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The Muffins - Chronometers CD (album) cover

CHRONOMETERS

The Muffins

 

Canterbury Scene

3.77 | 43 ratings

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Sagichim
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is not really a studio album but a compilation of songs, outtakes and whatever the band recorded before Manna/Mirage was released. Chronometers represents The Muffins early musical style and it's the only document to feature them as a 5 piece band consisting of 3 co founding members (Newhouse, Scott and Swann, that were still active in the band before their second break up a few years ago) and two more musicians Michael Zentner on guitars and Stuart Abramowitz on drums. All songs were recorded in late 75' early 76' and shows the band initial influences by canterbury bands. In spite of being recorded in multiple sessions the whole thing sounds unified and the sound quality is surprisingly very good! The music is mostly soft and pleasant, very jazzy and light. In spite of being their jazziest album there's less emphasis on woodwinds here, Dave Newhouse is playing a lot of keyboards as opposed to their later recordings in the late 70's. There are 21 tracks here while the first one is a 22 minute piece, the rest range from 30 seconds to 5 minutes but most of them are between 2 to 3 minutes. That's actually the problem I have with the album because I can't help but feel that a lot of them are unfinished or just an initial versions of their ideas, however being such amazing musicians they still manage to pull it off brilliantly. Their style is not that far off from Manna/Mirage and yet it is different, their canterbury inspired instrumentals are enriched with Zentner's clean and jazzy guitar hooks, he often comes out with lovely jazzy runs albeit nothing mind blowing. There's a good range of instruments like violin, flute, saxes and clarinets mostly played by the great Tom Scott but with all of those the music sounds kind of samey to me, I guess because of the organ that is the most dominant. As expected from The Muffins the music is intricate and complex with a lot of room for improvisation, their jazz rock stylings is loaded with sophistication and unusual time signatures, and the playing is simply superb throughout.

The 22 minute Chronometers is the best track here although not without its flaws, it's really weird that this kind of lengthy piece with all of its ideas was shelved by the band and wasn't intended to be released. The band since then released two albums before dissolving in 1981, and no part of this piece ever made its way to one of their two albums, so for a Muffins fan this piece is worth having this album alone. Chronometers (the song) is a little bit different from the rest, probably because the music has more room to develop, it's definitely not a cohesive piece but for a first attempt at arranging this kind of opus this is fine. Instead of being a unified piece with a logical progression it's more a representation of their diverse ideas and their excellent playing chops. This is a little bit less jazzy than the rest of the album and resembles more of what to come in their debut, there's also some RIO hints here and there which is great. The other 20 songs although being very short sounds as if recorded in the same session and bear such a natural flow between them, sounds to me as some of them were meant to go together. You get tons of ideas here that shows their diverse aspirations, some are better than the others but it never gets bad. Their RIO influences are cut to a minimum and you get mostly jazz inspired delicious canterbury instrumentals reminding me of Soft Machine, Sammla Mammas Manna, Hatefield And The North, Supersister and some Frank Zappa. This is definitely worth having but not the place to start with this incredible band, personally I prefer Manna/Mirage or their next challenging much more RIO tinged album 185. 3.5 stars.

Sagichim | 3/5 |

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