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Album Review: Many Arms - Many Arms

Album Review: Many Arms - Many Arms

Recent signees to John Zorn’s famously experimental Tzadik label, Many Arms are a free-jazz-circa-punk rock trio whose new album features three sprawling, dissonant, quarter-hour epics with forebodingly heady titles like “Rising Artifacts in a Five-Point Field” and “In Dealing with the Laws of Physics on Planet Earth.” As with most Tzadik releases, Many Arms seem destined for a niche audience made up of those who would read this review’s first sentence and not want to continue scrolling down this page with newfound vigor, but if you’ve made it here and your interest is piqued, then buckle in: Many Arms may not be the most coddling album, but in its technical mastery, it is nothing if not impressive.
While Many Arms’ brand of ordered chaos doesn’t do well for casual listening, the musicianship it can showcase is on full display as the band takes obtuse ideas and shape-shifting time signatures and slowly constructs them into frenetic squalls. In the tradition of minimalism, their songs don’t move as arcs but as journeys, with new ideas blossoming from variations on a main theme. Guitarist Nick Millevoi, bassist John DeBlase, and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino prove formidable improvisers, as they manage to keep the tempo at tantrum speed while playing out these new variations, some of which are absolutely unreal. This is especially true of opener “Beyond Territories,” a track whose monster central riff is given fifteen minutes of unrelenting pounding so that by the end of the song, it’s a different but no-less-furious beast. With the freedom to do basically whatever they want, these guys indulge their wildest ideas to create extended sections of anarchic madness.
With Many Arms, the thrill of hearing three virtuosos create a ruckus is the album’s central appeal, but it’s also what might stunt any emotional connection to the music. The band’s latest offering is quite admirable in its travels off the beaten path, however, it will probably be lost to listeners outside of their niche, which can be the kind of damning compliment one gives art-films of recognizable value but never watches. That’s what Many Arms feels like: A technically impressive endeavor that will ultimately be pushed aside by something friendlier, even if it isn’t as mind-boggling. While a little temperance would’ve gone a long way in broadening their fan base, it would not stay true to why the talented trio was signed to Zorn’s experimental record label in the first place.
Many Arms will be celebrating the release of their self-titled album this Friday at Circle of Hope (2009 Frankford Ave.) with Heavy Medical and Color is Luxury. - Adam Downer
Published: March 21, 2012 |

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