Music

Rob Mazurek / Exploding Star Orchestra: Galactic Parables Vol. 1

Photo: Paulo Borgia. Courtesy of Cuneiform Records.

Rob Mazurek returns to the perfect musical vehicle for his lofty narratives and massive sound. This time, it's double.


Rob Mazurek / Exploding Star Orchestra

Galactic Parables Vol. 1

Label: Cuneiform
US Release Date: 2015-05-26
UK Release Date: 2015-05-26
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra is built on challenging ground. Assembled from close to a dozen musicians so that they may travel the paths of the jazz cosmos previously mapped out by Sun Ra, "approachable" may be the last word that some listeners will apply to this ensemble. When you factor in Chicago cornetist Rob Mazurek's larger ambitions, you have a genuine puzzle on your hands.

Galactic Parables: Volume 1 is a double album where the same program is performed in two different cities. The nature of the work is "an epic science fiction opera inspired by the writings of Samuel R. Delany and Stanisław Lem", touching on themes like "an apocalyptic vision of alternate universes, machine reproduction run amuck, and the colonization of distant planets." Sounds like a scary mess, doesn't it? In practice though, Galactic Parables can be highly listenable and enticing to the lay listener if they can just treat it as a uniform wash of sound running over them. No, you don't need to be a Lem scholar or a connoisseur of all things Ra. You just need a pair of ears and a brain that can fixate on the big picture, as if the Exploding Star Orchestra were one gigantic instrument. That is, after all, one of their strengths.

The first disc is a recording of a show in Sardegna, Italy, a gig that moved writer Amiri Baraka to admit that he was impressed with the Exploding Star Orchestra's synthesis of the old with the new: "Very shocking, actually, to see how well they absorbed all of that Sun Ra influence and went on to do their own thing." Paying homage to your elders while taking uncharted steps forward is a tricky thing to do, but Mazurek has stumbled upon the perfect vehicle for such a tightrope act with the Exploding Star Orchestra. Within this group, everything melts into everything else. The music of yesterday and the music of tomorrow are thoroughly stirred. The individual musicians step back from their spotlights and recede into the nebula of sound that drifts seemingly to its own whim. Spoken word passages don't take up any more room in the mix than a snare drum or a cavaquinho.

Ticking off the names of Exploding Star Orchestra's impressive roster seems beside the point since the music isn't the least bit ego driven -- but the musicians deserve mention. Nicole Mitchell is on the flute, Matthew Bauder handles reeds, Jeff Parker is on guitar and Angelica Sanchez plays the piano. Drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Matthew Lux hold down the unorthodox rhythms and Guilherme Ganado and Mauricio Takara take turns on various keyboards and samplers. Damon Locks delivers the spoken word passages which are convenient signposts for the start of another movement.

Disc two is the Exploding Star Orchestra playing the same set on their own turf, albeit with different track sequencing and segues. Considering the fact that it takes approximately one hour for the ensemble to perform the work, comparing their Sardegna performance to their Chicago performance feels like hair-splitting. It could be that the two performances just so happened to excel in different areas, prompting Mazurek to just go ahead and include both shows. This is all guesswork, mere speculations dwarfed by the presence of a compelling piece of music residing on a large scale. When the Exploding Star Orchestra comes in for a crash landing to the sound of Locks's back-slapped voice booming "The Arch of Slavery" or "Make Way to the City", the listener can sense something greater than himself/herself coming to roost. It's not the kind of presence that makes one feel insignificant, but the kind that baldly broadcasts the power of big music. There's nothing else quite like it.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Music

Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.

Music

Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.

Music

The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.

Music

Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.

Film

In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?

Music

Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.

Music

Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.

Music

Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring current members of Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.

Music

Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.

Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.