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The Pneumatic Transit - Chordae Tendineae CD (album) cover


The Pneumatic Transit


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.62 | 47 ratings

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5 stars The Pneumatic Transit is a Jazz/Rock Fusion band from the US formed by Jeff Zampillo incorporating former members of "Umphrey's McGee" and "Exotic Animal Petting Zoo" playing music mostly written by Jeff with contributions from the other band members. They have only released 2 full length albums including "Chordae Tendineae" released in June of 2019. The line up for this album includes Jeff on guitars joined by Michael Shell on drums, Stephen Manns on bass, Waz Fox on the Rhodes and Moog synths, Carl Coan on sax and Willie Waldman on trumpet. The album consists of 4 tracks and has a total run time of 47 minutes as each track is around 10 minutes or longer. The album is available as a digital download on Bandcamp.

The first track is "Atriums" which starts off soft and hesitant at first with a feeling of something ominuous. A harsh guitar starts to play deepening the spookiness of the track. At about 3 minutes, the band comes in with a moderately slow beat and mixes of heavy guitar and low sax, then things becomes very progressive and complex with heavy chaotic swirls of sound, mostly pushed forward by loud guitar creating a wild and out of control feeling. After five minutes, things soften quickly as a lone echoing guitar plays accompanied by soft cymbals. There is a heavy layering of guitars, sounding similar to something created by Brian May of Queen and the drums push things forward, but the progressive dynamism of the music keeps things unpredictable and the guitar layers return. After 8 minutes, the full band comes in again as things return the heaviness of before, but be ready for sudden changes at all times. After 10 minutes, the music gets eerie and ominous again. Then there is a sudden burst of energy a minute later as the music gets dramatic and a bit chaotic again.

"Casino Mouse" starts immediately with layers of guitar, sax and trumpet, with a moderate beat from the drums with everything connected together by synths. The music is melodic, but still a bit complex. Things soon calm down a bit as the guitar picks out a melody and then the keys build on that before things unpredictably go into a chaotic mode again. The music moves back and forth, mostly remaining unsettling and dissonant, and you never know when sudden outbursts will carry things off into complex passages with the brass contrasting with the guitar. The trumpet gets a wild solo at around the 5 minute mark interrupted with occasional synth and guitar passages, only to regain control, until the sax has to come in and take over. All through this, the music continues to be dissonant and off kilter, never settling into any kind of rut or pattern, yet following some kind of complex structure, yet still led by the sax until past the 8 minute mark, when the guitar takes over with crazy, fast moving passages and progressive rhythm. The main theme returns after 9 minutes with everyone playing together and slowly becoming disjointed and harsh, led by the screaming guitar, with the brass trying desperately to bring everything back down to sanity, but the guitar will have nothing to do with this crazy sanity. The track ends with the drums giving up and everyone else continuing to argue about it.

"Residual Sentience" begins with arpeggio riffs playing softly and sustained synths flowing around it. The track threatens to become more intense, but remains mostly under control. Drums finally come in as the track nears the 4 minute mark and the music continues to flow, building and then backing off. There is a sudden complex infusion of keyboards around five minutes and soon the guitar competes with the keys creating some complex passages while the drums fight for some semblance of control. The guitar finally wins out with a repeating melodic passage only to be taken down by its own insistence. After 8 minutes, things calm down again and then flow along until the ending.

"The Fountain and the Feather" immediately contrasts the preceding track by chaotic riffs. This is all resolved as things soften and layers of guitars provide a nice section before things build again. Fast riffs and guitar attacks generate heavy progressive outbursts which always back off leaving us with an unsettling sense that anything can happen, and it does. The guitar continues to be the main instrument with it's different textures until you reach the 5 minute mark when an electric piano gets a chance to do some solo work, resulting in a section that flows along nicely before suddenly being interrupted by a very angry guitar. Then the keys soothe everything again as they play alone with occasional guitar outbursts. This all creates a disturbing, yet strangely soothing extended section. The keys remain controlled while the guitar complains with help by wild drumming. Things finally resolve and come together just before 11 minutes, then the guitar screams and a heavy layer destroys all sense of well-being as the track comes crashing to a close.

This is a very dynamic album, very unsettling, often dissonant but often resolving, but not always the way you expect. The music is deep and complex, mostly dark, but always unique. The jazz fusion designation might be a bit confusing, though I can see the reasoning behind it. The music explores contrasts and dissonance, many times pulling on post punk sensibilities, but still not giving in to any real established patterns. I hear some interesting passages that almost seem to approach the music of more avant-prog sounds of Kayo Dot or even Univers Zero or Art Zoyd, but utilizing the jazz/rock fusion instrumentation in ways that are not standard. There are no vocals, just interesting and even immersive music. The entire album is great, but the strongest tracks seem to be the chaotic "Casino Mouse" and the contrasts of "The Fountain and the Feather". The originality of the music is quite impressive and the musicianship is quite amazing, yet it still manages to have that underlying imperfection of post-punk music. I find it extremely enjoyable and feel it's a 4.5 star album that easily rounds up to 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |


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