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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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Crotchet


The Eastern Seaboard.

Nonfiction

Black Saint, 120163-2

 

 

1. Minerals
2. Liquor Store
3. Cut and Run
4. Around the Town with Clinton Brown
5. Blanket Hill
6. Epidemic
7. Anadarko
8. On the Take
9. The Slink
10. Static Character
11. Plainclothes Detective
12. Anadarko
13. Anadarko

Seth Nanaa (drums)
Jordan Schranz (bass)
Brent Bagwell (tenor sax, clarinet)

Free jazz + post-punk + post-rock = the future. According to The Eastern Seaboard anyway. For the Brooklyn based trio - whose backgrounds are equally split between rock groups and more traditional jazz ensembles - modern jazz has lost its edge, drifting into stasis rather than experiment, neglecting its role as a subversive force. The solution? To escape from any set musical confines by amalgamating the best of two distinct genres. As bassist Brent Bagwell said of Nonfiction, “We took all the things we liked about jazz and all the things we liked about rock and sort of just folded them together and made up stuff of our own.”

The result is a highly original sound. From the frantic beginning of ‘Minerals’, we are presented with a rawness more commonly associated with rock groups like Sonic Youth and Nirvana than with any form of jazz. Schranz’s sax is characterised by dissonance, screeching chaotically, wailing eerily, and droning like feedback from an amplifier. Bagwell’s bass is also rock-like, favouring catchy, thumping riffs rather than traditional walking bass lines and using the bow repeatedly to create a keyboard/synth-like sound. In the two short interludes - Blanket Hill and the second Anadarko - we even get even get a taste of distortion effects that purists would no doubt object to.

But ‘free jazz’ doesn’t entirely suffice to describe The Eastern Seaboard’s style. The group, after all, insist on writing actual intros and outros, and refuse to tread the dangerous path of rejecting traditions of time and melody. The musicians consistently gel together, developing the mood and tone of each piece through astonishing musical empathy. Despite the sparse and experimental nature of songs like ‘Around the Town...’, for example, we never lose interest in flow of ideas that permeates the collective effort. And on ‘Static Character’, we hear the trio focus on a very concrete idea, and elaborate on it with meticulous precision.

For many, however, Nonfiction’s flaws will far outweigh its virtues. Rich and complex as the work may be, its headache-inducing potential should not be underestimated. And approaching the final third of the album, its hard not to feel just a little frustrated. The prewritten intros show tremendous potential for fully developed compositions. It seems a shame that, for the sake of freedom, they weren’t expanded further.

Robert Gibson



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