Written by: Kev Rowland
‘Starebaby’ is the new release by drummer/composer Dan Weiss, and is an attempt to combined improvised jazz with heavy metal and electronic music. Weiss is well-known as a jazz drummer, performing with musicians as disparate as Rudresh Mahanthappa, Chris Potter, John Zorn, and Jen Shyu, but here he is attempting to combine this background with metallic influences. For this release he has cited influences as diverse as Meshuggah, Burning Witch, High On Fire, Gorguts, early Metallica, Wormed, Confessor, Stockhausen, Bernard Parmegiani, Luc Ferrari, and every type of jazz ranging from Sidney Bechet to Threadgill. Apparently it is also inspired by Season 3 of the television show Twin Peaks, whose surreal, ominous emotional landscape helped shape the overall feel of this music.
Although there are some electric guitars here and there, this album isn’t nearly as heavy as one would expect from the influences listed, and instead comes across as a improvisational jazz album that is often led by keyboards/piano, with a pervading chill through the proceedings. It is highly cinematic, with a bleak outlook, and extremely experimental, moving happily through boundaries of how music would normally be described into areas that almost fit into the electronic noise spectrum. It is an incredibly compelling piece of work, with the feeling that although there may be chaos, all those involved have a singular vision, just different ways of getting there. Craig Taborn and Matt Mitchell on keyboards, piano, and electronics, Ben Monder on guitar, and Trevor Dunn on bass, all well-known in the jazz improve scene also share a love for heavy metal, which comes through. Weiss played with the doom metal band Bloody Panda a dozen years ago and Dunn was a member of the experimental rock bands Mr. Bungle and Fantômas with Faith No More singer Mike Patton, so it isn’t too surprising that they have a real affinity with what they are attempting to achieve.
This won’t be to everyone’s musical tastes, but for those who enjoy stretching the musical boundaries then there is a great deal here to enjoy.
1. A Puncher’s Chance
5. Cry Box
6. The Memory of My Memory
8. Episode 8