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Chainsaw Jazz - DisConcerto CD (album) cover


Chainsaw Jazz



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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While many complain that the prog rock world was an utter wasteland in the 80s save the neo-prog birth pangs of bands such as Marilion and Pendragon, the other style of 80s prog that often graces the difficult listening section of the music market was avant-prog which is that wily style of angular arhythmic prog bathed in atonality well beyond hipster avant-gardism. Thanks to one of prog's most enduring labels, Cuneiform which started out in 1984 and has delivered us classic cuts from bands like Present, The Muffins and Dr. Nerve, which silently ushered prog rock's second coming in the 90s, the new golden age. This label has focused squarely on acts descended from the knotty gnarled musical workouts from the Henry Cow playbook along with the dramatic atmospheric eeriness of classic RIO chamber prog from the Univers Zero camp.

Following the tradition of cranking out sounds that the masses just won't get, CHAINSAW JAZZ somehow appeared on the scene around 1993 and released its sole bizarro-mondo contribution to the prog universe in the form of DISCONCERTO. Existing in some sort of interdimensional overlap between the Henry Cow inspired avant-prog decadence, playful Zappa infused jazz-fusion and Mahavishnu Orchestra inspired dexterity, which is most reminiscent from the sizzling hot violin and guitar extravaganzas. CHAINSAW JAZZ embodied one of those too good to be true experiences that has left it somewhat relegated to the obscurity bins despite providing one of those virtually unclassifiable albums that sounds literally like nothing else that has come before or since however references to Dr Nerve, Forever Einstein and Rattemouth have been thrown around by none other than the Cuneiform itself.

Not solely existing in a vacuum unrelated to what came before, for true stalwarts of the most demanding listening pleasures the human ear can soak in, CHAINSAW JAZZ was a collective of seven musicians that included Mark Stanley (guitar), Christian Nagle (guitar), Mark Smoot (bass), Mark Gilbert (saxophone, clarinet), Ed Maguire (violin, electric mandolin) but is best known for the participation of ex-Muffins drummer Paul Sears who carries on the tradition of technically demanding avant-prog meets jazz workouts albeit leaving the Canterbury antics behind. Through 15 tracks the band crafted a diverse array of clever tracks that ranged from the opening Zappa influenced "Mad Whiskey Bitch" to the funk-gone-wrong sounds of "Kampuchea" and then off to angularity alley with time signature bloated tracks such as "Neon Baby." Add to that a bit of heavy post-punk angst most easily experienced on "Momentary Discomfort" and the John McLaughlin guitar dexterity on "Cytoplasm" and you have yourself a merry little post-Muffins avant-prog meets Ornette Coleman styled avant-jazz fiesta on your hands.

What's beautiful about DISCONCERTO is that it is by no means a one trick pony. There are moments of pure escapist's bliss as well as more accessible funk-laden passages that provided nice repetitious riffing chunks that allow easy digestibility although the avant-prog high octane cylinders are always chugging along. While one moment the entire band engages in complex polyrhythmic atonality, so too can the sax and guitar soar in tandem thus creating the illusion of a larger horn section than actually exists. While all instrumental, DISCONCERTO nonetheless manages to capture a wide array of emotional impacts with not only a few heavy hitters that break the five minute mark but also a few shorter tracks designed to add some sizzling spice to the mix. CHAINSAW JAZZ delivered this one mere specimen that hides behind the more popular prog acts that grace the easier listening section but what a winner this one is! This is a confident and utterly demanding wild ride but although it was made for jazz loving panheads, it still has enough to offer for sugar addicts providing you can handle some stevia as a replacement in your sweet tea.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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