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Badland - The Society of the Spectacle

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Artist: Badland

Album: The Society of the Spectacle

Label: Emanem

Review date: Feb. 15, 2006

Steve Reich fashioned a composition out of the proverbial aphorism, “How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life.” Badland put the axiom into public practice, evoking an entire connectivity of histories with a single gesture that is itself only a fragment of a monstrously diverse unfolding. The trio’s newest offering is concentrated and expansive, tipping the nod to multiple influences with a series of microhistorical moments that still exude unified individuality.

No proof is necessary beyond the opening moments of Part One of the title track, sequenced, Boulez style, after Part Two. The “classical” connection is appropriate, as the patterns with which percussionist Steve Noble opens the proceedings are focused, loosely proportional and juxtaposed with authoritative silences in the manner of Varese or even of Zappa; a vague Orientalism deepens the illusory mystique of early 20th century panglobalism. A reflective silence ensues, only to be shattered, irreparably, by a jump-cut into some uhr-swing, implied but never completed by a quasi-rhetorical pattern on ride; bassist Simon Fell doesn’t exactly walk, but his rhythmic spikes belie deep listening and the half-homage of improvisational camaraderie. Simon Rose breathes Ayleresque fire through a saxophone soaked, but not drowning, in vibrato and collective musical recollection.

The slow build to fury is one of the things for which Badland has been justly praised, and “Part Two” of the title track rumbles and rises to a brilliant frenzy. More then anything though, Society of the Spectacle exudes luminous silence, huge vistas of space through which structures appear and submerge. “Reeds in the Western World”, a stunning vehicle for Rose, begins with such vast plains of no-sound. Rose is panned to the right, so that even when his Coltranesque utterances begin to shrill, blat and growl, silence hovers expectantly in the wings, only to be completely dispelled when Fell and Noble kick in, jazz style, at the zenith of Rose’s solo.

This disc is the most satisfying Badland offering so far, both for the excellence and commitment in the playing and for the freshness with which each moment moves to the next. Sixty-six minutes flew by, and I’m eagerly awaiting more entries in this trio’s brief discography.

By Marc Medwin

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