It would be dangerous to simply label Talibam! or Peeesseye improv groups, but it’s certainly integral to both of their unique repertoires. Both demonstrate a deftness that warrant them cream-of-the-crop status, being superlative examples of two completely different strains of the contemporary ‘rock’ and ‘jazz’ cross-pollinations.
I’m tempted to call these two strains “the post-Coltrane” and “the post-Cage.”
If the likes of The Byrds and Carlos Santana could wax about the influence of John Coltrane on their respective modest and minimally-exploratory experiments, then it is not a giant leap of faith to proclaim that the more successful works of Coltrane-inspired rock come from the likes of the more technique-enriched, the jazzers experimenting with rock — The Tony Williams Lifetime being a good example. Then in the post-Cage corner, you have the likes of The Velvet Underground, Can, and Eno. The strength exalted within this group is decidedly more ontological than technique-oriented. There’s no shame in being inspired by either school, but the John Cage kids did a better job of grasping and executing the exploratory than the rock ‘n’ roll Coltrane kids. The extremes on either end are rather obnoxious. Take your pick: do you want an afternoon of listening to Paul Shaffer soloing all over The Brecker Brother’s Heavy Metal Be-Bop, or an afternoon of listening to Phil Lesh brag about how The Grateful Dead’s Anthem of the Sun is ultra-deep musique concrète?
Thankfully, some 40-odd years have passed, and today’s most adventurous musicians are beginning to assimilate these influences tastefully. They’ve seen what kind of sticky territories they might trample upon and have learned from their forefathers’ mistakes. It might be unfair to lump Peeesseye or Talibam! into these categories because of the healthy amount of miscegenation over the years; however, by comparison, Talibam! is more post-Coltrane, and Peeesseye is more post-Cage. You got your balls to the wall in one corner, and your out-of-body/out-of-mind in the other. A collaboration between the two makes an awful lot of sense.
It is hard to discern whether the ‘edits,’ treatments, and sonic manipulations happened after the initial tracks were recorded or on the fly (one mustn’t ever underestimate the inimitable Jamie Fennelly and his laboratory of electronics), and I suppose it doesn’t really matter, either. Is it a jam session? I couldn’t tell you. Pre- or post-production aside, these cats exude aesthetic conscientiousness as much as they embody the free-form. Also, evidence of their forward-thinking/past-revering is the very introduction to this disc, “You Tried to Eat It.” Have you ever wondered what “What I Say” sounded like to Ray Charles when he was out of his mind on smack? Miles Davis would be proud… or maybe he’d be jealous! Herein lies the somewhat unfair jazz-fusion pigeonhole, this track residing somewhere between Miles’ “What I Say” and Ray’s “What I Say.”
Once this riff on the Rhodes is perverted into some serious Raw Power riffage with tweaks and chirps and the finest of Aphexian stutters, there are scant recognizable motifs to latch onto for the rest of the disc. To be fair, there is a moment of Chambers Brothers-esque tick-tocking cowbell, but greatly it’s some seriously unwieldy and irreverent shit. “New Vitality in the Biomass” sounds like a Pentangle raga collaboration with Faust remixed by Morton Subotnik, a huge compliment in my book. “Everything for Everyone” has some beautiful entropic moments, the kind you might expect from a Gameboy coughing up blood. Speaking of entropy, if you are heart- and ear-strong and make it to “A Grey Mountain of Human Shit,” you will be rewarded with some rock ‘n’ roll, or at least what we might define as rock ‘n’ roll in the new reality of being four tracks into a Peeesseye/Talibam! collaboration.
Whose idea was this? These are the kinds of things humans do that turn the fabric of the universe before retracting into the spider’s anus that it came from. Again, this is a compliment, even though I seriously believe these guys are putting us in harm’s way. Aw, crud, I should have saved that line as a description of the last track “Year of the Moral Orgy,” which is freakin’ epic. Have you ever seen Holy Mountain? It’s that kind of stuff.