Review ·

Despite the imposing title, the Sonic Liberation Front is not a noise-pirate assembly with a public agenda but a regiment of post-modern jazz infantrymen. Ashe A Go-Go, the second release from the Philadelphia nine-piece, further documents a studied mastery of structured and improvisational music, all anchored by an Afro-Cuban percussion trio.


Organizer and percussionist Kevin Diehl worked under longtime drum talent Sunny Murray, and though impulsive dialogue between a four-horn frontline permeates the entire album, Ashe A Go-Go's defining facet is the persistent hammering of conga and okonkolo. Several tracks incorporate melodic tribal mantras, and in brief moments the set resembles an abstract take on Art Blakey's ethnic fusion standard The African Beat.

The record's success lies in its tonal variety, from the masterfully scored countermelodies of "The Sirens" and the quiet electronics lining the title track's periphery to an immaculate Caribbean guitar adaptation of the African hymn "Agua Dulce." The group often shares billing with beat-heavy turntablists and comparable units like the Chicago Underground family, and their sound never devolves into the abrasive commotion so inaccessible to the casual jazz listener. Ashe A Go-Go is a restrained exercise in contrasting influences, a remarkable listen for anyone interested in modern variations on a timeless style.

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