Unstable Ensemble: Embers

An antecedent to Unstable Ensemble is the Music Improvisation Ensemble, a great British free-improv group from the late ’60s/early ’70s that included, among others, the guitarist Derek Bailey and saxophonist Evan Parker. UE does an attenuated version of what MIC did, but the North Carolina group’s minimalist improvisations are heavy on “extended techniques”: scraped guitar strings, sax pad clicks, etc. MIC had huge chops and played a multilayered music. Excepting guitarist Jason Bivins (who, when unleashed, does some inventive nontonal linear improvising) and to a lesser degree saxophonist Marty Belcher (who’s kind of crude but intermittently engaging), UE doesn’t.

Percussionists Ian Davis and Matt Griffin are undistinguished, and Eric Weddle’s contribution seems to consist almost entirely of feedback and other harsh sounds incidental to the operation of a mixing board. UE’s sincerity is manifest. I would suggest, however, that Bivins and Belcher find some new playmates.