Explodingstar_span3
January/February 2007

Exploding Star Orchestra
We Are All From Somewhere Else
Thrill Jockey

This album’s three-part performance, written by Chicago Underground cornetist Rob Mazurek, apparently corresponds to a story that begins with exploding stars and incorporates the life, death and travels of a stingray, and conversation with electric eels. That may be, but the opening minutes made me think of something entirely different: music from 1970s police dramas. As someone who lost interest in The Rookies and Ironside after the opening title, this is far from a bad thing.

Mazurek gathered 13 strong players from the Windy City to play his two suites and an interlude, which combine driving vamps, multiple melodic layers and free improvisation with animals. The aforementioned opening of “Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time” finds low-end trombone, vibes and guitar churning away beneath Nicole Mitchell’s soaring flute. The third section of the piece actually finds the group improvising freely with tones created by electric eels. Although it’s hard to distinguish humans from beasts, the collaboration yielded some strong free blowing.

The second suite, “Cosmic Tomes for Sleep Walking Lovers” continues on the momentum of the first half. Some sections get more meditative, and things only falter during a section built on the type of repetition normally associated with Steve Reich. With a lineup that includes Mazurek’s bandmates from Isotope 217 and members of Tortoise, the Orchestra creates a powerful work whether or not the storyline interests you.

Originally published in January/February 2007
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