Even though I own twenty-plus Sun Ra records, I will readily admit that I generally prefer my free jazz improv explorations live & in the moment instead of safely listened to in the comfort of my own home. I don’t even need to watch the players, just being privy to the interaction of live creation within the room/space is enough. When Eric Hall was doing some knob-twiddling in Laumeier Park a few years back, I happily wandered off into the woods & let the drones create a soundtrack to my movements (at one point, there was this bird very intently watching my every step & I swear his head-bobs were syncing up with the drum-pulses; it was kind of creepy). Anyway, as much as I’m bummed to have missed the Sun Bros live performance in the courtyard of the Pulitzer Arts building a few weeks back, at least I’ve got the “Musk” flexi-disc, & it’s pretty great.
Made up of Demonlover JJ Hamon, Spelling Bee/Hardbody Joe Hess, & Sam Clapp (who I know I must know, but don’t know that I’ve ever officially met), Sun Bros present a spacious & sparse soundtrack-y soundscape made up of effected-out guitars & keyboards & whatever else they felt like playing that day. The drums, though, while never coming anywhere near a straight beat, still manage to anchor the piece into some sort of coherence. This isn’t self-indulgence. Well…this isn’t ONLY self-indulgence. There is clear forethought & empathetic interplay at work here, as opposed to “hit record & everybody solo!” Apparently the track on the flexi was edited down to single length from a much longer free form piece, Bitches Brew style. I look forward to catching Sun Bros live at some point, & I hope they don’t get offended when I go wandering off. I swear I’m still paying attention!
You Fantastic! were a band that dared people to pay attention. The majority of their 1996 “Riddler 2,3,4” 45 release is so minimalist as to be almost non-existent. Made up of x-Dazzling Killmen Darin Gray & Tim Garrigan, plus Cheer Accident drummer Thymme Jones, You Fantastic! delighted in confusing musical purists of every stripe. If you wanted a noise-punk show, they’d play so quietly that you couldn’t hear them over the hum of the beer cooler. If you wanted a “serious” free jazz show, they’d set up amps & drum kits in different corners of the room & switch “stages” every few minutes, running from one to the other as if their lives depended on it, playing a few noise bursts, then sprinting on to the next. If you wanted to shop at Vintage Vinyl on a Saturday afternoon, they’d get a few dozen of their friends to wander the aisles, playing the descending riff of the “Riddler” theme on acoustic guitars, toy keyboards, or tape recorders (conflict-of-interest alert: I was one of the people doing that). Side A of the 45 is three minutes of almost complete silence, with a few quiet rumblings in the background. Side B has more of the same for a bit, then explodes into a skronk-y kraut-rock workout that abruptly ends before you can even get uncomfortable. I might very well never listen to this record again, but knowing it exists, knowing that I own it, knowing that You Fantastic! were once a thing…man, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
You Fantastic!-Riddler 4 (not on the record in question, but the first part is that descending riff I spoke of. Then it gets weird. Y’know, like I spoke of.)
Sun Bros-Biting Vines (not the song on the flexi, but it’s 4 minutes & 20 seconds long. 4:20, dude!)