Review: Metal Chaos Ensemble
Intermetallic Compounds (Evil Clown)
by Marc Edwards,
Jazz Right Now
I recently saw a Facebook post about the Metal Chaos Ensemble. I was curious, and decided to give the music a whirl. I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard as the music began. This recording has only one song, Ordered Crystal Structure. It’s touching base on a wide range of sounds and musical genres. I can only describe this music as psychedelic, having the qualities of experimental music. The music contains hints of East Asian sounds and noise-making in general. Some of the sound effects may be used in motion pictures and radio programs from the 1940s. This ensemble has only three musicians: PEK, Andria Nicodemou, and Yuri Zbitnov. According to Bruce Gallanter of Downtown Music Gallery, each musician is playing eighteen instruments throughout this session. There are YouTube videos showing them working in a home recording studio and elsewhere.
The music also is reminiscent of Tibetan Music, with the various horns, lots of sustained sounds from vibes, and other melodic percussive instruments. There are so many instruments used on this track, it becomes what I call a “cosmic soup”; an almost indescribable grouping of myriad sounds with pervasive polyphonic textures. One sound may dominate for a time, but it only fades to another instrument coming to the forefront. It’s a challenge to provide an accurate description of this ensemble. I will say that Intermetallic Compounds by the Metal Chaos Ensemble has to be one of the more interesting groups I have heard in a while. The way the musicians used their instruments, creates the illusion that the group is much larger than it really is.
I understand that this is one of the smaller versions of the ensemble. The music is very much in the spirit of Sun Ra. There is so much going on from moment to moment. The musical landscape is always moving, changing, like watching multicolored neon lights while walking down Broadway in New York City. This music will be appreciated by those who love electronic music, exotic sounding instruments, noise-based music and fans of the avant-garde in general. This CD is highly recommended. Do try to catch the Metal Chaos Ensemble if they tour through a town near you.
–Marc Edwards, July 29, 2016
Review: Intermetallic Compounds
by Bruce Lee Gallanter,
Downtown Music Gallery
METAL CHAOS ENSEMBLE [PEK / ANDRIA NICODEMOU / YURI ZBITNOV] - Intermetallic Compounds (Evil Clown 9091; USA) Featuring Dave PEK on tenor & alto sax, contra-alto clarinet, sheng, saxophone, aquasonic, etc., Andria Nicodemou on vibes, percussion, guzheng, yanqin and Yuri Zbitnov on drums, assorted percussion, dax, etc. The Metal Chaos Ensemble (MCE) is the prolific of all of the Leap of Faith offshoot units with some ten discs that we’ve listed. This disc features the smallest version of MCE, a trio with PEK & Yuri Zbitnov, both longtime members of LoF and newcomer, Andria Nicodemou, on vibes. This disc was recorded at Evil Clown home/studio in January of 2016. The band name refers to the fact that each member plays metal percussion of some sort. The music unfolds slowly and mysteriously with the eerie sounds of bowed percussion, gongs, vibes, creating a hypnotic, floating world. The music here has a rather ritualistic, near-spiritual sound, which does occasionally erupt but never too much. At one point, there are some spooky vocal sounds which seem to push into some darker waters. Very effective. Overall, the music is quite like a ceremony, perhaps even wake up the dead from a deep slumber. Spirits rejoice!
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA
A one-time student of the free improvisational saxophonist,George Garzone, the prolific David Peck (aka PEK) is a multi-instrumentalist/composer and the founder of Evil Clown Records. The ambitious scope of PEK's larger mission is worth noting. The Evil Clown consortium operates, in part, as a large avant-garde cooperative of artists who may show up as part of the label's various groups -String Theory, Turbulence, New Language Collaborative, Leap of Faith and here, on Intermetallic Compounds from the Metal Chaos Ensemble. What all these groups have in common is an affinity for the unique vision PEK.
Yuri Zbitnov, a regular in Leap of Faith and Metal Chaos Ensemble, juggles at least nine different "instruments" on Intermetallic Compounds and within that collection, he runs the gamut from traditional drums through the Chinese stringed instruments, the guzheng and yanqin. Vibraphonist Andria Nicodemou also plays the two Chinese instruments along with other instruments. PEK mans the saxophones and an assortment similar to Zbitnov and Nicodemou. All in all, the three musicians manage about eighteen different instruments, few of them customary to any existing genre.
The title track is the entire album, running a bit over forty-seven minutes. Much of the first ten minutes of "Intermetallic Compounds" are left to an arsenal of musical devices, bells, whistles and metal, almost delicately carving out a wave of sound. Yet "chaos" is not the atmosphere at all—not yet. As the layers begin to build, we enter into something like a grandfather clock factory run amok as sounds swirl together around a warped melody with PEK's saxophone becomes clearer. The sound gets angrier and the noise edgier as the tension builds, leading to a partial collapse into more primal territory and vocalizations that seem not quite human. Then the disarray fades and the sound becomes hypnotic once again.
The music is as much about what individual instruments/devices can bring to the overall sound as it is about individual musicianship. In other words, PEK and company use every available tool to its maximum functionality on an extended aural improvisation that marries people and their tools. Intermetallic Compounds is mesmerizing and filled with an expectancy only for the next unexpected turn of events. This is living, breathing art in every sense of the word.
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG