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Guillermo E. Brown
SOUL AT THE HANDS OF THE MACHINE
(THIRSTY EAR)

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Drummer Brown has traded time with serious avant-garde jazz guys (William Parker, Matthew Shipp, David Ware) and electro-jazzheads (Shipp and Spring Heel Jack). Soul at the Hands of the Machine is a mix thatís everywhere and nowhere. Brown lays down the clubby beats, both electric and organic (his trap kit gets a good workout throughout the album). And thereís every kind of glitchy noise and big booming bass. But if the electro-jungle ó from DJ Spooky to BT ó is about anything, itís about production, about creating a deep soundstage, a suspended, timeless present. Or Brown could take things in the other direction ó jazz ó and draw our attention to a soloist focal point and something approaching song form.

Instead, we get the worst of both worlds. On "Manganese," the drumbeat and a static piano vamp stay right up front in the mix while an alto saxophone labors somewhere off in the æther. There are some nice effects here and there with processed vocals speaking some invented shortwave tongue, where Brown seems almost ready to let go of the beat and float all the way into the illbient. But when Afro-Cuban percussion drifts by, youíre likely to yearn for Kip Hanrahan or Cubanismo, and when the wah-wah guitars and echoey trumpet start yakking, you might begin to wonder whether Miles Davis didnít do the whole thing a lot better in 1972.

BY JON GARELICK

Issue Date: April 11 - 18, 2002
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