Drummer-composer Bendian is a restlessly creative spirit who juggles several projects to satisfy his prolific output. While he has engaged in explosive, freewheeling duets with guitarist Nels Cline on Interstellar Space Revisited (Atavistic) and fellow drummer Paul Wertico on Bang! (Truemedia Jazzworks) and maintained a connection to swinging jazz with his own Trio Pianissimo on Balance (Truemedia Jazzworks), his Interzone quartet allows him to explore another side of his musicality on vibes while showcasing his considerable writing skills. He dedicates this second Interzone CD to Red Norvo and Milt Jackson.
With a cast of such accomplished yet open-minded musicians as guitarist Nels Cline, his brother-drummer Alex Cline and electric bassist Steuart Liebig, Bendian has the best of both worlds in being able to write very strict, technically demanding charts (at times reminiscent of Frank Zappa's most challenging works) that also incorporate open sections of skronking group improv. This balance of discipline and reckless abandon is perhaps best exemplified on "Pattern Master (For Octavia Butler)" and the somber, sparse suite "Diaspora," which gradually builds from a whisper to a shriek and back down to a hush in its 12 minutes. Imagine Sonic Youth sitting in on an extended remake of Gary Burton's Crystal Silence.
"Drive," a dissonant fusion jam in the tradition of Brand X or Percy Jones' Tunnels, features some incendiary interplay between Nels' wailing distortion guitar and Bendian's fuzz vibes against Alex's highly charged backbeats. The lone cover tune here, John McLaughlin's "Sanctuary" (from Birds of Fire), is filtered through a weird, ethereal haze of po-mo psychedelia before ultimately resolving to a stunning showcase for Nels' keening fuzz tones and Mahavishnuesque pyrotechnics. But it's the provocative closer "Tactics" that offers perhaps the clearest evidence of Nels' boundless chops, imagination and sick musical tendencies.
Creative, challenging, intelligent fusion music is alive and well as long as this subversive unit stays together.