The pairing of Terry Bozzio and Billy Sheehan, two of the most respected rhythm players in the prog, hard rock, metal, and fusion genre's, turns out to be a bizarre affair. Nine Short Films is a vocal oriented album, featuring Bozzio's whispered meanderings with intense instrumentation in the background by the duo that comes across much like modern day King Crimson. It's not that the vocals of the drummer ruin this CD, but they are an acquired taste, and come across sounding a bit cold at times. I felt throughout the CD like I would just rather hear the instrumentation of these two amazing musicians, but after a few spins Bozzio's rantings seem to fall into place.
Tracks like "Distant Horses" or "Live by the Gun" are perfect examples of dark, Crimson inspired journeys, with Sheehan's nimble, complex bass work augmented perfectly by the busy percussion of Bozzio. Most of the lyrics deal with dark, bleak subject matter, practically spoken by Bozzio in a hushed, husky tone much like a poetry reader. There are many sustained guitar tones as well throughout this CD, some performed by Bozzio on synthesizer, and others are actual guitars played by Sheehan, but in all cases they create wonderous and huge walls of soundscapes. The bass and drum work is outstanding on its own, but the overall pallette is full and rich as if a four piece band had performed it. Many of the tunes follow a similar groove, but there are exceptions, such as the hard rocking "Edge of Circle", featuring crystalline lead guitars from Sheehan, or the acrobatic "Finger Painting" with Sheehan's muscular bass solos leading the way above Bozzio's tribal percussion.
In summary, an interesting CD, but one that takes a bit of getting used to (especially the vocals), and most certainly not for every listener. If you can imagine a mix of King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, and New Age/World music, you have a good idea of what Nine Short Films is all about.