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Music Reviews 9.14.05

Cuong Vu

It's Mostly Residual


The first sounds you hear on Cuong Vu's new album are ethereal trumpet moans joined by equally otherworldly clusters of notes emanating from a guitar. These sounds herald the beginning of a musical marriage made in electronic heaven. On his latest album, It's Mostly Residual, cutting-edge, electronic trumpet virtuoso Vu is joined by guitar wizard Bill Frisell. The album finds Vu at his improvisational best and Frisell in his wildest, most abandoned spirit in years. Vu's excellent trio, with Stomu Takeishi on bass and former Rochesterian Ted Poor on drums, provides a constantly shifting foundation on which Vu and Frisell build towering sonic temples.

Those opening strains on the title tune lead to a beautiful melodic passage on trumpet. But just before listeners are lulled into a sublime state all hell breaks loose. That's the dichotomy that Vu and Frisell create throughout Vu's six original tunes. "Patchwork" and "Blur" consist of similar flirtations with melody only to be jarred back to reality by cacophonous wails. On "Expressions of a Neurotic Impulse," driven by Poor's drums and Takeishi's bass, Vu and Frisell stampede through an electronic jungle of sounds at once primitive and futuristic. At times the digital delays gel into concrete phrases; at other times they veer off into pure abstraction. I'm not sure if Vu is dealing in metaphor, but with music organized and chaotic, at once over-the-edge and strangely engaging, he's created an apt tone poem for the 21st century.

--- Ron Netsky

Friends of Dean Martinez

Live at Club 2

Aero Recordings

For over 10 years, Friends of Dean Martinez haven't made music but have occupied themselves by creating little instrumental moments in time. The band's languid explorations in texture and sound have routinely blown open the doors to where their dreamy desert noir lounges. Bill Elm's sleepy pedal steel is reminiscent of Johnny Farina with a broken heart, and the overall tone is mesmerizing, easily surpassing the Southwest lost 'n' lonely pines and croons of Chris Isaak.

The new album, Live at Club 2, was recorded live in Munich, Germany, andcelebrates the band as a sonic pioneer. While the dreamy elements create a peaceful lull, the introduction of feedback and noise alongside an apparent live looseness and comfort with improvisation offer an element of eerie madness. Live at Club 2 plays out like a dream... or "Taps" in the Arizona desert.

--- Frank De Blase