Fraud - Fraud

Babel  | ****
James Allsopp (bs, b cl), Tim Giles (el d, perc), Stian Westerhus (g), Phillip Horchstrate (ky) and Ben Lewis Reynolds (d). Rec. 2006

Whatever deceptive intentions may lie behind Fraud’s many stylistic masks there is an ever-present narrative on their debut album. Led by “decomposers” James Allsopp and Tim Giles, saxophones and electronics/ drums respectively, this is a group that have wrenched themselves free from the ghetto of post-bop and successfully sidestepped the whole punk/no-wave aesthetic of Acoustic Ladyland to create a far more twisted sonic statement. From the opening percussive rattles of ‘Clatter’, with Allsopp’s rasping baritone scything through the air like a woozy Albert Ayler the playful exploration of improvised spaces is a prominent feature throughout. Other ambient interludes (‘Glasses’, ‘Mr. Lizard’, ‘Insect’) offer unsettling yet melodic shelters from the brewing storm of tracks like the monstrous ‘Wrong Brain or ‘Girafitti’, the latter sounding like a wardrobe full of angry bees hurled down a flight of stairs.

The sense of menace is generated with huge energy by the belligerently brilliant Norwegian guitarist Westerhus who coaxes a plethora of tortured sounds from his axe, bowed notes elongating into harmonic dismemberment of epic proportions. The funky propulsive drumming from Ben Lewis Reynolds adds yet more urgency and excitement while Horchstrate’s masterful keyboard ‘disturbances’ interject with a fizzing caustic energy. This is heady, sometimes heavy, otherworldly stuff, fuelled by jazz but never hindered by it. Welcome to the new century of improvised music.

Mike Flynn