Here is a record that has been promised/threatened for some time, a solo outing from cornetist Rob Mazurek. On first glance, even considering Mazurek's visionary compositions and contributions to melodic free improvisation in units such as Isotope 217 and the Chicago Underground Orchestra
, Duo, and Trio, this project might seem slight. What is slight is the amount of overtly "arty" projection and pretension, not the music. Working closely with engineer Casey Rice
, Mazurek offers 18 compositions of elaborately layered melody, edgeless dissonance, found and electronic sound, manipulated in the studio and reshaped into small but gorgeous small universes of texture, lyricism, impression, and ghostly presences. The opener, "Moving Through and Back Again," is startling from the first second as a sweet, muted melodic frame is stuttered and spindled to showcase the possibilities of other narrative melodicisms underneath. On "Bird Song, So Sang, To Them," an initial scalar set of varying arpeggios and phrased legato frames are gradually slowed and blown more dynamically, one line picking up to move forward from the middle of the last one's knotted thematic and drawn out tonally to stretch across the entire sonic body of the improvisation. Elsewhere, on "Metal Monsters Don't Fail Me Now," Mazurek's cornet feels and sounds more like Buckethead
's guitar, it is so processed through microphones and effects, and his playing is right through the middle, repetitive and insistent to the point of abrasiveness, but it never, ever lacks soul. The album closes with "Love, For (Slight Burnt in Beginning)," a collage of affected phrases where the middle note ends up as the tonal base for what comes next, whether that sound come from underwater, phrased like a scratched record, or in tandem bursts from the bell of the horn. In all, it's as experimental a record as there is, but it is hardly inaccessible. In fact, in most places, it is not only quite lovely to listen to, but full of humor as well. This is what makes Delmark such a great label, their willingness to put something out just for its excellence no matter what it is. And make no mistake: Silver Spines
is nothing short of excellent.