Local free verse, free jazz, and not-quite-free folk
For some listeners jazz is already free enough without hurling it into the conceptual particle accelerator of free jazz, a tag that either connotes piercing utter nonsense or, to a fan, so many things that it might as well just mean utter nonsense. Microkingdom, normally the duo of percussionist Will Redman and guitarist Marc Miller, has created an impatient and aggressive near-rock record that, at moments, dares to be accessible. Wrenches rarely lingers, and your attention never wanders; instead of full songs, it feels like much of this is ecstatic, would-be song.
Microkingdom's Pro Hour adds local reeds player John Dierker to the fold, and this LP leads off in a barely there build of anxious strings and cymbal splash, creaking upward for two minutes before rupturing into a bout of rabid free-jazz malevolence that would make John Zorn proud. Hearing those first few angry, detuned chords-which sound like the first few of Sonic Youth's "Making the Nature Scene," but so does much noise-y music-you have to wonder if this'll have anything to do with jazz. Soon enough, Dierker's saxophone starts poking its way up out of the guitar hysterics, eventually taking the whole thing over for a brief half-minute of bell-clear melody. The song builds and builds through a hip-hop beat, computer bleats, and some other fairly subtle digital tweaks/samples before that guitar cleans itself up into dazed smoothness only to be taunted by Dierker's now buzzing/fluttering antagonistic sax. The shock comes when you realize that you've actually been following it all, that it has a clear narrative and you really, really want to know what you missed the first time through.
"Double Abacus," on the green and white-colored vinyl's flip side, is like a song ground underfoot, discordant bleats of saxophone answered flippantly by Miller's even more discordant guitar seizures. A dampened floor tom tries and fails to maintain a semblance of order. It's a full-on freakout, made all the more of an affront thanks to that sharp, squealing guitar and horrifically pitched bird noises (we think). It stings, but if nothing did here, you'd be disappointed.