Valerio Cosi Heavy Electronic Pacific Rock

[Digitalis; 2008]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: free jazz, electro-avant, ambient, kraut
Others: Tigersmilk, Toshinori Kondo, Paul Flaherty, Supersilent

What Valerio Cosi coaxes from his saxophone on Heavy Electronic Pacific Rock is unparalleled. Combining oil and water with every saxophone blow and electronic bow, Cosi's captivating sonics sit alongside the greats of experimental musics, blending old styles with a new methodology -- it's so fresh that calling it ‘free’ limits its potential and blemishes the sound. Indeed, while "cacophonous" may be as apt a one-word review ever provided for an album as unbound as Cosi's, it will continuously sell him and HEPR short.

Each of the four tracks occupying the synthesized grooves on HEPR is a study unto itself. Opener "Study for Saxophone and Electronics" sets the table with a 20-minute exposé of looping electro-effects and subdued saxophone, never once straying from its subject matter. When the cyclical strings (think the outro of Beck’s "The New Pollution") begin to push their way in, Cosi turns a morose first half into a swinging second, flipping the track's perspective on its head while providing a new context in which to reassess the function of its introduction.

"Proud (to be Kraut)/A Burning OM: Reprise" is an unexpected combination of German-inspired rhythms with raga- and folk-tinged melodies. The kraut-y beats are as old as Can and Neu! yet as relatable as its modern permutations (Fujiya & Miyagi's "Ankle Injuries" or Wilco's "Spiders") of the genre. This could easily play at a European disco, but this isn't just a simple dance track; the fun truly begins when the music seamlessly transitions into Indian-flavored sax squaws, evoking sweaty bodies moving to the infectious sex beat. Halfway through, the track breaks down into disorder, tearing away dance floor enthusiasts but holding the curious fast to its glossy surface.

HEPR channels everything modern avant has to offer, yet it sounds completely reinvigorated and lively. For once, an artist hasn't settled into a genre for ease's sake; genres now bend to the will of Cosi and his feverish imagination. As shortsighted as it is to try and label Cosi's work, his music reflects the cultural histories of them all -- free jazz, avant-garde, kraut, minimalism, noise -- recontextualizing them in a way that's equally respectful of their spirits.

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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