CHICAGO UNDERGROUND DUO: Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey)


Posted on Feb 12th 2010 01:06 am

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Chicago Underground Duo: Boca Negra

Boca Negra
Thrill Jockey 2010
10 Tracks. 55mins45secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP iTunes: DLD

Started over twelve years ago by cornet player Rob Mazurek and drummer and percussionist Chad Taylor, Chicago Underground has over the years existed as a duo, trio, quartet and ‘orchestra’ (quintet), with members including Jeff Parker (guitars), of Tortoise/Isotop 217 fame, Noel Kupersmith (drums) and Sara P. Smith (trombone). The common thread between these various franchises is a particular blend of avant-garde jazz infused with electronic treatments, awkward time signatures, and sonic experimentations which all feed into both composed and improvised work. The collective have released over ten albums, comprising five albums for Mazurek and Taylor, in their Duo incarnation, alone.

Breaking with the collective’s tradition of working in Chicago, Boca Negra was recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Mazurek now resides, and expands greatly on the pair’s previous work, particularly on the use of electronics. While Mazurek’s sole focus is on cornet, Taylor is found playing drums, vibraphone, mbira, an African thumb piano, and is also responsible for electronics and programming. All through Boca Negra, the pair alternate between particularly charged performances (Green Ants, Broken Shadows, Confliction, Spy On The Floor), resolutely more delicate and atmospheric pieces (Quantum Eye, Hermeto, Laughing With The Sun, Vergence) and minimalist experimentations (Left Hand Of Darkness, Roots And Shooting Stars). This constant shift creates an interesting circular current through the record, bringing elements back into focus at various stages, often placed in totally different contexts.

On its energetic side, Boca Negra is particularly uncompromising. Album opener Green Ants is submitted to a barrage of drums over which skips a playful Mazurek, at times totally detached from Taylor’s ever changing patterns, at others entering into a refined dialogue with them. Later on, the bar is move upward drastically with Broken Shadow, a particularly deconstructed revision of an Ornette Coleman piece, on which a multi-tasking Taylor boasts of playing the drums and vibraphone at the same time, as unnatural as it may seem. This is by far the most intense and fragmented moment of the record, one that requires repeat listening to get a comprehensive grip on the whole piece. In comparison, Confliction and Spy On The Floor appear much more tamed and concentrated, but this is in now way to their detriment.

Placed in between these, as to provide moment of respite, pieces such as Quantum Eye or Hermeto allow for subtlety and elegance, the former a particularly strip down composition which rises from the sombre rumbles to reveal a poetic combination between cornet and mbira, while the latter channels elements of ambient into scintillating little melodies. Elsewhere, the pair opt for more challenging moments, distorting sounds to the point of rendering their respective instruments almost unrecognisable on Laughing With The Sun and Roots And Shooting Stars.

At the forefront of contemporary experimental jazz, Chicago Underground Duo have created with Boca Negra a particularly compelling record, fuelled by constantly changing reference points and influx of energy. Not an easy record by any means, it requires patience and determination to unleash its hidden layers, but this is, ultimately, an infinitely rewarding process.


Chicago Underground Duo (MySpace) | Thrill Jockey
Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP iTunes: DLD

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One Response to “CHICAGO UNDERGROUND DUO: Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey)”

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