A renegade quartet from the Baltimore-D.C. area, the Muffins have changed course from their prog-rock/fusion beginnings in the mid-’70s. Rather than continuing the quirky time signatures and angular melodies that marked their earlier recordings, these Muffins are taking greater risks and dealing in chance music on this purely improvised outing that features special guests saxophonists Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott from the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Moments of sonic shrapnel and sheer cacophony aside (as on “Monsta”), it’s remarkable to hear how cohesive this spontaneous session sounds at times. Not only do forms emerge in the midst of freewheeling jams, as on the dirgelike “In This World” and the very Ra-ish processional “Happy Now?” but they also occasionally involve some devices—intriguing harmonies, intricate modulation and tempo shifts—that rely on a high degree of open-mindedness combined with a certain amount of telepathy among the participants; a quality most noticeable on the lengthy “Chickenhead” and “Dr. Mid-Nite.”
Not for everyone, but adventurous listeners and fans of New York’s downtown scene are well advised to check out this latest offering from these.