They don't come much more out-there than this foursome, who with bass clarinet (O'Keefe), guitars and effects (Stanyek), piano and bass (Walton) and trumpet
(Whitehead) weave something of a hypertapestry. That is, it's 4-D as opposed to 2. Not always 100% effective, but always diverting and definitely a band to watch. Stanyek's broken-field running on his instrument recalls early Elliot Sharp or James "Blood" Ulmer; during the lengthy workout "Graft" he squeezes out long concertina-wire drones here and makes a third to Whitehead and O'Keefe with woodwind-like sonorities there. Similarly 'out' strategies open the 17-minute "Measure," which has us dodging Stanyek's serrated metal boomerangs while Walton (on bass), Whitehead and O'Keefe fly in formation overhead.
When Walton goes for the piano it's often to strike pithy 'fill' chords, almost ambient in content. No Cecil Taylor make-the-walls-come-tumbling-down for this fellow, but texture is this group's stock in trade, not apocalypse. The first track, "Threshold," belies the later presentation almost completely, however: O'Keefe's cacophony alone there makes one flash on early Art Ensemble of Chicago. Later on, as if throwing a lengthy change-up, there is as much experimental placement of instruments in the mix and in the music's physical field (I suppose I mean to say, where all the voices land in your head as you listen) as there is in the play of textures. True, in between the vociferous early bits and the later more impressionist abstraction on this CD, "Trace" attempts to do a lot of both and doesn't always hang together: as my old friend Gene once put it, I have no problem with them playing in separate rooms but the rooms should all be in the same house.
But even the few moments here that lack continuity are never dull. O'Keefe, Whitehead, Stanyek and Walton ride a lot of surprisingly parallel trends convincingly. Approach with caution but stick with it and you'll be glad you did.
by Kenneth Egbert
New Sounds - May 2004