Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In Rotation: No Wave


What? No Wave by the Music Revelation Ensemble (James Blood Ulmer, guitar; David Murray, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Amin Ali (bass); Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums)).

Why this? Why today? I’ve got a great network of music lovers surrounding me. Together we travel the spaceways, listening, directing, suggesting, lending… When I announced a few months back that I wanted to spend the summer doing a series of programs on the estimable David Murray, whose work I recognized as significant but which nevertheless constituted something of a blind spot in my view of music history (and present), fellow IMCer Ron stepped right in and offered to lend me anything I might need. So after a long weekend I returned to work to find waiting for me a box containing no fewer than 25 CDs featuring Murray and a note that said, “Keep them all summer.”

No Wave was among them, an early recording by the MRE, a collective which eventually came under the de facto leadership of its longest standing member, James Blood Ulmer. Ulmer’s a rare cat, a free music staple who calls down Hendrix and long-dead bluesmen, then invokes their influence to produce a sound more horn-like than guitaresque. His discography is spotty, frankly, but there are some gems, and this is one of them. There’s a little bit of Fred Frith in his sound here, like Blood’s been playing bumper pool with him in the basement rec room, and maybe that’s Arto Lindsay peeking in the window. Could be that John Lurie’s gonna drop in later, too…

The point, if there is one, is that this record is perfectly titled. No Wave is a secret underground lair where the forces of skronk, blues, funk and R&B gather to plot their next move in the destruction of safe music. If DNA and The Contortions were provocative, this was all-out blasphemy. And no, you can’t dance to it.

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