RIYL: The Chicago Underground Collective, the Birdman soundtrack

Label: Thrill Jockey

This is another record Thrill Jockey decided to re-issue for Record Store Day this year and at the time of this writing, there’s only eighteen copies remaining. That Sam Prekop record I wrote up yesterday is sold out now and I’d like to think it’s because of you readers! I don’t think it’s too farfetched to say you readers might come through again and have these remainders gone rather soon. Another characteristic that makes this situation unique is that this is one of a mere handful of jazz records Sly has written up, and I’m sure I can count on one hand the amount of jazz records I’ve written up here. Boca Negra, recorded in the sweltering Brasil, brings you back to those chilly winter nights. This is jazz with a few experimental twists, namely dubby ones, and this is something that will make you feel more intelligent purely by having it on your speakers. Grab some coffee, or a martini, and kick back. Listen to a stream of Boca Negra (Black Mouth) below via the Spotify player, or by clicking the Buy Now button, and see what you think of it. Cheers!

The Details

Boca Negra is the 5th release of the critically acclaimed Chicago Underground Duo and 10th release by the Chicago Underground Collective. As with the previous four Duo records it contains both composed and improvised music. The recording contains powerful grooves along with ambient sound structures, folk song simplicity and polyrhythmic bursts of energy with lyrical melodic vignettes. It also combines high energy music with slow moving ballads. Boca Negra was recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil at Rocha Studios making it the first record not created in Chicago. It is also the first record that contains a “cover”, that being Ornette Coleman’s “Broken Shadows”. This record has been three years in the making and took so long to make due partly to both Chad and Rob’s frantic touring schedules (Rob is the leader of the Exploding Star Orchestra, Sao Paulo Underground, Mandarin Movie, and more while Chad performs with Iron and Wine, Marc Ribot, and so forth).

The title “Boca Negra” means “Black Mouth”, a term coined in the Tenerife Canary Islands evoking the idea of an endless intake of information and also harks to the mouth of the volcano Tiede. The cover photo of the record was taken at the Dead Sea. Keeping those two things in mind, one of the goals of the record was to present the listener with the familiar in unfamiliar ways. “Broken Shadows” for instance, has Chad playing the drums and vibraphone simultaneously. He plays just the A section or verse while Rob plays the bridge section or chorus of the tune. The form is repeated over and over but some times the bridge is elongated, sometimes it is shortened and sometimes it is skipped all together, evoking the idea of “Broken Shadows”. There are improvisations that sound like composed songs in which Chad’s mbira and Rob’s cornet are played through various filters often times sounding like different instruments all together and composed songs that sound like improvisations of folk songs. “Confliction” was probably the most difficult song to record. The bass line flows with ease but the time signature varies between 17/8 and 4/4. As with previous records the goal was not to show virtuoso technique, but rather to present the listener with an emotional experience that transcends the idea of genre or label.

Boca Negra was produced by the inimitable Matt Lux. Matt is the bass player for Iron and Wine, Isotope 217, Mandarin Movie and the Exploding Star Orchestra. Matt and Chad have know each other over 20 years and Chad has said that it was Matt who originally got him interested in playing the drums, so both Rob and Chad were honored to have him on board. Most of the sounds on the record which are not the drums or cornet were programed with computer software. This is the first record in which Chad utilized his programing skills (the previous four records had Rob using his computer).

Chicago Underground Duo has been part of a new generation of music improvisers that emerged in Chicago in the 1990’s. Their live shows have often been described as astounding and they plan to tour both the U.S. and abroad this summer in support of the new record.

Price $13

Listen on Spotify

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