ROOM TO IMPROV; THE UNSEMBLE RELEASE A STARK, STARTLING DEBUT
Industrial “supergroup” release an album that is 90% improv and 100% hard work.
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The Unsemble; Hacke, Denison, Kotzur[/caption] The reasoning behind why I use the quotes when classing
The Unsemble as a “supergroup” works on two levels. The band comprises of members of Einstürzende Neubauten (Alexander Hacke), The Jesus Lizard (Duane Denison) and Silver Jews (Brian Kotzur) – all of which barely register on many people’s greatest bands of all time lists; and also that this record (released on 3rd March through
Ipecac) is far from super. The press release that came with the album – all of which was recorded in the summer of 2012 in Nashville, TN – states that the songs here present ‘
serve to lure and unsettle’. That they very much do – although more the latter than the former in many cases. There are 15 tracks on show here, and it must be said that despite repeated listening (there’s the lure), it is a very uncompromising, uncomfortable listen. Given the background of two-thirds of the members of The Unsemble, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. German industrialists Einstürzende Neubauten have never been entirely on the ear and neither have The Jesus Lizard – but both of these bands have produced something worthy of being called a tune over their careers. This already sounds like I hate the record; I don’t hate the record but it really is quite a challenging listen. There is only a smattering of actual tunes here; any release that comes with the advice that the songs can be described as ‘dark’, ‘chaotic’ and, heaven forbid ‘freely improvised’ is always going to take a little while to get used to but even after several listens, one still feels that should they have spent more time crafting some of the more improvised pieces, then this album would have been eminently more listenable. You don’t get an awful lot of music for your 15 songs either; the album clocks in at a lowly 42 minutes, which is fair warning that you’re going to experience a lot of filler here. The fact that 5 of the songs are prefixed with the word ‘Improv’ will also have you either running to the hills or running to your local record store – depending on your taste. There are moments of glory evident on the record, in particular a trio of consecutive numbers in the early part of the album (namely ‘Act 3’, ‘Chaingang’ and ‘Neon’) which effortlessly move from dark jazz to dark indie in the space of 6 or 7 minutes and really showcase the obvious talents that are on show. But overall, ‘The Unsemble’ is pretty heavy going; unless you’re a total stickler for all things improvised and messy, then you’re unlikely to get the album out for a full listen unless you’re planning on soundtracking a particularly bleak black and white movie. Jazz fiends, industrial crazies and improv freaks, jump aboard – everyone else, next stop Normalsville.