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Gunnelpumpers: Tritonium

Improvisational music is always a risky venture. Usually, those who attempt it are knowledgeable enough in musical theory and skilled enough in playing as a collective unit to produce cohesiveness regardless of little to no rehearsal. On the other hand, there can always be a case of a mess of misdirection. Fortunately, on their third LP, Tritonium, Chicago-based fusion troupe Gunnelpumpers fits into the former category. While the three tracks contained here can be a bit monotonous and unoriginal (more on that in a bit), they are nonetheless impressive and engaging.

Billing themselves as "a group of inspired musicians dedicated to the art of progressive, free improvisation," Gunnelpumpers certainly seeks to push boundaries. Tritonium was recorded live at the Elbo Room in Chicago, and naturally, the members of the group didn't really arrange anything beforehand. In essence, you have six musicians using three basses, an electric guitar, hand percussion, two pedal boards, and a drum kit to venture into uncharted musical territory. Well, somewhat uncharted musical territory.

From the opening dissonance of "Sir Cirrus," it's clear that classic King Crimson plays a huge role in their sound. If you didn't know better, you'd swear that you were listening to the opening of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" for nine minutes. The frantic, tribal percussion, coupled with distorted, soaring guitar lines and the sound of embittered strings, makes this track eerily similar to King Crimson's masterpiece. Also, some may feel that it goes on for too long.

"Eschatonus" is more interesting dynamically, as the tension constantly shifts from tranquil to nightmarishly ominous. However, there really aren't any new techniques here. At almost twenty minutes in length, album closer "McGroover" should probably do more than it does, which is simply to continue the style of its predecessors without much innovation. True, there are some interesting changes, and different instruments get the spotlight at different points, but for the most part, "McGroover" doesn't really do anything that the first two songs didn't, and for its length, that's really a shame.

Despite its impressive musicianship and organization, Tritonium would be a lot more valuable if it were more original and concise. There is an undeniable similarity to King Crimson's most distorted and adventurous instrumentals, and thus Gunnelpumpers don't really stake out an identity for themselves. Also, the pieces wear out their welcomes long before they're over. Gunnelpumpers is probably a much better group in the studio (where they can concentrate on crafting more unique work), so this isn't so much a judgment on the band as it is the album. Still, Tritonium feels like a one-trick pony that doesn't know when to leave.

Track Listing
1. Sir Cirrus
2. Eschatonus
3. McGroover

Added: September 3rd 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2113
Language: english

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