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Hexlove-Falouah - Free Jazz From Slavery

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Artist: Hexlove-Falouah

Album: Free Jazz From Slavery

Label: Weird Forest

Review date: Sep. 5, 2008

On the double LP Free Jazz From Slavery, Zac Nelson makes a bet that his shimmering drone and spastic free expression complement each other. Though every track is granted ace warm production, it’s staggering how wildly the album shifts from Nelson screaming over drum ramblings to Popol Vol-esque soundscapes.

Such eclecticism isn’t ill-advised, per se. Folks from The White Album down have made jarring inter-album moves without drawing negative attention to the lack of sustained tone. The upside is a created sense of true exploration, and the most successful albums of this sort give the feeling that the good couldn’t have come without the indulgences.

There are plenty of indulgences on Free Jazz From Slavery, and the shame is that they seem unnecessary. Taken on their own, tracks like “Grump Up The Volume” are pleasant enough, with Nelson injecting bits of outsider vocalizations into Animal Collective-lite percussive backdrops. These songs can either be catchy, fascinating, or annoying as hell, and they’re mostly enjoyable, if far from remarkable. If this were all the album had to offer, it’d be curious but forgettable.

But damned if Nelson doesn’t make some of the most gorgeous ambient music I’ve heard this year. It hits like a less futurist Fax compilation. These songs take those records’ yearning stasis and lend an earthiness that makes the other half of Free Jazz feel detached and comparatively disposable. The entirety of the second LP is given over to these tracks, and were it a stand-alone release, it’d be a shoo-in for end of the year lists.

“Exits Very Damp” is a stand out, combining David Behrman experiments with the aesthetic of the Em label’s steel drum series. The album closes with the side-long “Psychopomp,” which sounds like Touch’s Spire albums recorded in a bedroom, rather than vast medieval churches. At this point, two sides away from the clutter of the first LP, the successes of Hexlove-Faloulah inevitably shine untainted.

By Brad LaBonte

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