[2 September 2014]
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.