The Choir Boys are Jeff Kaiser (trumpet, quarter-tone trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics) and Andrew Pask (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax, bass pennywhistle, electronics); the “with strings” includes guitarist G.E. Stinson and contrabass guitarist Steuart Liebig, who augment their instruments with electronics. Together this quartet of talented musicians creates a mass of noise, drones, squeaks and squalls that was almost certainly cool to hear live—and not so cool to listen to on CD.
Recorded live last October at the Ventura College Theater in Ventura, Calif., this is the sort of music that, in concert, can overwhelm you with texture and volume, toying with your equilibrium and distorting your senses. But when compressed into a disc, this sort of aggressive ambient music can lose its immediacy and power. Judging from the CD-booklet photo, the group played in front of a screen, which likely displayed lights and/or images that helped give this sci-fi soundtrack some avant-psychedelic context. But the nearly 80 minutes of sound presented here is more endurance test than mind expander, making you wish some real (and tonal) choir boys would show up. Pass on the CD, but check out the Choir Boys’ next concert.