Friday, January 06, 2006


Just found these words on The Star Chamber by the Village Voice Jazz Consumer Guide Critic, Tom Hull. Here's the link, but I'll cut and paste the relevant portion below anyway:

Industrial Jazz Group: The Star Chamber (2003 [2004], Innova). When rock met "industrial" the music emphasized the machines with their mechanistic rhythms and spurious noise. The industrial era, certainly in the artistic imagination, was marked by the growth of factories and foundries, by the production of steel and the spew of dark smoke. In the U.S. and Europe it took off in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and accelerated so relentlessly we called it progress, up to and through the cataclasm of World War II. Sometime since then we've started to inch into a postindustrial era, one marked by processing of data through electronics and ultrafast communications -- not that the industrial world has faded away, but at least it's been tidied up a bit and nudged out of sight. All of which has nothing to do with this orchestra, but given the misdirection of their name I had to get that out of my system first. The group itself is a nine-piece acoustic jazz orchestra, for all intents and purposes a big band. It is heavy on the horns, with three reeds, three brass, bass-drums-piano, with the piano not prominent -- leader Andrew Durkin holds that chair, but introduces himself first as composer/conductor. It sounds to me like the music is composed throughout, the musicians filling in well-mapped roles, and that may be the nominal concept -- even if the roles require skilled workers, they leave little room for individuals. Moreover, it sounds like it's technically rooted in late euroclassicism -- a music I abhor and have spent most of my life avoiding, but I don't know where else the clustering of trumpets and the interplay of flutes may have come from. But I don't find it cloying -- it's much too cold and clear for that, and that's not a complaint. I've many times quoted Adorno on his preference for ascetic music and lush life vs. the contrary. This music isn't exactly ascetic, but it lives that way. B+

I'm not sure if this actually made it into the paper, or if it will in future editions. Probably not.

Hull is a quirky, interesting guy, and a really great writer. He's got an elaborate, even obsessive rating system--you can find it somewhere on the main site. I must say, I can't imagine organizing my listening in that way--taste is such a flexible thing for me, and though I know what I like, I might like it in different ways at different times. Occasionally, Hull's school-marmish reliance on grades almost succeeds in leeching the fun a reader might have in following his expansive listening... but the site is well worth poking around anyway.

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