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Album Review

The sophomore solo outing by drummer extraordinaire Jim Black and his Alasnoaxis band (Chris Speed on reeds and winds, Hilmar Jensson on guitars, Skuli Sverrisson on bass, everybody on effects) takes the more rock-oriented elements from his debut and explores them to heavily distorted yet wildly lyrical ends. This is music with its power-chorded rock riffs worn loudly and proudly, pushing the needle into the red on virtually every tune, while exploring the notions of overt yet complex lyricism and song forms. The drum mix is wonderfully muddy and it pulses every movement by Speed, who carries the role of "singer" here and gives him room in the squall of strings to hover, float, wind, and croon through the maelstrom — check the glorious "Aloe Evra," with its transcendent contrapuntal lyric line juxtaposed against the distortion boxes and pedals of Jensson's six string. For the sake of dynamic, "Icratic" is a little more overtly jazz in its construction, with a series of flatted sevenths offering a palette for Sverrisson's bass to offer a bottom rife for exploration. The tune plods, unboxing itself slowly until the halfway point, when it becomes a free-for-all improvisation with careful attention to textured atmospherics. "Cheepa vs. Cheep" is right back into rockistry, with melodica's clarinets and saxophones playing seductively against the wall, such as on "Mydir Now," where the band tracks Black's percussive heavy meandering into all sorts of darkened corners, and fill them with the light of intimate communication and truly canny articulation. This is a solid, humorous, and delightful recording by a guy who is really just getting started as a composer. It should also be noted that the sleeve by Japanese comic artist Yoshitomo Nara is as beautiful as the music.

Splay, Jim Black
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