Until recently, evidence of a compelling mixture of electronic music, studio artifice, jazz and improvisation was relatively scarce. Electronic music lends itself to hyper clean and detailed production with every element laid out on the grid like a diamond tapestry. Jazz, on the other hand, favors flights of fancy and endless ideas and innovation. Some of that gets lost when combined with the studio perfection of electronica.
With more recording technology available to more people than ever before, musicians are finally beginning to combine electronic production and improvisation in compelling ways, as can be heard on Chicago-by-way-of-everywhere trio Music As Math.
The skeleton of their album I Think I May Have Had A Religious Experience is the intricate woodwinds of AJ Kluth. Kluth lays out his saxes and clarinets in an endless stream of post-Steve Reich/Terry Riley minimalism, like Tibetan sherpas weaving woolen mats of Modigliani patterns.
Music As Math mastermind Chris Ploeg, who played master watchmaker with these bits of improvised audio, layering sax blatts and bottled baroque music with an endless array of beats, clicks and whirrs from, and around, the Chicago loft where most of I Think I May Have Had A Religious Experience was cultivated.
These sonic tapestries were then sent to Matt Ammerman to lay down his silken soaring vocals. Ammerman carries on the indie dance lineage of The Postal Service and alt-disco guru Arthur Russell. It's hard enough to combine improvisation and electronica, let alone integrating vocals, which is nigh on possible.
What could've been a math rock mess is, instead, a masterpiece of passionate and imaginative homemade minimalism and sonic collage. Chicago is one of the spiritual hubs of what has come to be known as post-rock (one version of it anyway) and it seems to still be in the water. Groups like Tortoise and The Sea And Cake sought to combine non-Western polyrhythms with studio mastery, employing all manner of dub artifice along the way. Music As Math is continuing that commendable journey and taking it to the next level.
Judging from the time and attention heaped on I Think I May Have Had A Religious Experience, this trio is one to watch, for sure. They're headed for the peak of the pyramid. As all three members scatter to the winds, I have a feeling Music As Math is about to inject the world with a booster shot of Chicago jazzy post-rock. And that is a fine thing, indeed.
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