Cold Bleak Heat Simitu

[Family Vineyard; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: the hated music, free-jazz
Others: Flaherty-Corsano Duo, nmperign, No-Neck Blues Band

A handful of reviewers picked up on the chamber music flourishes in It’s Magnificent, But It Isn’t War, Cold Bleak Heat’s debut recording that was released to great acclaim in 2005. The quartet’s penchant for quivering lyricism and almost cinematic textures is more pronounced on Simitu, their second album.

Bassist Matt Heyner (Test, No-Neck Blues Band) initiates most of the group’s melodic turns, using harrowing arco sweeps to bring the honking and banging of his fellow improvisers to an evocative simmer. Heyner’s also the album’s most responsive player: during saxophonist Paul Flaherty’s Frank Lowe-esque eruptions, Heyner locks into drummer Chris Corsano’s post-hardcore thwacks, adding a sense of cohesion and deadly precision to the band’s perfect storms.

At the other end of the spectrum bleats trumpeter Greg Kelley, the group member most prone to send skittish listeners dashing toward their Keith Jarrett LPs. His rude, sputtering squawks disrupt Flaherty’s lyrical runs and set ablaze Heyner and Corsano’s more subdued interactions. Kelley’s playing made It’s Magnificent difficult to digest in a single sitting, but in Simitu, he makes better use of his background as an abstract electroacoustic improviser, coloring around his bandmates rather than charging right alongside them. He’s particularly impressive in “Should We Destroy the Hubble?” blurting spookily against loose, tremulous rhythms.

The players explore the furthest reaches of their group aesthetic most fully in the 21-minute “Mugged by a Glacier.” Over the track’s duration, we get a pulsing, Philip Glass-ish intro from Flaherty; a murky quasi-funk groove from Corsano and Heyner; ornery free blowing; sensual, bluesy tip-toeing. Here Cold Bleak Heat connect the dots between their diverse musical backgrounds with grace, composure, and logic. There’s more to this outfit than Dionysian braying, and Simitu’s centerpiece goes to astonishing lengths to vilify these men as improvisers of the first degree.

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