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Chicago Underground Duo

Locus

(Northern Spy; US: 25 Mar 2014; UK: 31 Mar 2014)

Experimental Chicago Jazz

Experimental jazz musicians Rob Mazurek and Chad Taylor have been together in various incarnations during the past 17 years, but when it’s just the two of them, they are the Chicago Underground Duo. They both play multiple instruments. On Locus, Mazurek handles cornet, synth, Game Boy, electronics, bamboo flute, and vocals. Yes, that’s right—Game Boy. But as its sound merges with the electronica, the noise if the Nintendo device becomes just another layer in this dense, adventurous disc. Taylor contributes percussion on drums, mbira, guitar and balaphone to keep the jazz moving ahead until what seems like a seamless machine from the future’s past runs out of steam and the songs end. There are nine compositions, most of them self-penned, and none run more than five-and-a-half minutes. The longest ones, “House of the Axe” and “Kabuki”, are less chaotic and more atmospheric than the shorter pieces, but they are still governed by motion thanks to Taylor’s pounding tempos.


The method to the duo’s musical madness happens in the studio as they record and then overdub and graft other noises to the recordings. Live, the two of them sometimes handle more than one instrument at a time. Here, it is not always clear who is doing what, but there is always something going on. What may seem like improvisation becomes a particular point or a place—a locus. While identifying the exact location may be impossible, the music does seem to move according to mathematically defined circumstances. 

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Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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Related Articles
14 May 2012
Cornetist Rob Mazurek and percussionist Chad Taylor have been at this Chicago Underground thing for a long time now, yet they still sound refreshingly bizarre.
7 Apr 2010
When the music starts to fade, it’s like a ghost has left the room. Something is missing, but you were never quite sure what exactly was there in the first place.
6 Mar 2006
Both members have moved on to more populous and exotic locales, but the Duo's hybrid of jazz instrumentation and compositional tenets with post-rock production techniques still resonates with a distinctly Chicagoan state of mind.
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