Chicago Underground Duo – Axis & Alignment

Chicago Underground Duo
Axis & Alignment

The triangle is under-rated and under-appreciated in the post rock scene, but the Chicago Underground Duo (CUD) are here to rescue it and the cornet from instrumental obscurity. Obviously part of the Tortoise-led cabal, Rob Mazurek, who handles the brass and pianos, and Chad Taylor, who whacks the wacky out of triangles, xylophones, and all manner of percussion tool, have taken on the task of unleashing their third release as a duo, and it’s a fascinating mixture, all produced by mainman John McEntire and Ken Brown.
Lots of empty spaces filled by resonant ringing pervade tack one, “Micro Exit,” a four-minute-plus journey up and down the musical scales. Very fine – and I emphasise the very and the fine – drums bring in “Lifelines,” and here the cornet takes its centre stage. Spacey, beeboppy, and chinga-chinka are all adjectives (or is it adverbs?) that come to mind in terms of sound descriptions, yet there’s always something more behind it than a surface noise. Nowhere near as experimental as say Bohjass’ Chocolate Ice, it’s still outside the musical norm levels (wherever they may lie) but inviting enough to be heard in a chill-out zone early Sunday morning, though it still might fry some brains.
“Two Concepts for the Storage of Light” at over nine minutes is almost certainly the centrepiece. Brushes on the pigskins, a Third Encounters-like keyboard meander, and cymbal thrusts of various sizes lead into the cornet blasts and trills, and surprisingly enough for the post-rock pioneers, there’s actually semblances of constructed melody, though they quickly disappear as the drum beats take over again. It’s here that the CUD come closest to sounding like the old masters of free jazz and fusion, Coltrane and Davis, and that’s what makes it all the more pleasurable to listen to.
When “Noon” rolls around to conclude our voyage, there are enough drifts to launch a blizzard, and yet Axis & Alignment has fulfilled its role in achieving just the right balance between temptation and fulfillment, between expectations and deliverance.