Friday, March 16, 2012

Ilitch is Kraut for Jam Band

Disaster Amnesiac has been stone digging the Beta-lactam-issued CD by Ilitch, La Maieutique De La Quantique (Quantum Maieutics), and pondering the development of jam-based guitar music over the past several decades. I keep coming back to the issue of how deep a well the Kosmiche/Space Rock continuum has been for so long, how much of an influence, recognized (by some) or not (by many), the whole spaced-out guitar/electronics jammy vibe has been on musical culture.This CD is most definitely in that vein, and most definitely great.
Reading from Beta-lactam's web page, I am told that Thierry Muller has been doing this sort of thing since the 1970's. I seem to recall seeing his face on one of those cool cards that Galactic Zoo Dossier makes for guitar players, but up until now, that has been the extent of Disaster Amnesiac's hearing of the man.  I am happy to have heard his music.
The songs on the CD are live, in-studio improvisations, jammed out on guitars, electronics, synthesizers, and drums.There is most assuredly a Kosmiche feel to the tunes, but newer, post-Kraut influences, such as Zeuhl and Electronic/IDM are also heard. One of the more satisfying aspects of the Jam Band approach is the willful mixing of styles to form interesting aggregates, and Ilitch does this to great effect on La Maieutique.
Muller's advanced guitar playing leads and guides the proceedings. Seeing as that Ilitch is his band, this stands to reason. His playing sound is dark, very "electronic" and heavy (as opposed to, say, "Bluesy" or "Jazzy"), and quite big. He gets a lot of great sounds from his axe. He never turns the tunes into mere showcases for his chops, but his guitar does indeed wail and scream within them. That said, there is never a feeling of show off excess or the dreaded "taste". He builds up big walls of electrical sound and dredges up big chunks of grungy tone. His aesthetic approach sounds solid to this listener. He is also listed as playing keyboards. His style on keys is sounds just as raw as his guitar does. Not a lot of noodling from him there, either.
Going along for the ride with Muller on the top side of things are Fred Nipi on modular system noises and Patrick Muller on electrosonics and synthesizers. They provide all manner of cool electronic sounds and colors to complement Thierry's guitar playing. It's a bit tough to discern who does what with which, but the cool gatefold image of the CD cover shows a table with a ton of Moog, Skychord, and other systems' electronic doo-dads. Much distorted electronic whirring, shimmering, bleeping and blorping ensues throughout the recording. Needless to say, Disaster Amnesiac really likes these types of sounds. 
Drummer Franq de Quengo does a find job of pushing the big jam rhythms when the tunes  need that, or utilizing smaller percussive coloration when they are called for. His drumming approach seems to draw from polyglot sources; at times one is reminded of Zappi of Faust fame, at others of FM Einheit or any number of Industrial found sound percussionists. His kit playing features a kind of loose, circular, polyrhythmic approach.  It is refreshing to hear a drummer who can stutter with the rhythm, as he does once or twice on the CD, yet get around it and continue on. Disaster Amnesiac is a big fan of honesty in music, and these captured, un-perfect moments, suit me just fine.
The arc and pace of La Maieutique are quite cool. The disc starts slow and contemplative, drives and rocks for the next half, and then cools off and chills out for the remainder. All the while, the listener is treated to the sounds of musicians listening to, and playing off of, each others' ideas. Despite being all-instrumental, La Maieutique has the feel of a story being told. It all sounds finely engineered, too. The sounds are big, bold, and nicely mixed throughout.
Disaster Amnesiac hopes that by describing Ilitch as a jam band he has not offended those who may be put off by such a description. I just feel like the band produces their jammy psych in such a was as to give dignity to the term. Ilitch quite simply kicks out the jams. The fact that they draw from sources so much different from the typical Jam Band pallet makes them that much more compelling.

No comments: