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Absolute Zero - Crashing Icons CD (album) cover

CRASHING ICONS

Absolute Zero

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.57 | 37 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Absolute Zero, an amazing American avant-rock ensemble including a Canterbury living legend (now dead, unfortunately), delivered the studio gem "Crashing Icons" in the early years of the new millennium. This wonderful yet difficult record states a powerful mixture of jazz-fusion and rock in opposition, which means an electrifying combination of vibrant cadences and deconstructive structures. This is the band's only official CD after releasing a number of domestic, limited-edition demos and live recordings. The album's title can also be the literal manifesto of the band's writing and performing strategies: iconoclastic performances cleverly inspired by the free spirit of jazz-based improvisations, fueled by the rhythm duo's bizarrely powerful expansions and ornamented by Quinn's ever elegant and ever bizarre inputs. The Dadaistic vocalizations by Quinn (whose tone reminds me of Thinking Plague alumnus Deborah Perry's) also help to expand the irreverent nature of the musical ideas developed, destroyed and reconstructed along the way of each piece (long pieces all of them, clocking between the 12 and 20+ minute marks). As points of reference, one can notice influences from Art Bears, "In Praise of Learning"-era Henry Cow, the wildest side of Zappa and the challenging standard of late 60s-early 70s free jazz. The way Jardines plays his bassist's role is amazing beyond belief: he usually uses his instrument as a mad lead guitar "in your face", while Pip masterfully accepts the challenge with an incredible energy that one doe not usually expect from a man that is past his 50th birthday. Forget about the melodic drive of Hatfield albums or the easy-going pulsations of early Gong releases, the Pip Pyle of Absolute Zero works as a wise accomplice of the band's global post-modernistic approach. Track 2 'Further On' is the most accomplished example of the radically avant-garde style that the band is aimed to. The presence of African tuned percussions among the track's development and variations works as a catalyser of colorfulness through the overall neurosis and fun elaborated by the nuclear trio. Nothing to complain about once you have gotten into the album's spirit through the opener 'Bared Cross', which defies the limits of rational sensitiveness in the art of noise from its initial seconds: 'Bared Cross' is an open invitation to find a new rationale in art beyond the habitual sense of rationality, headlong for the disturbing, celebrating the marriage of chaos and interconnectivity under the guidance of a new intelligence. In lesser words, a post-modernistic approach to jazz-rock-fusion. 'Stutter Rock/You Said' emphasizes the jazz element, enhancing the band's gusto for free-jazz and mixing it with some unmistakable funky cadences. Here we can enjoy the most impressive synth solo by Quinn in the entire album, as well as an exciting conga solo by guest Jim Stewart (announced by Jardines as a "fabulous salsero" and a "master of tropical rhythms") during a Latin-jazz excursion. Absolute Zero's music cries rebellion, but it doesn't deny fun or warmth at all. This Latin portion is an excuse for the whole band to propel itself toward an expansion of the madness that had been somewhat constrained so far. Being the least inscrutable track in the album, it still has plenty of room for radical weirdness. 'Sueños Sobre un Espejo' (Spanish for 'Dreams On a Mirror') entitles the closing track. This one manages to insert some lyricism as well as ethereal ambiences while staying in touch with the album's overall surrealistic scheme. The emergence of somber passages and ceremonious vocalizations preferentially hint at the absurd instead of the creepy. The track's coda is as explosive as can be expected by the attentive listener. Crashing your musical conceptions like a Nietzschean hammer, Absolute Zero's music will be pleasantly perceived as a declaration of war against the musical conventions of jazz and rock by any true avant-prog lover.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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