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CD review: Great Architect 

The Deal: Sonic con-/recon-/decon-/de-struction from local noise alchemists' self-titled CD, released on Kinnikinnik Records on Sept. 22, 2009.

The Good: What's the musical equivalent of a thousand-yard-stare? A dissociative fugue? A Ritalin meltdown? Wild animals stalking human prey in busy urban centers? Passing into the white light? Local experimental outfit Great Architect's debut suggests several possible answers, most of them highly palatable. Featuring members of tenspeed and Black Congo NC, the quartet blends elements from those disparate acts – free-form blowing, melodic drone, polyrhythms, benga-flavored guitar, sampled exotica – into nine instrumental passages that manage to challenge and comfort. Reedsman Brent Bagwell states melodic ideas, then frantically subverts them by breaking them down into smaller, noisier components that ricochet against Bob Fields' sampled loops, which run the gamut from bagpipes-like bellows to video game noise. Drummer Michael Houseman whips tempos into heady froths or shades them with percussive colors, sometimes even simultaneously. Ben Kennedy's cello and violin (usually more fiddle than Stradivarius) etch composition contours like linocut knives. Many moments here leave you pie-eyed: the melody Bagwell states on tenor at the opening of "Cosmic Rays" reminds one of Coltrane's hymnal "Alabama"; the tumultuous crescendo-skronk of "Mr. Burton" is practically decapitating; "Snowsuit" goes from one or two quiet flakes to full sonic blizzard and back again; the jaunty breakdown in "Soledad" would probably make Mingus smile.

The Bad: "Point of Dynamics," surprisingly, could use more; the track seems in search of something it never finds. Fields is new to guitar, and there are occasions when that's apparent.

The Verdict: Available on vinyl with very handsome artwork indeed, exclusively at Lunchbox Records.

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