Combat Astronomy, Flak Planet, Zond, zond03CD (2011)
Stars Wars it ain’t without George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic company that does all the pyrotechnical special effects but Martin Archer’s intense avant-garde jazz / post-metal / industrial band supplies enough sonic ordnance for the imagination to take off on a virtual journey into long tours of intergalactic warfare. Generations of human cannon fodder are sent into hostile alien terrain with a mix of technologies spanning the centuries to hunt out and kill enemy combatants who also resort to any weapons and fighting methods they can, from slinging stones to flying circular metal saws to the latest laser stun-guns that send out slivers of light to blind soldiers and render them helpless and burdensome to their own forces. (It’s not killing the enemy soldiers that hinders the enemy, it’s leaving them incapacitated to force the enemy to divert resources to patching up their guys that creates the greater burden.) Gritty low-end bass guitar rhythms, massive pounding drums and loud blaring horns define CA’s style and push the melodies all the way. Imagine that Metallica saw the light and decided they didn’t need to sing any more or (shudder) hire Lou Reed but instead took on some trumpeters and just played free-form improv jazz thrash metal from now on – well, they might get some of their old fans from thirty years ago back!
It’s not just heavy grinding music but this recording can be very swanky and tough as the title track demonstrates with a stern steely bass riff laying down the law for lots of horn screech and scrabbly melody fragments. Along the way the musicians use and abuse an astonishing variety of instruments from banging piano (“Zona”), all manner and forms of woodwinds, organ, electronics and handheld percussion. For all the apparent cacophony, there is definitely an intuitive structure to the tracks: even on “Zona”, the ivory abuse turns out to be a repeating motif.
And in case you think this is all storm and fury, “Infinity Decay” will be a surprise: the general style of the track is still albeit with an underlying menace like that of a panther stalking its prey and preparing for the moment to leap. The piece segues gracefully into the quartet of tracks collected under “Inverted Universe” which on the whole is a steady rhythmic chug-along that builds tension by layering melody, texture and beats, and lets it come to a calm resolution and fade-out. What began with a fierce and heavy storm of brash brass instruments, pounding drums and a grinding gravelly rhythm transforms into a restrained, yet not quite fully tamed, force of energy and strength. No prolonged tours of duty for these guys.