New Folk, New Blues
The photo on New Folk, New Blues' front cover shows a scene of industrial disaster. In the center of an amusement park, an electrical tower seems to have broken at the base and hangs at a perilously low angle. It's an apt image for a band that mixes fun, menace and industrial sludge so adroitly.
In this quartet, Jim Baker plays the wild card. He contributes hypercaffeinated acoustic piano on some tunes and unpredictable jolts of electronic bleeps and chirps on others. (Amusingly, Baker is credited with playing piano, analog synth and aluminum foil.) The opener, "Sweating Vertebrae Superior Cathedrals," is a real rocketship. The improv pits Baker's electronics against saxophonist Scott Rosenberg's visceral, controlled overblowing-each frontline contributor claiming a speaker and arguing vehemently back and forth-until closing on a quiet drone from bassist Anton Hatwich. The final number, "Laugh Your Troubles Away," echoes "Sweating" in a way-though this time the band ratchets back the dense, confrontational sound and the tune rides along on Tim Daisy's rickety beat. This rangy recording consists of four really long improvisations. A more compact, shorter recording might have focused the band's power.