Mandarin Movie | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mandarin Movie

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Though he's best known as an improvising cornetist, Rob Mazurek has spent an increasing amount of time in recent years as a sound sculptor, using a wide array of electronics to shape richly textured abstract music. In the past he's done his exploring on solo albums like Orton Socket's 99 Explosions (Moikai, 2001) and Silver Spines (Delmark, 2002). But for the eponymous debut by Mandarin Movie, released earlier this year on Aesthetics, Mazurek formed a band to extend and radically broaden his palette. You can hear his cornet and Steve Swell's burly trombone through the maelstrom here and there, but the album's mainly an ensemble outing, and the group's massive blocks of sound hit like punches. The first track, "Orange," opens with a bit of roiling funk where electric bassist Matt Lux plays Michael Henderson to Frank Rosaly's Jack DeJohnette, but that quickly dissipates into a bludgeoning, spastic patchwork of dense noise driven by the unholy skree of guitarist Alan Licht, mashing Pete Cosey's psychedelia against the otherworldly wail of Sonny Sharrock. In fact much of the early part of the album suggests an update of Sharrock's group Last Exit; on "The Green Giraffe," where the band's joined by drummer John Herndon and guitarist Rick Rizzo, huge slabs of off-kilter funk collide head-on with free-jazz chaos. But before long the group's dispensed with jazz models altogether: the sextet, which also features Jason Ajemian on upright bass, alternates between metallic, darkly churning grooves and howling pure noise that has all the demonic fury of Merzbow. The group played this material at the Chicago Cultural Center in February of 2004 as the Black Goat Ensemble, and back then they lacked the intensity and precision evident on the album; here's hoping they're even better at this one-off performance. This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music Festival; see page 54 for a complete schedule. The Red Krayola headlines, Mandarin Movie plays third, Diverse plays second, and a new trio featuring Black Dice's Hisham Bharoocha, Battles' Tyondai Braxton, and Chicagoan Robert Lowe opens. Wed 9/21, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.

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