Starship Beer: Nut Music as Free as Squirrels
Collected onto this single one-stop disc is the bulk of the band’s legacy, a self-produced LP and several assorted tape fragments. Digested together they are a hodgepodge of improvisations and ideas that ultimately seems more like a collaborative game of ‘let’s see if the shoe fits’ than anything meant seriously for mass consumption. But as Whitehead points out in his liners (which truth be told, are often more engaging than the music he’s commenting on) bits and pieces of the group’s work filtered into some unexpected places with unexpected results. One tale about the track “Chris, the Nasty Boy” eventually providing fodder for a local Right-Wing politician’s ire is especially amusing.
Mingin, O’Brien and Whitehead, the band’s three core players, exhibit skill with their respective instruments, but their creations routinely have the cast of music designed more for the creators’ satisfaction than the listeners’. The result is a collection of concept pieces that start to grate upon the nerves. From the opening cut, which revolves around a piebald mantra howled by O’Brien over a curdling electric bass and fuzzed out guitar the group takes on the dimensions of a free jazz, minimalist garage band. A communal philosophy when it comes to instruments allows each player to pick form the collective clutch depending upon his or her desired role of the moment. This creates a consistent ambience of unpredictability, but unfortunately the choices made rarely result in finished product worthy of the mystery. “Ghosts of Owls” is an easy example where the fluctuating vocal improvisations of Mingin and Whitehead whirl around the central fluttering vocalese of O’Brien without much coherence. Other pieces like “Air or Wind” and “Cavalcade of Stars” have an obvious rock bent with Mingin’s distorted guitar scratching out weighty riffs above rumbling, heavily fractured rhythms. The grand finale “Tiffany Lounge” takes things to a logical extreme with all of the players cycling through a stack of instruments without much to show for it at the end. The decision to release this material commercially is a curious one, but odds are there’s an audience out there somewhere ready and willing to receive it.
Unheard Music on the web: http://www.atavistic.com
Track Listing: Black/White White/Black/ Wheatland Wyoming/ Talking Winks/ Criminal Girlfriend/ Cavalcade of Stars/ Plumbing/ Ghosts of Owls/ You Fly in My Brain Like and Airplane/ (At the) Noise Circus/ Air or Wind/ Chris, the Nasty Boy (A Minisaga of the Midwest)/ 10-4 Big Buddy/ Postal Nexus/ Man In the Trunk/ Tiffany Lounge.
Personnel: Wes Mingin- electric guitar, piano, alto saxophone, voices, alto recorder, melodica, Pat O
Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide
Style: Modern Jazz