Cavity Fang – Urban Problems (2013)

Cavity Fang sprung from the fertile mind of keyboardist and composer Michael Coleman. Already leading Arts & Sciences, Enjoyer and participating in the collective threesome Beep, Coleman could hardly need to take on another project, but when he imagined the possibilities of something truly unique from working with not one but three exceptional drummers presented itself, it was just too good to pass up.

Those drummers — Jordan Glenn, Hamir Atwal and Sam Ospovat — shared in that epiphany and Coleman charged ahead composing the entire album covered here. Sequenced in the same order, too. Enlisting guitarist Ava Mendoza and Cory Wright on baritone sax and flute, Cavity Fang came into being.

Their debut album Urban Problems does accomplish Coleman’s mission of making jazz contorted into a rarely-heard shape, so much so, it’s almost jazz by default because it’s too hard to call it anything else. And it’s not in the way you might expect with there being a trio of drummers and all; this isn’t a beat-dominant record.

Coleman eschews orthodox song structure in favor of hypnotically repetitive figures that plod, evolve or corrode into something else, and without warning, take sharp, unexpected turns. It’s like Texas weather, if you don’t like where the song is headed, just wait a minute. Coleman leads from behind, but his lo-fi choice of vintage keyboards sets the tone for music that isn’t tied to trends but does connect to so many styles: post-rock, free jazz, alt rock, blues rock and African tribal music. And Henry Cow, too.

“Dreamzzz” reveals the progressive nature of Coleman’s composing style: Mendoza and Wright play competing lines of same melodic development, as Glenn (on vibes) offers a harmonic counterpoint. Just when the song begins to get too absorbed, Coleman’s coarse electric piano leads it into a brief but well-time groove. Much of “Average Shopper” is a syncopated rhythm, with an organ, guitar and baritone sax on different threads of the same melody, all using abrasive and somewhat spooky tones. A false ending leads right into a churchy organ and trippy chanting by a choir of eight.

“Prelude to Rara” is where the unbridled use of percussion we expected all along does occur, the jungle beats segueing right into “Rara.” There, it hastens into a rapid pace, with a wiggy, jiggly guitar, nervous baritone sax and pulsing electric piano all rain down single, repeating notes over the runaway rhythm. “Droopy-Eyed Monster Shuffle” is good crunchy fun, a rollicking shuffle given character by a Halloween organ, a dirty blues guitar and a menacing baritone sax.

When Urban Problems is all done playing, I’m left wondering what I just listened to. That’s because of the need to put music into the neat little, clearly labeled boxes. Cavity Fang rebels against that. While my mind goes about trying to fit those square pegs into round holes, my ears don’t mind at all: it’s too busy enjoying all these alien sounds.

Urban Problems goes on sale July 2 by Table And Chairs Records. Visit Cavity Fang’s website for more info.

*** PURCHASE URBAN PROBLEMS HERE ***

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron