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C.O.M.A (Californian Outside Music Association: Big Words

Puzzling, not necessarily big, track titles such as "Veridical" and "Scaphold" intrigued me when I looked at the artwork, although I confess to understanding few of the big words used in the Press release! This Californian 3 piece avant-jazz outfit comprises sax, violin and theramin along with percussion and voice effects. The production quality is of the garage variety with little life to the tone of percussion in particular. The opening improvisational song "Veridical" spits and fizzes into existence like a faulty firework. Scraping violin strings which occasionally resolve into something sounding like it was squeezed out of a David Cross album and twisted are rolled polyrhythmically over electronic discordances and meandering drums. Looking distinctly queasy as it was, I was kind enough to the resident cat to put this work on headphones at this point.

By complete contrast to the grating impro of the opener, "Nankeen" is an atmospheric piece with a desert night quality to it. The haunting theramin and quietly burbling sax combine with soft drums evoking distant thunder to generate a tense and eerie presence like a clip from a 1950s US Sci-fi movie. "Folketymology" starts on sax like it's going to swing into trad jazz but then gets cold feet. The violin joins in with a counterposing theme moving the arrangement toward a slightly dodgy jig. Somehow it contrives to be both off-the-wall and thoroughly danceable.

"Scaphold" utilises an electronic soundscape to support a gently honking sax with faint violin and percussion rattling at the windows like an approaching storm. The focus of the work seems to be the evolving storm which slowly drowns out the sax and pares itself back to a drum solo with just the occasional reminder that there is still someone in there. The sax by now has taken on the sound of a train horn perhaps juxtaposing the position of the instruments as a musical joke. Clever if not especially entertaining. "Perambulate" allows drummer Dax Compise to continue his domination of the album and, with John Vaughan's sax again taking a tentative role, a jaunty, odd-meter rhythm develops. Wind instruments become more pronounced and playful with some confident wah-wah effects on violin as the drums fade away to the rear.

"Rectrix" is a more somber, reflective piece, with percussion, pizzicato and sweetly played violin toying like a wind-chime with a potpourri of electronic and horn/flute embellishments. The band save the best piece for last though in "Whydah", an entertaining mix of jittery electronics and violin, played over a bold drum rhythm. At times the violin reminds me of the opening to Gentle Giant's "Why Not" from their debut album. The tempo develops very well with soaring violin forays and the increasing drum pace building a highly explosive tension. It doesn't explode though but cuts sharply back to expose hissing electronic voice effects over the percussion before finishing with the violin returning to the attack in a flurry of furious stabs. Overall a good mix of improv and composition with some fascinating themes.

Track Listing
1. Veridical
2. Nankeem
3. Folketymology
4. Scaphold
5. Perambulate
6. Rectrix
7. Whydah

Added: November 10th 2008
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Edgetone Records
Hits: 3966
Language: english

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