Album Review:

Chemical Clock — Bad Habitat (Table & Chairs)

Earshot Jazz — December 2014

In describing Chemical Clock’s Bad Habitat, there’s a temptation to fall back on an exhaustive (and exhausting) listing of hyphenated genre influences (post-prog-soundtrack-fusion-chamber-pop-this-and-that), but this doesn’t really do the music justice. Suffice to say that the myriad invocations in the band’s music make for a referential richness that is difficult to describe. The band traffics in rhythmic precision, fiercely executed riffage and a studious aversion to 4/4 time, but are also fully at ease with a sweetly lyrical melody (“Spring Forward”), a pumping disco groove (“Roy”), dark free jazz textures (“Squid”) or a catchy synth hook (pretty much every track).

Cameron Sharif’s intricate compositions and multifarious keyboard textures pull the music towards outer space, as Ray Larsen’s versatile and velvety trumpet (even when mutated by electronics) helps keep the band sound rooted in earthly pleasures, while the bass and drums tandem of Mark Hunter and Evan Woodle lock it all down like a rhythm section is supposed to, at least a rhythm section on whatever planet Chemical Clock has emigrated from. Deploying prodigious chops, they produce absurdly varied textures for a quartet, yet they make the balancing act seem easy and natural, all the while tempering the seriousness of their execution with an evident sense of humor.

Unlike some other polymath forebears where the lines between parody, irony and sincerity were more clearly defined (Frank Zappa comes to mind), Chemical Clock seem to embody a more fluid, less self-conscious sense of musical identity. While some similarly inclined bands sound merely like a sum of their impressive record collections, Bad Habitat just sounds like, well, Chemical Clock. A stellar effort. — Andrew Luthringer

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