Album review

Avant-Garde Of Honour

The "In The Fish Tank" series is the brainchild of Dutch label Konkurrent. The concept is straightforward. While playing shows in Holland, Konkurrent invite bands to record new material ("in the tradition of jazz") with the following guidelines: they are only allowed two days' studio time to lay down "20 to 30 minutes" of whatever they please, to 24 tracks.

After collaborations between Low/Dirty, Willard Grant Conspiracy/Telefunk and Tortoise/The Ex, In The Fish Tank No 9 is a three-way studio fest between Jim O'Rourke, Steve Shelley, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth (with additional percussion from William Winant), Ab Baars, Hans Bennink and Wolter Wierbos from Dutch jazz outfit ICP, and Luc and Terrie from New Zealand noise-rock unit The Ex.

The resulting eight tracks explore territory that will be familiar to Sonic Youth fans who bought the band's SYR EPs and kept abreast of solo projects by Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. In particular, much of this CD will remind you of Moore's work with Nels Cline.

There are also throwbacks to the John Coltrane of Ascension, to Albert Ayler at his most blistering, to Ornette Coleman, as well as to contemporary avant-jazz players such as Evan Parker and Derek Bailey.

The terrific closing track, with its horns, lumbering bass rumble and classic Sonic Youth fretwork, sounds not unlike the kind of stuff the Youth were playing when they started out. The rest of the album teases, prods and jousts with the listener as squalls of guitar, brass and percussion cut in and out with taut ferocity.

A fine album for Sonic Youth die-hards, lovers of all things avant-garde and jazz nuts.

Rating: 4 / 10


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