Rob Mazurek’s Black Cube Marriage – Astral Cube (2017)

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Last time we checked up on Rob Mazurek, we found him at a bookstore in a remote, West Texas outpost. Just before getting together with Thollem McDonas in Marfa, the cornetist, composer and electro-acoustic maestro found kindred spirits elsewhere in Texas.

Marriage is a quintet out of Austin that goes against the grain even in that weird town, best described as a bunch of drums, a lot of amplification and spooky electro noises; ‘experimental’ is almost too pedestrian an adjective for them. Somehow, Mazurek found them, jammed with them and annexed them into his São Paulo Underground Trio with Mauricio Takara (drums, cavaquinho, voice) and Guilherme Granado (keyboards, synths, sampler, voice), to form Black Cube Marriage. They’re joined by a couple of other Austinites, Jonathan Horne on guitar and saxophone, and Steve Jansen (tapes, guitar). Together, they made this album Astral Cube, now available from El Paraiso Records.

Black Cube Marriage shares some Brazilian heritage with Black Cube SP, which was an expansion of the São Paulo Underground Trio to include more musicians from Brazil such as Thomas Rohrer. This new version of Black Cube is noisier, spacier and a little further off the rails. Nonetheless, the music often sounds like SPUT at its core with layers of surrealistic electro-acoustic piled onto them by the Austin guys adding their own weirdness to it, such as on “Magic Sun Ray.”

“Spectral Convergence Wing” broods in a no-man’s land between randomness and a Brazilian groove, and before it comes to resolution, the slightly demented dirge “Fractal Signal Clone” suddenly commences, as if the needle skipped to the next track. Mazurek’s desolate cornet makes one its few appearances on the record.

The only extensive track is “Syncretic Illumine,” a song that begins gaunt but develops into a jam that features Horne’s soprano saxophone, and might actually be ‘normal’ but for the dissonance and alien sounds that emanate from the rear. As it fades, the trippy Carnival ride “Psychic Tremble” surfaces, a thick mass of noise that has little form but much character. “Ecliptic Wave Burst” rides on a rock bass line but Brötzmann primal expressions spew forth from that soprano sax and a tornado of tapes and electronic growls whirl around it all.

The bigger Rob Mazurek’s ensembles get, the more metaphysical the music (Exploding Star Orchestra, anyone?) and the eleven member Black Cube Marriage stays true to that theorem but does it with its own unique collision of styles. Astral Cube is the latest in a long line of Mazurek projects that demonstrates the leader’s great ability to bring divergent talent together for a chaotic yet cathartic sonic experience.


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
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