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CRASHING ICONS

Absolute Zero

RIO/Avant-Prog


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The Hemulen
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album is nothing short of monumental. In a tortuous history spanning thirty years Absolute Zero has released just one studio album (despite having material/recordings for another three according to their website - itself dormant for the best part of five years). This is that album, and by God you can tell. Every note is played as though it could be their last (and I can only pray that it is not) and the four meaty compositions which make up the album are all overflowing with more musical ideas and inventiveness than many long-standing group's entire discographies.

Made up of just three musicians, Absolute Zero brings new meaning to the phrase "power trio". Enrique Jardiness' bass playing is quite frankly second to none. His choice of sounds are hugely creative and his dexterity so outstanding that there are many occasions that one feels he simply can't be playing a bass guitar. But a quick glance at the line-up tells us he must be - there are no other stringed instruments used on the album.

Pip Pyle is a name that I'm sure is familiar to almost anyone reading this review, unless they stumbled upon it by total chance. A veteran drummer on the Canterbury Scene (and indeed the wider world of avant-garde and jazz), he's played with the likes of Gong, Hatfield and the North, National Health, In Cahoots. well, you get the picture. He's the perfect drummer for a musical project of this nature and it shows. Whether thrashing drums or tinkling on tinkly things, Pyle's drumming is quite simply impeccable.

However, for me it's Aislinn Quinn, the final third of the band who truly stands out. There is not one sound on her keyboard which causes me to cringe or criticise in any way (unusual, as synthesisers and keyboards can so easily end up sounding awful in the wrong hands) and quite often they're simply astounding. A sound used on "Stutter Rock, You Said" for example, which sounds like some sort of babbling turkey has to be heard to be believed (and enjoyed). Add to this the fact that Ms Quinn is on vocal duties throughout, with parts ranging from the frail and delicate to the semi-operatic. well, it's easy to see why I'm impressed.

I need not remind you, I'm sure, that this album is not for the faint-hearted. It is dissonant, brash, at times wholly devoid of any discernible melody, but it is likewise captivating, beautiful and hugely rewarding. For those who feel that good music should be a challenge then I can't recommend this album strongly enough.

Highlights: "Stutter Rock, You Said", "Suenos Sobre un Espejo"

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Send comments to The Hemulen (BETA) | Report this review (#23780)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Now that's a great album! This sounds like 5uu's with a more modern sound. The similarities are almost too obvious. Especially the vocals sounds exactly like Bob Drake. But comparing it to 5uu's or anything else would be too easy. Absolute Zero is so much more. I love the unique mood of this record. I highly recomand this album to fans of bands like Art Bears, Motor Totemist Guild and of course 5uu's.

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Send comments to Andreas (BETA) | Report this review (#83673)
Posted Thursday, July 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Crashing Icons is a masterfully bizarre gem of avant-garde weirdness; however, I warn those treading into unfamiliar territory not to be lured in by the (relative) approachability of the excellent sample song, "Shutter Rock"-- the rest of the album is almost too abstract to be comparable. I have trouble imagining Quinn's neurotic-sounding vocals ever becoming an aquired taste, fortunetly she is saavy enough to let her frantic keyboard and Jardiness' stand-out bass to come to the forefront of the band's ecclectic music. Not for the faint of heart or impatient... or fans of melodies.

Songwriting: 2 Instrumental Performances: 2 Lyrics/Vocals: 1 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#116468)
Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: A-

From the moment "Bared Cross" comes blaring out of your speakers/headphones, you know you're in for a treat. Or, at least, you suspect. After all, sustaining a CD for over an hour with just four songs and, for the most part, four instruments (bass, drums/percussion, vocals, and keys, though "Stutter Rock" has some excellent guest trumpet) is hard. Unless, it seems, you're Absolute Zero. And, indeed, to say that they succeeded in their goal of delivering a hard-hitting avant-garde rock release would be an understatement. Crashing Icons takes all of the ideals of the original Rock In Opposition movement of the late 1970s and plays them with twice as much fire. The result is a stunning release, to say the least.

Start with the opener. "Bared Cross" is an all-out frontal assault on the mind, with the amazing rhythm section of Pip Pyle (the Canterbury stalwart) on drums and percussion and Enrique Jardines, who plays a mean bass, holding down a groove as Aislinn Quinn goes hogwild on her keyboards. While the unique style of Pip Pyle (no rhyme intended) is always a treat, and while Enrique Jardines is probably the stabilizing force in the madness, it is Aislinn Quinn who steals the show here. She brings out sounds you've never heard before, and every single one of them is amazing (if rather dissonant).

Proceeding, we arrive at the longest track on Crashing Icons, the twenty minute plus "Further On." Flirting between krautrock type grooves and blaringly avant-garde, vocal dominated sections, "Further On" is enchanting enough that you can enjoy each individual moment and moves forward quickly enough that you never get bored. But, as strong as it and "Bared Cross" are, both pale in comparison to what comes in the second half, starting with "Stutter Rock/You Said."

"Further On" may have been groove dominated, but it can't hold a candle to "Stutter Rock/You Said" when it comes to sheer groove power. From the moment it starts to the moment it ends, the intensity never lets up, making this both the highlight and the most accessible song on Crashing Icons. To top it all off, there is an astounding trumpet solo in the middle of the song. Thankfully, the intensity doesn't let up for the closing sixteen minutes of "Suenos Sobre Un Espejo," and thus the CD ends just as strongly (well, even more strongly) as it began.

That about sums it up, really: Crashing Icons rocks from start to finish. It's terribly inaccessible (it's the keyboards), but as multiple listens reveal its hidden subtleties, it proves to be a real gem. One to remember, to be sure, even if you don't like it. I can't recommend it beyond the confirmed avant-gardeheads, since it's too inaccessible to serve as an entry to the genre, but for those who like Henry Cow, Univers Zero, and their ilk, this is an essential purchase. Damn close to being a masterpiece.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#161713)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#182101)
Posted Tuesday, September 09, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Avant-fusion like you've never heard it before. Absolute Zero is an extremely under-the-radar outfit with only one EP and one official studio album to their name. CRASHING ICONS is an interesting fusion album with four double-digit length jams that stretch the boundaries of what fusion can do.

The band's sound is remarkably heavy considering that they're a little more than a keyboard power trio. Enrique Jardines is the man most responsible for this sound as he picks some excellent effect choices for his bass and can pull off bass power chords like no one else. The bass takes on tricky lines that captivate the listener but can take more of a lead position or simple support when needed.

Unfortunately, each tune other than the powerful ''Stutter Rock/You Said'' runs much longer than necessary. ''Bared Cross'' heads out into extreme avant territories that while experimentally challenging, are also devoid of much entertainment. The two longer tracks have motives that seem to slow time and are enjoyable until Ainslin Quinn starts singing. That pretty much ruins the album for me; Quinn's vocals. They probably are decent on their own, but her voice is ruined by useless effects that are grating to the ears, contrasting the bass effect choices.

If this album were entirely instrumental, I might have enjoyed it slightly more. Cantebury fans might warm to the idea of Pip Pyle drumming here, and his contributions are very worthwhile. It's still an interesting RIO-fusion type of album worth the occasional repeat every so often. Sadly, Jardines passed away earlier this year, leaving CRASHING ICONS an excellent display of his unique bass style.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#289269)
Posted Monday, July 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Debut and the only studio album of US avant prog band Absolute Zero is really great recording!

Canterbury legend drummer Pip Pyle is on board and he shows his best drumming there, but other two musicians - band's leader Enrique Jardines and keyboardist/vocalist Aislinn Quinn are both highest class musicians.

Album contains very complex mix of free jazz, fusion, chamber avant, Cantrebury, etc. Everything is technically played at the excellent level. To be honest, this music strongly reminds me many Japanese avant-prog bands because of its complexity and very high techniques level of musicianship .Main difference is there are no such usual for Japanese releases hardcore brutality and dark atmosphere.

Great work even if easy accessible! My rating is 4+!

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#300392)
Posted Saturday, September 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
2 stars I will be one of those party crashers here, because my experience with this record isn't exactly a walk through a rose garden. I carefully approached it, examined it, tried, thought a while if what I hear is too crazy/weird to be appreciated, or if it's part of the game or Avantgarde. It probably is and die hard fans of the genre will be glad, but fearful people, average Prog Joes like myself, who can only withstand weirdness to some extent (and past that border it's incomprehensible cluster of annoying sounds), we will fail.

If you try hard, you can get to appreciate clever composition in combination with a lot of ambient stuff (probably time out, so we can rejuvenate?). Musically, this record fails. You simply have to FEEL IT.

2(+), so yes, it's one of THOSE albums.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#549619)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permalink

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