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Sam Kulik: Escape from Society

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The spirit of Frank Zappa hovers over this oddly appealing album that draws from early FZ masterworks like Freak Out! and Absolutely Free while also recalling the smart, experimental pop of Brian Eno circa Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). A multi-instrumental renegade, Sam Kulik’s primary ax is trombone, which he utilizes to good effect in a six-trombone chorus on the modal “Bellarthur an Albino,” and for jazzy improvisations on numbers like “Amy’s Song,” “Ten Little Indians” and “Tres Dedos Marron.” Elsewhere in this bizarre song cycle (with lyrical submissions gathered from amateur poets via Craigslist), Kulik provides deep, radio-DJ-type vocals while also playing bass, piano, organ, vibraphone, tuba and percussion. His wry, Zappa-esque edge comes out on the wickedly sarcastic spoken-word piece “South Philly Daze,” while his most severe, Sun Ra-influenced extrapolations are reserved for avant instrumentals like “The Verge” and “I Flip My Rhythms.” The 18-minute closer, “Infinite Shit,” bears the unmistakable stamp of Eno’s ambient music landmarks. It’s all totally crazy-and ultimately compelling.

Originally Published