Issue 241, March 2004
Mahogany Throttle – Traverse
This speedy guitar-twanging trio from Milwaukee are melodic enough to avoid some of the math-rock pitfalls. In other words, they don’t sound like science nerds playing Black Sabbath’s “Wheels Of Confusion”. Still, the lunge and swerve of their music have an undeniably familiar quality. For all the concentrated fretboard activity, they sound like a drummer’s outfit, with plenty of opportunity for flamboyant fills and rugged displays of stamina. The guitarist tends to follow the drummer’s lead, shadowing his rhythms with riffs and melodies. The balance leans more towards considered playing than high speed bluster but it’s not enough to prevent this from running to a standstill, particularly as Mahogany Throttle aren’t able to resolve how to play freeform music within such tight, self-imposed restraints. -Tom Ridge
Chora Ensemble – Chicago Blow-Out
Initially unpromising, this grows steadily in stature as the seven quintet improvisations develop. Consisting of John Mitchell and Chris Warland on saxaphones, Jason Wietlispach on bass clarinet, Marc Laurick bass and Jim Stamison on drums. Chora Ensemble play a quietly meditative music that builds ideas round drones and slow pulses. gradually adding detail until there is a kind of aural catastrophe, spinning the individual voices out into separate orbits. There, it has to be said, most pieces self-destruct. These are relative unknowns from the Milwaukee ambit of Soutrane Recordings; Wietlispach is also featured (on reeds, laptop and lap steel) on “Johnson Creek” (also on Soutrane), an album of of electronic manipulations which helps put the jazzier language of “Chicago Blow Out” into a more understandable context. -Brian Morton
Mildew – Mildew
No information to be gleaned about this improv looping duo but there are a number of promising moments on “Mildew”, along with a certain amount of arid monotony. Titles like “Twigs Used As Toothbrushes” and “Do -It-Yourself Yeti Scalp” give some clue as to their impish intentions, as well as locating their aesthetic firmly in the mould of Steve Stapleton, but they lack their mentor’s baffling surrealist skill, striking gold on only a couple of occasions. Fortunately, one of these is the 15 minute “40,000 Pairs Of Hands”, a muddy mess of bedroom jamming but full of good sounds nonetheless. Elsewhere their piffling noise vignettes fail to take. -Keith Moline
Shepherd Express Metro-
Volume 24, Issue 39
by Jason Keil
Mahogany Throttle’s second CD, the all-instrumental Traverse (released on local label Soultrane Records), is jammed to the hilt with raw organic guitar riffs and ragged tempo changes. It accurately shows their reverence to such 1970s progressive greats as Genesis and Yes, but turns into an unconventional alternative direction that fits the mold of many independent bands playing right now.
The three-piece band creates an operatic rock environment that is rhythmically sound yet sometimes lapses into moments when the listener thinks the disc is skipping. These occur more often than one would like, but never make things dull as the album’s rapid pace remains engaging. The true beauty and contradiction of Traverse is that despite its frantic styling, the sound can be ignored if desired. This shouldn’t be seen as a detriment but a testament to its smoothness and non-intrusiveness. Like a great jazz album, Traverse is so layered that it can work on many levels, whether as background music or to invite musical dissection of its blossoming sound.
Signal To Noise-
Milwaukee-based soutrane recording co. is one of the latest contenders in the steadily increasing realm of DIY experimental music labels. utilizing minimalist, homemade packaging and production values to their fullest extent (these two cd-rs come in spray-painted and stickered jewel cases), soutrane offers yet another alternative to the mass-produced conformity of the commercial music business. the byard lancaster trio disc will be a true delight for fans of the renowned free jazz reedman. though surprisingly short in length (~23 minutes), the 1999 session not only captures lancaster in some of his finest, most ecstatic moments, but also submits the rarity (at least on record) of an ensemble led by the streetwise saxophonist. lancaster guides his rhythm section (bassist dave gelting and drummer jon mueller) through a collection of blues and folk-tinged themes that act as springboards for freedom-bound improvisations. whether overdubbing languorous bass clarinet sermons on “song #2″ or reveling in Gelting and Mueller’s uncertain funk on “song #4″, lancaster constructs vintage-hued manifestos of spontaneity and grace that will only help solidify his legendary stature.
field of sound is an entirely different undertaking that illustrates the label’s eclectic reach. working in what might be labeled a “post-rock” milieu, the ensemble mixes electronic and acoustic sound generators under a heavy umbrella of studio processing to create a tasteful ambiance reminiscent of tortoise at their least meticulous moments. floating guitars, keyboards, clarinets and a profusion of additional instruments all blend together in a primordial decadence that reaches its most fully realized ends on “out this window”, the trippy “strong beat w/ clear cymbal” and “byard piece” – an extension of the byard lancaster trio disc that adds staticky electronica to the trio’s fleshy extemporization. whilst a few of the pieces tend to drag on a bit too long (“clarinet intro”, “loop”), field of sound still presents strong evidence of an ensemble that completely lives up to its name.
Issue 203 Jan. 2001
Castle Broadway- Live 1967 Oakland
Field of Sound- s.t.
Byard Lancaster Trio- s.t.
1967 is a postal address, not a date, and the Oakland is an avenue in Milwaukee. Both groups (Field of Sound, Castle Broadway) make alluring music with a trippy shimmer redolent of krautrock’s outer reaches. Field of Sound dances on the verge of the nebulous, tracing patterns through haze. The piano grants Castle Broadway a more tangible center of gravity yet the drift is still serene. A surprising guest on Field of Sound is altoist Byard Lancaster, who played with arcana in the 1990′s and with Sonny Murray’s quintet in the 60′s. The Trio album teams his saxophone and bass clarinet with Gelting and Muellar. Not exactly on a par with Tony Williams and Bill Laswell, or Murray and Alan Silva, but Lancaster holds things together across four ‘songs’, lasting in total 23 minutes, and has fun along the way.
Vol.22 Issue 07 2001
Mahogany Throttle-Push Forward For Speed
Chicago has long been home to some of the finest expressions of musical experimentalism. Over the last decade, the city’s roots in industrial (Ministry), avant-jazz (AACM) and post-punk (Big Black) have inspired new directions and convergences, in turn spurring on a generation of instrumental rock bands following in the wake of Tortoise and Gastr del Sol. Proximity to the metropolis has inevitably stirred the juices of Milwaukee musicians. The recent four-day “Post-Everything” music festival at the Cactus Club attested to the growing participation of locals in the outer reaches of rock. On probably the festival’s loudest night, the Mahogany Throttle shared the stage with the equally raucous Insidious and The Danglers. The three piece of David White (guitar), Brent Budsberg (bass) and John Gleisner (drums) proved up to the task, firing off shards of frenetically paced riffage, inspired as much by Sonic Youth as King Crimson. Perhaps what separates Mahogany Throttle most from its heavy-duty contemporaries is their interest in using amplified instruments not only for their visceral, emotional impact, but also for their ability to provoke visual narratives. The group creates tightly structured pieces that shift through various time signatures and textural modes, slowly developing in a way more closely related to cinematic structure than to pop music. Parallels to other art forms seem apt considering their backgrounds: White also works in film and Budsberg is a highly-regarded conceptual sculptor. Both their art and music show a propensity to make smart work without being overly academic. While the filmic/theatric sensibilities of Yes and Genesis have no doubt inspired the band, they steer clear of the bombast of their forebears by taking a more barebones punk-rock approach. “If we had vocals, we probably wouldn’t be singing about magical fairies,” jokes Gleisner. Mahogany Throttle’s sensitivity to guitar texture is represented well on their first album Push Forward for Speed, now available on the local experimental Soutrane Records. The album was recorded by Bill Curtis in a one-day marathon session at the Love Loft, The Danglers’ Riverwest home studio. Curtis, a local sound engineer who has worked in the past with Victor DeLorenzo, designs and builds his own microphones and pre- amplifiers which the band used exclusively on the album. This grass roots approach is evident on an album that features only one overdub and all first takes. All of the songs maintain the group’s live interplay and harmonic density.
Issue 130 May 1999
Castle broadway- Raymond Carverland
Three years in the making, Castle Broadways debut lp is an intriguing new addition to the landscape of experimental ambience. Apart from a brief nod to ine of the genre’s founders, Brian Eno, on the aptly titled “Hollowing Out and Sinking,” the collaborative project charts its own atmospheric course, making sure to throw in the proverbial kitchen sink along the way. Reeds are the main iInstrument of choice, particularly alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet, but the band also manage to find room for wurlitzer and farfisa organs, xylophone and e-bow. These are layered on top of some soft, sneaky bass lines and a smooth smattering of percussion. The results are mostly spare, hypnotic wanderings, each as tightly crafted and scrupulously honed as the short stories of the album title’s namesake author. At it’s best, the record evokes the great Jazz film scores of the 60′s- a perfect accompaniment to a moody thriller that was never made. Were it not for the first two tracks, which bear little resemblance to the rest of the album, and thus detract from the overall effect, this would have been a near-perfect debut. At the very least, Raymond Carverland announces the arrival of an extremely talented new group of musicians. Best of all, it promises a sophomore disc worthy of rapt anticipation.
issue 124 nov 98
Castle broadway 7″ep
Each song here is wonderful in a different way. The echo-soaked “Raymond Carverland” evokes John Coltrane’s 4 a.m. Comin’-down-from-h daze; “In search Of the Miraculous” finds what the title implies, copping the achingly beautiful, minimalist tune of Spaceman 3′s “Hypnotized.” The other cuts make subtle, inventive use of bass clarinet, alto sax, flute, moog, turntable and drum machine. This 7-inch is a quiet classic. -Dave Segal
issue 35 jul/aug 98
Castle broadway 7″ep
A sound lasagna whose flavors range from Sonic Youth-ian noise layering to Freewheeling woodwind jams, Castle Broadway reanimates the spirit of Sun Ra inside the rigorous corpus of progressive music. “Raymond Carverland” is a reverb-laden mood painting that sounds inspired by that author’s loneliest characters; a flight through “Pabst Blue Skies” is an intoxicating weave of dreamy, dyspeptic grunge. Jazzy and trippy, Bone Canopy is a thoroughly pleasurable four-songer that sounds best on a cheap turntable, one that accentuates wow and flutter.
Other reviews have said:
Ptolemaic Terrascope said about Raymond Carverland:
“The music is an ambient Dose of beautifully observed improvised jazz exploration.”
Milk issue #32 said about Raymond Carverland:
“Surprisingly cool…….deft Without being overblown…..a mature sense of space and dynamics.”
Monica Kendrick of the Chicago Reader wrote of Castle Broadway’s s.t. release:
“Lovely, slow-growing variants on space drone and genuinely warm jazz. Though It’s not the least bit icy, Castle Broadway’s delicacy brings to mind the third stream as much as post-rock, sound-track-era Popul Vuh or anything more Au Courant.”