Remote Viewers

Crimeways
Remote Viewers RV 11

The good news is that the six members of the Remote Viewers appear to have freed themselves from the deliberating funk – of the depressive variety – which characterized their last two releases. The less-than-good news is that while Crimeways is more high-spirited and energetic than those discs, the nagging suspicion remains that some of the jollity is pre-programmed, detracting from the CD’s spontaneity.

To deal with the positive first, all of the disc’s nine tracks, composed by tenor saxophonist David Petts, eventually come together as a unified program, although suggesting different moods, some of which skirt the narrow line between improvised Jazz and Rock. True to the title as well, more tracks than the first could be sound tracks to private detective dramas, with “On a Quiet Front” in particular instilled with the touch of menace that could suggest Peter Gunn is on the case. That motif deepened as the unified saxophone smears accelerate and are toughened with strong sluices from John Edwards’ bass, juddering electronics patches and processed electronic whistles and vibe pops from Rosa Lynch-Northover plus what could be programmed percussion. Throughout as well the rhythm section duo manages to assert personalities, with Edwards in particular expanding his rhythmic role to encompass programmed shrills and bass-guitar-like slaps.

On the down side, since most of the horn work is harmonized, reed individuality is masked. Still someone or ones is responsible for the piercing, bent-note squeals on “Woken by Water” and “New Statue”, the genesis of which could have migrated from any 1970s LP by Ian Drury & the Blockheads or James Chance & the Contortions. What lifts these tunes from Blues-Rock-Funk (the other kind) notoriety are the contrasts provided by the rhythm section. Short-wave-radio-style buzzes, sluicing bass stops and thunder sheet-like reverb enlivens the first tune; with vibraphone quivers and bubbling electronics overlying the second. Multi-reedist Adrian Northover is listed as playing electronics, so he too probably has a hand in creating these processed grindings.

Evidently formulaic sameness in some arrangements is something the Remote Viewers are content with expressing, which is why the extended “Mass Isolation” may be an aberration or a future option. At 13½ minutes, Crimeways’ main narrative evolves in several sequences, separated by protracted pauses. Uniquely a secondary motif – shrills sourced from what is probably Northover’s sopranino – provides enough contrast to eventually allows the others to construct subtle variations on the theme. With the coda parceled out among various soloists, it shows that the band performance can be just as effective when it doesn’t dash from intro to finale.

Now that The Remote Viewers have invigorated its program by regaining the members’ collective good humor, the band members and Petts have also rediscovered the rigor in showcasing more extensive compositions. This CD is offers rhythmic excitement aplenty. Hopefully the next will add more cerebral ballast.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Crimeways 2. The Mark on the Wall 3. On a Quiet Front 4. A Strayed Riveter 5. Woken by Water 6. Three Faces West 7. New Statue 8. Vague Boxes 9. Mass Isolation

Personnel: Adrian Northover (alto, soprano, sopranino saxophones and electronics); Caroline Kraabel (alto saxophone); David Petts and Sue Lynch (tenor saxophones); John Edwards (bass, electronics and rhythm programming) and Rosa Lynch-Northover (keyboards and tuned percussion)