Claudia Ulla Binder - Piano
Christian Weber - Bass
Dieter Ulrich - Drums, Bugle

BOX's Ten Variations on an Unknown Theme is a collection of improvised projects curated by Swiss bassist Jonas Tauber. With such a title the caliber of free jazz they play, set in a modern composer's back yard is no surprise.

The trio's take off point is this "theme" usually consisting of disjointed, spiky drum parts accompanied by off-kilter piano and bass melodies. With numbered variations being the groups chosen mode of presentation the album makes for a delightful listen through, as the album progresses it gets stranger and stranger.

Variations 1 through 4 are each in their own way elegant trio compositions, albeit avant-garde. Loud-quiet dynamics play into the trio's style as each one snaps in and out of the listener's attention at almost lightning speed and for short, disciplined amounts of time. 5th Variation is very wiry. Here the group is using the very outer edges of their instruments Binder's piano sounds alien while Ulrich trades his kit for undulating bugle bursts. Bassist Weber picks up all the rhythm, or what little shreds are available. After track 5 the album becomes noticeably more textured. 8th Variation explores a more solemn mood for the group and the 9th a drunken marching suite.

BOX's exploratory intermission serves to create two halves of an album, that is, one which jangles along just inside the fence of typical free piano-trio music, and another which embraces the area beyond that boundary as a home.

Kyle Brenders - Soprano Saxophone
Nicole Rampersaud - Trumpet
Johnathan Adejmian - Korg MS-20
Tilman Lewis - Cello
Aaron Lumley - Contra Bass
Brandon Valdiva - Percussion

It's no surprise that Ways may sound Braxton-esque, for Kyle Brenders, a Canadian saxophonist, has studied and appeared on numerous recordings with experimental jazz composer Anthony Braxton. Brenders' debut from March of this year melds modern electronic composition and stretched-out free jazz. For Brenders, composition is extremely sparse and off-pulsed. Creeping loud parts are so forward they seem omnipresent, but Brender's use of quiet/loud dynamics is markedly masterful.

The inaugural Section 2 serves to pace off the album from a distance. At first, the drumming marches in with distant tympani hits, but soon Brandon Valdiva's spritzing, varied fringe percussion takes hold. Stylistically reserved, it focuses more on rim clicks and cymbal rushes rather than accented hits or beats. Section 4 begins to take more shape as it evolves from off-pulse ideas into shades of humming from Brenders, trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud, and cellist Tilman Lewis. Here, Johnathan Adejman's Korg synth uses only pitches that dance between ranges of cello and contra bass of Aaron Lumley. As the sections expand and progress, they become more infused with jazz such as Section 5's episodic procedures through choppy solo sections. Each time one of the players takes the forefront, the backing four fall into a different, regimented melody. After the 13:30 mark, the track rolls into a layered, cresendoing conclusion. The album's longest track, Section 6, begins as whimsical and eerie making for some true minimalism, that is, conjuring up complete feelings and images by doing as little as possible. It moves along very slowly, with abrupt rises and slithering falling actions throughout. Album closer Section 8 is a study in the drone, providing a stark one-note procession and, for the first time, a continual, thunderous drum part.

The assembled sounds work of one another well. Brenders has directed each member of the sextet to engage in a study of ambiance, but it sounds at times like a harrowing experience. There is a noticeable loneliness in between rigid structures and timeless freedom, and Ways studies these intervals masterfully.

New York's composer collective Anti-Social Music (ASM) are a group of jail-house rules misfits who found seem to have the time among scrounging up rent to put out a debut, a collaboration with the Gena Rowlands band, and this, their third offering entitled Fracture. ASM takes cues from many different styles of music, while guiding it with an avant-classical approach. It's various members include Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay on accordian, Gutbucket member Ken Thompson on clarinet and sax, who also a member of The World/Inferno Friendship Society alongside Peter Hess, who also contributes on various woodwinds.

According to their Myspace, the 11 members are well versed in several different types of musicology. Not only those expected members, trained in classical and jazz composition, but also music auteurs, world tour rock and rollers, anti-establishment cretins, cult members, and hipsters. Each piece of the ASM jigsaw gives the album such an alarming set of tracks.

Obviously, chamber-pigfuck has not taken off as a genre but what certainly has, is the blurring of jazz with classical with rock and roll with punk. For ASM this seems a bod, in large part, to progenitors such as Naked City (and other Tzadik projects), Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham and others. What puts ASM in a new light is the fact rather than a cohesive group of musicians looking into new horizons, the members are all coming from differing backgrounds and looking inward.

Herding ASM into "third-stream" is a little uncalled for. They more are outer-edge, modern classical. Gumdrops and Kittens serves up what could be called a "gnarly" opening riff on guitar/violin. The jarring swell sloughs off into a tense climax and enters into the albums first real movement Fracture IV. Here, the group is in a purely cinematic form. In dipping in and out of sections featuring fluttering winds, clunky piano, and low, moaning brass sections. These larger tracks, running over 10 minutes, including String Quartet No. 2 and PortRait_7 have the group maintaining improvised discipline and working the songs up to more frantic parts or vice versa. shitfuckcumbastard is an uncomfortable, daunting yet beautifully layered track. A tapestry of trembling strings and accordion fall in place behind short, staccato tenor sax hits which slowly go from spiritual Coltrane-like to frantic, hoarse Shepp-like. Although the album is drum-less, the groups series of Broken Aphorisms (eight of which appear here) have low, orchestral anchoring in using cello, violin, and trombone with piercing highs of dual flautists. With the help of accordion and pianist/keyboards, all of these work towards a sinking ship of middle range for a very interesting sounding conference.

This album isn't exactly approachable, but people who can appreciate rather intense post-rock, left-field third-stream, and meat grinder modern classical should find something.