Table and Chairs Records gave us the great King Tears Bat Trip album. This year, they released an album by the group CavityFang, a sextet consisting of three drummers, a pianist, a guitarist, and a baritone saxophone. The nine compositions on urban problems are dark, broding, and filled with enough drum hits to make on think Zach Hill is a member of the group.
The album's opening track may be the worst track on the album, but it is by no means 'bad'. Rather, it felt as if it served more as a hype piece to prepare the listener. The track showes off some abstract drumming and improv. guitar as if to say 'this is what the album is about', but the music never really comes to gether as a piece and ends up being nothing more than a hype track for the rest of the album.
Once the listener gets to the second track though, they begin to get an understanding of the sound of the album; a sound that is very hard to describe. 'Dreamzzz' is a jazz groove in a diminished key(if I still remember my music theory accurately, which I almost certainly don't). It keeps an upbeat pace which completely contradicts the actual sound being played. This song is strange and slightly unsettling, but it is a good showing of the things to come from CavityFang, who's music always seems to be at odds with itself throughout the record.
Even at their most minimal, CavityFang keep their sound busy. To them, minimalism is merely turning the volume down lower while playing the same amount. Even the ambient soundscape made in 'Armadillos' is still filled with shakers and rainsticks. At their most minimal I would say CavityFang is it's weakest, but fortunately this sound still isn't bad and is very short lived.
CavityFang are at their best when they let their drummers explore different sounds simultaneously. 'Average Shopper' showcases this perfectly. All of the drums together create an intricate rhythm that works great for the slower baritone saxophone to dance around.
'Prelude to Rara' and 'Rara' both continue to show off how well the drummers can work together. As my fiance put it, 'Rara' is a "mess of sounds". To me, this track is a mess of sounds in all the best ways possible. It is tribal sounding in the drumming and has a focused repetition in the saxophone and guitar which help push the energetic sound that is created, making this track one of the highlights of the album. It is really a shame this track is so short.
Overall, Urban Problems was a strange trip, but one that I would recommend taking if you are a fan of free jazz or were a fan of King Tears Bat Trip. CavityFang are able to make contradicting sounds work well together, and the music created for this album shows this.
The album can be both bought and streamed Here.