lengthier stretch-out jams, and while Jugalbandi really shine on the lengthier tracks, the shorter ones, even under 2 minutes, are concise and succinct statements that typically see the duo going off in some direction that contrasts nicely with the rest of the album, as well as providing nifty little transitional bits between the longer tracks.
Mount Pinatubo Sunsets is a much more sedate album, but no less varied and exploratory. It opens with the title track, an easy paced atmospheric rocker, not unlike "Purple Cabbage Moments" from Bid For Legitimacy. This transitions smoothly to the similar, appropriately titled, "Atmospheric Distortion, Part 1". I love the way these guys create tension, like a never ending build-up that just keeps climbing and climbing, ever so slowly, keeping the listener continually on edge. It's ambient, but it's progressive rock too. Very nice. "Atmospheric Distortion, Part 2" is similar but less on the tension and more in ambient progressive rock territory. And it includes some of my favorite of Hyam's drum work on the album.
"Checkered Synthetics, Part 1" features a bluesy jazzy jam, with beautiful guitar leads from Greg and a nice lazy drum backing from Hyam. "Checkered Synthetics, Part 2" has the same bluesy feel, but Greg's guitar takes on a robotic distorted and grinding metallic sound. Soon the pace picks up and the boys start to rock out for the first time on the album, though it's still really in a quieter way, which is a plus here because the listener can't help but focus on the parade of guitar sounds Greg runs through, while cranking out leads, and Hyam pummeling his kit to make for a great cooperative contrast with what Greg is doing. Things are constantly changing over the course of this 15 minute jam, exploring ambience and various rock styles and just generally scouting the terrain. You can really sense that the guys are just cutting loose and going with wherever the music takes them.
The 14 minute "Late Nights" has the most balls out rocking music on the album, and some down 'n dirty jamming it is. Greg's guitar starts out raw and nasty with no intricacies or flash, just tear it up jamming. Of course these guys never stay in one place for long, but throughout the track we're treated to all kinds of free-wheeling ROCK. A fun tune. Finally, wrapping up the set is the acoustic guitar and tabla groove tune, "Clinically Unplugged"
In summary, the 2 albums are different enough from one another that Jugalbandi fans will want both. If you can only get one, heavy rockers will want Bid For Legitimacy, and those interested in something more chilled out and overtly freeform should check out Mount Pinatubo Sunsets.
For more information you can visit the Jugalbandi web site at: http://www.jugalbandi-music.com.
For a recent podcast interview with Greg Segal (HIGHLY recommended), visit Eric Wallack's E-ssential Sounds site at: http://bhagiti.podomatic.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz