Jazz guitarist Eric Hofbauer dials back his bizarre tendencies as he forms a new band that sounds almost too competent.
Last year's American Fear! portrayed jazz guitarist Eric Hofbauer as a deconstructionist, a word I use in the most flattering sense. Here was a solo guitar album that mercilessly minced up the music of Van Halen, Tears for Fears and Nirvana, while making his originals sound equally ramshackle. With Hofbauer's quartet the Infrared Band, it's a different story. Speaking comparatively to Eric Hofbauer's unaccompanied melodic bending, the music of Level is more easy-peasy and plane-Jane. Everything is much more tonal and linear when he writes for saxophonist Kelly Roberge, bassist Sean Farias and drummer Miki Matsuki. Apart from "Surely Some Revelation...", which begins like a Michael Hedges approximation and then turns to a horn line that recalls the late Calder Spanier, Level can stand to be weirder. Perhaps this new band is currently searching for a chemistry to sow future seeds of discord and deconstruct. At the moment though, the Infrared Band's member's professionalism stands as their defining characteristic, with not a bum note in sight. I think they should hit a few while they can.