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Free Jazz From Slavery


"If one were dim enough to go about explaining the new double LP from Hexlove/Faulouah by pointing up parallels between it and the future-thinking music which has surely influenced its creator, I imagine the task wouldn't be too daunting. One may first notice that Free Jazz From Slavery is awash in the sublimely complex percussion patterns of 20th century composers like Harry Partch, Eugene Kurtz, and Iannis Xenakis. Or one might wonder if Zac Nelson, the man in the cockpit of this thing, hadn't been listening to Another Green World since he was in the womb. And certainly it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the jibing spirit of early-'80s Pere Ubu experimentation is all over the more flippant efforts like 'Don't Say I Didn't Warm Yah' and the watery blurb that opens the record, 'Aztec vs. Dolphin.' This, though, is the wrong way to go about listening to or talking about any of Hexlove/Faulouah's work. Musical ancestors are worn proudly on Nelson's sleeve, but as eagerly as he celebrates them, he also delights in taking them, along with himself, down a peg. The snarky punning of the album's title, the faux-shamanic chanting and cooing, the deliberately murked-up and buzzing arrangements, all belie an agenda that involves not only a glad embrace of the less austere reaches of avant-gardism but a pointed critique of its elitism and intellectual posturing. Tracks like the doom-laden 'Lots of Wings Carry Seeds,' which pulses like the metabolism of some slumbering extinct beast, display a staggering sense of grey beauty but are quickly undercut when Nelson begins to take a more blithe and self-deprecating tack. This, though, is not to the record's detriment; it never falls into mere novelty or self-parody. The sheer technical brilliance, evident on every track, earns quite a big spot on Nelson's cheek to put his tongue in. The most glorious moments, though, are those in which he is able to marry these two tendencies, as on the desperate and busy 'Grump up the Volume,' which opens the second side of the first record. And this is just the first record. All doubts that may have been lingering about Nelson's seriousness or capabilities vanish completely after even the most cursory listen to the second record. Alone, it is a startlingly focused and beautiful ambient masterwork, but it shines all the more when it is coupled with the chaos of the first record. The long, breathing pieces are tranquil and meditative, yet never naïve or on the look-out for a place in The New Age. Under every track, however, spare and delicate, lurks an anxiety that constantly threatens to swallow all delusions of well-being. Though it drones and broods, it is never without texture. Alive with the haunting organ of 'Exits Very Damp' or the subtle xylophone flourishes of 'Big Happy Lotus,' it manages to maintain a clean, coherent spirit without becoming sterile or devolving into massage music. The side-long closer and centerpiece of the album, 'Psychopomp,' though, is as sparse and heavenly as music gets, but it still attains such a raw human beauty that after you hear it, the last thing you want to do is lie down for a massage. Rather, you want to run out and find the human who created it and thank him." --Steve Rodgers