As a founding member of Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground ensembles, composer/cornetist Rob Mazurek helped pioneer a no-man’s land where avant-garde jazz and minimalism exchanged pleasantries with electronica and indie rock. With his Mandarin Movie project, Mazurek buys absinthe shots for all the strains of his previous work, then watches them duke it out in a Chicago back alley.
Mandarin Movie often recalls Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis in the way it subsumes individual voices into a murky sonic bog, but those looking for fusion jams will be sorely disappointed and probably a little bit disturbed. “Orange” perverts Isotope’s clinical jazz-funk, with Mazurek’s and trombonist Steve Swell’s horns holding long, dissonant chords that underpin the rest of the band’s inky groove (computer-manipulated by Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen). Swell, experimental guitarist Alan Licht and free-jazz drummer Frank Rosaly fight to be heard over a howling wind of electronics and distortion on “Black Goat (Part One).” In the thirteen-minute closing track, “The Highest Building in the World,” the noise wins.
There are occasional moments of respite, like the haunting “Ghost Ship” pieces and the wacky free-funk of “Peking Duck with Steam Dumpling.” More often, though, Mandarin Movie plumbs the filthy depths impenetrable to light, creating a seamy industrial sound-world where order always collapses into chaos and music wages a losing battle against pure noise. That the album is so absorbing is a testament to Mazurek’s vision and the uniformly high level of musicianship.
Mandarin Movie Web site: http://www.robmazurek.com/
Aesthetics Records Web site: http://aesthetics-usa.com/
“The Green Giraffe” MP3: http://aesthetics-usa.com/artists/mandarinmovie/tracks/mp3_ast41_track_2.html
“A Very Modern Camera Pt. 2” MP3: http://aesthetics-usa.com/artists/mandarinmovie/tracks/mp3_ast41_track_7.html