Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 10/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off, this disc is a steal. About 110 minutes of music--two discs' worth--for the price of one. But this isn't mainly about bang for your buck; that's always nice, but if the music stinks, where's the deal? Not happenin', that's where.Second, this is Tim Berne's masterpiece. The addition of Marc Ducret on guitar to his line-up from The Shell Game (Berne, alto sax; Tom Rainey, drums; and Craig Taborn, Rhodes, laptop, etc.), adds grit and texture. Ducret is at his skankiest, tossing off cutting, fuzzed out, yet incredibly clean lines as if they were the merest trifel. His solo on "The Shell Game" transforms an interesting but cerebral song into something that grabs the listener by the throat, a performance so mezmerzing, so compelling, that one is veritably plastered to his chair, as if assaulted by about 8 g's of sonic pressure. (By the way, this is NOT background music, and any dilletantes in the proximate sound cone will be majorly offended.)After listening to this sonic mayhem, especially in relation to other outstanding live sessions such as Extended Play by the Dave Holland Quintet and Quickening by the Frank Kimbrough Trio, I'm going to have to seriously reconsider my prejudice against live recordings.Finally, a note about Tim Berne's tone. Despite the free, freak out vibe, Berne produces a gloriously rich tone on his also sax. Listen, especially, to his remarkable solo intro to the zany highpoint of this disc, "Mrs. Sublime/Clownfinger," certainly one of the more astoundingly virtuoso yet beautiful alto saxophone performances in the history of jazz. And this tune just morphs into the most incredible sound canvas, beautifully rendered and realized in a stunning feat of collective improv.By virtue of this disc, Tim Berne's Sciencefriction band becomes at once the standard-bearer for forward-thinking out-jazz and one of the most interesting avant-garde outfits ever to grace the jazz scene. Not for the timid, but will blow away anyone with ears to hear."
Berne's best live album (so far)
Troy Collins | Lancaster, PA United States | 05/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While this is Tim Berne's first live album by his Science Friction group, it is not his first live recording. There have been others, most on JMT and his own Screwgun label. Finally though, Berne's music has been captured the way it was meant to be, full of all the dynamics he and his band are capable of.
Tim's live JMT recordings were almost clinically crisp, so clear as to have almost no bite to them. His "bootleg" styled recordings on Screwgun on the other hand were so raw as to be almost unlistenable. This album is the perfect compromise between the two extremes. Live, Berne's music often builds slowly from serene and sublime while gradually shifting into overdrive, but it takes a delicate balance to capture it accurately.Electric guitar workouts drift from introspective solos to full on distorted rock riffing, while keyboard parts veer from groovy flourishes to textural sampling. The leaders' alto sax burns alongside tribal drumming while projecting whisper quiet in calmer moments.For those unfamiliar with Berne's epic explorations, one need go no further than this double disc set. Science Friction is the perfect vehicle for his complex ensemble writing. Embodying both his love of electro-acoustic atmospheric improvisation with more rhythmically robust ensemble marathons, this unit capably delivers all of his stylistic left turns, from rocking out to ambient free jazz. There is a lot of music here, but it warrants repeated listening, just don't expect to absorb it all in one sitting."
Great document of a fabulous band
Nash | 03/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the other reviewers felt it accurate to say that Berne only has occasional outbursts of talent. Not the case here. Here, Berne has great outbursts of talent all over the place. Same with the other three members individually, and even moreso when they interact with one another. Obviously, this is not the type of live album that will appeal to gearheads and technocrats who only like music that sticks to familiar harmonic and rhythm structures and formulaic standards. This live album documents an adventurous player, Berne, in a lineup of adventurous musicians who are all out to see what happens as they navigate from one composed Berne part to another. From seeing them play live myself, it is obvious that there is a superlative amount of mutual listening going on between the players, even when they have license to push and pull the rest of the group in their own direction. Nobody tries to steal the show and nobody reverts to banalistic musical dribble or gimmicks to wow the audience. It's a totally unpretentious affair which is probably not too far afield from what happens when they rehearse together (in fact, they may even stretch it further inward in the live setting).
I have a lot of respect for each of these players individually (especially when you hear them adapt to settings aside from this, which is arguably among the most extreme they all play in) and moreso a respect for the open-endedness and willing to regravitate that pervades the pieces on this album. It's good to hear players who obviously have serious chops using them in such a liberal setting rather than merely trying to wow people."