Random Touch A Parade of Dusty Hobos

[Roadnoise Productions; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: progressive rock, avant-garde, experimental rock, free jazz
Others: The Residents, Frank Zappa, John Zorn, Marc Ribot

Reviewing A Parade of Dusty Hobos, the fourth full-length from Random
Touch, has proven to be a challenge, as the group play music of the sort that is
extremely difficult to describe, much less to categorize. Granted, the purpose
of a record review is not necessarily to describe or define an album
quantitatively, but it's sometimes difficult to approach a record from the
proper perspective when it seems to exist outside of any individual musical
genre. Fortunately, however, it's begun to seem that, in an era in which the
barriers separating musical genres are being broken down, the actual necessity
of pigeonholing certain types of music seems to be deteriorating as well. One
part jazz, one part "free folk," one part Americana, and one part ambient, A
Parade of Dusty Hobos
is a beautiful, unusual, and often unsettling fusion
of jazz, ambient electronics, and avant-garde guitar experimentations.

Random Touch's James Day and Christopher Brown have both been involved in formal
music study since the early '60s. Brown, the band's percussionist, counts among
his various influences Bela Bartok, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Grateful
Dead, Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, and Sun Ra. Keyboardist Day's
influences include Gyorgy Ligeti, Igor Stravinsky, and Herbie Hancock. Despite
the wide range of diversity demonstrated by these spiritual mentors, each one's
influence is present on A Parade of Dusty Hobos, which also includes
guitarist Scott Hamill, a long-time associate of the band.

The focus on A Parade of Dusty Hobos is on instrumental virtuosity and
technique, coupled with the nuances of modern composition, rather than
traditional melody and songwriting. "Mapping Wordless Gestures," for instance,
is structurally closer to contemporary classical than jazz; while other pieces,
such as "Slowing Down Time," are closer to free jazz in nature (although there
is not a double bass to be found on the record). Random Touch possess the
ability to integrate the various instruments – the guitar, percussion, and
keyboards – in such a way that they feel like components of an classical chamber
ensemble rather than a rhythm section. The influences of modern composers such
as Bela Bartok and Gyorgy Ligeti are also evident through the group's bleak,
almost Slavic ability to create a sense of detached dissonance within the
compositions. Some of the pieces recall the jazz forays of composer Krzysztof
Penderecki or even Frank Zappa's album Jazz from Hell.

One of the most wonderful components of A Parade of Dusty Hobos is Scott
Hamill's magnificent guitar work. His slide guitar playing is reminiscent on
many tracks of Friends of Dean Martinez or possibly Calexico, although much more
avant-garde. Many of the pieces on A Parade of Dusty Hobos even recall
the darker guitar- and keyboard-driven soundtrack works of composer Angelo
Badalamenti (particularly some of his eerie, atmospheric work from the Twin
series), or the two carnival-themed albums by The Residents, Have a
Bad Day and Freak Show

It's probably best to sum up Random Touch's A Parade of Dusty Hobos by
saying that this is a record that one must experience, rather than listen to.
It's original and innovative, and has me yearning to hear more from their back
catalogue, available at


1. Deep in the Heart
2. Where We Come From
3. Tomorrow's Now, Yesterday's Crowded
4. Repose as You Please
5. They Don't Come Around Here Anymore
6. Slowing Down Time
7. A Parade of Dusty Hobos
8. War Chalking
9. Somewhere Else is Home
10. Mapping Wordless Gestures
11. What Chosen Drama
12. Eyeballs Prone, The Missing Soil
13. Bringing it Home
14. Where I was Last Happy

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