The addition of a compositional dimension to the disruptive traits of free improvisation that Walter, Halvorson and Evans have been developing as a trio has supplemented their music with further doses of hazardous angularity and quick-witted tension, often without a veritable release. Comprising eight tracks composed individually and a couple of collective explorations as head and tail, Mechanical Malfunction requires serious focusing and the right kind of rational pizzazz to be decoded, but once those necessities are satisfied you’ll be susceptible to periodically spinning this release. Peppy anti-tonal materials hide the technical difficulties under a mask of orchestral exiguity, mainly signified by smart brazenness and articulateness of instrumental junctions, in spite of the overall super-dissonant temperament.
The threesome’s preceding Electric Fruit on the same imprint struck this reviewer for its hybridization of “organized topsy-turvydom” and contrapuntal snappiness, but – unsurprisingly – had met the ire of those whose life needs foregone conclusions. This effort might be carelessly deemed by some as “easier” to ingurgitate in comparison, given the leanness of its structures. Yet the extraction of oxidizing liquids from the “regular” features of the instruments – fused with a twisted minimalism characterizing many sections – could be even more displacing.
Of course, addicts to Halvorson’s askew “clean” chords are going to catch some glimpses of them (say, at the beginning of “Organ Grinder”); Evans keeps finding a new set of terms for the vocabulary of contemporary trumpet with each outing while still managing to resemble (acoustically speaking) an infuriated triceratops; Walter, one presumes, couldn’t illustrate rhythmic equidistance if threatened at gun point, his drum set frequently emitting noises similar to what was heard in Beirut circa 1975. The drummer’s “Interface” stands among the best episodes: agglomerative combustibility and Shining-like bloodthirstiness mingled with the ability to look at the spaces around and keep the sanity level in check. Meanwhile, recurrent neurotic repetitions of lone pitches (Evans’ “Klockwork”, for example) and unsocial arpeggios (Halvorson’s “The Last Monkey On Earth”) abound. Blistering quirkiness everywhere.