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Massacre - Killing Time

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Artist: Massacre

Album: Killing Time

Label: ReR Megacorp

Review date: Mar. 4, 2006

It’s about time this got reissued. I came that close to forking out the exorbitances demanded by certain nameless internet salesfolk, as this album’s legendary status demanded expedited audition. Of all the prog I’ve ever heard that warranted a second listen, any project with multi-instrumentalist/composer/philosopher Fred Frith has to be way up toward the top of the list, with Henry Cow, Art Bears, Skeleton Crew and duos with Chris Cutler just a few branches on his ever growing discographical family tree.

Massacre consisted, at the time of Killing Time, of Frith, Bill Laswell and Fred Maher, the latter two eventually forming Material and having also played with David Allen in New York Gong. Anyone familiar with their output, or with Divided Alien Playbax, will have an inkling of the nervous energy that pervades this disc. Listening to this music, taped at the dawn of the 1980s, during a time of obvious excitement with experimentation and groove, I can nevertheless hear some disillusion in these brief and concise tracks. It is as if everything need be said now, immediately and with venom, before the opportunity to speak is lost. These are not the bleak pronouncements of Art Bears' The World As It Is Today; rather, they are motoric, jangly, dissonant and somehow achingly beautiful as a result, completely deserving of the term “punkjazz” that was thrust upon them. Maybe beauty lies partly in historical reference, such as the nostalgically bubbly guitar work on the title track, much of it tremoloed, tripping over a severe in-seven groove with drumming from Maher that references both Neu! and Captain Beefheart, Laswell chugging and blurping stridently along underneath

In fact, Beefheart may ultimately be the closest point of comparison for this power trio. “Tourism” might have been an updated Trout Mask Replica outtake, a relatively conventional melody vying for prominence amidst bizarre counterpoint and rhythmic complexities galore, all remaining delicate and transparent despite shifts in volume and intensity. By the way, is Maher playing a figure from “Moonlight on Vermont?” Maybe I’m just imagining it.

As perfect as all the musicianship is throughout, Frith is staggering. Only on Agata’s recent disc for Tzadik have I heard so many timbres thrust unceremoniously into such small spaces, and yet, when he’s allowed to stretch out for a moment, the results can send shivers up the spine. Check out the closing moments of “Tourism,” where everyone else stops and Frith slithers and glides along on his own.

The album is put together jump-cut fashion, increasing the sense of dislocation and paranoiacly euphoric energy, and the seven bonus tracks are as good as anything on the original. While Massacre has reformed and cut two platters with the venerable Charles Hayward on drums, the results simply don’t match this deservedly lauded classic. Don’t miss it.

By Marc Medwin

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