Jugalbandi - The View Is Better From The Top Of The Food Chain

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Great Artiste 89 Records
Catalog Number: GAJG001
Format: CD
Total Time: 71:15:00

Jugalbandi (l to r): Hyam Sosnow and Greg SegalJugalbandi are a duo from Portland, Oregon who play jazz-fusion and have been doing so since 1993. The View Is Better From The Top Of The Food Chain is the first of three CDs of improvised music recorded over four days in April 2000. The other two are Yellow Star Mailing List and The Cram And Stuff Method Jugalbandi - their name is an Indian word that means "music for two players" - are Greg Segal on guitars and effects and Hyam Sosnow on drums. That's it. Just the two of them, creating music as rich and diverse as French TV. In fact, French TV with a little bit of Djam Karet thrown in. Perhaps because I've listened to both bands this past month they are the two that come to mind quickly, but it's also in the punchy drumming of Sosnow that leads me there. Segal's guitar has a rough, acidic edge to it - that is, slightly distorted. There is a point near the end of the opening, title track where I thought of a more menacing The Wall-period Pink Floyd, if Pink Floyd were more angular.

"Moving Towards Kyoto," with its koto like sounds, will make you think of many a Japanese monster movie ... though contrary to what you might expect, the title dictated the music, rather than the title being added afterward. But, we needn't necessarily think of Godzilla, as there is a militaristic feel to it as well...like the great World War II epic films. The beginning of "Erwin Park" has a somewhat swaying, Hawaiian music feel, crossed with 70s psychedelica. After the calm subtlety of "Rest Stop," which begins like someone trying to figure out the notes to "Baba O'Riley," we get a driving piece called "Erwin Park (Jam)." Segal's guitar sings and growls alternatively, while Sosnow's drums thump purposefully out front. "Reciprocal Demonology" is a harsh, dark piece, somewhat martial in rhythm, guitar keening shrilly... like metal against metal. Angular as anything, it is like an angry King Crimson. "The Toast Beckons" is like that that might be found on the soundtrack to a 50s B sci-fi horror film, only I don't think growly buzz-saw like guitar leads were a 50s thing. Again, Sosnow plays a martial tattoo. As this, the piece before it and that which follows, "Castle Bravo" and to be thought of as suite, it's not surprising that the drumming ties it together. There are hints of Holst's "Mars - The Bringer Of Wars" (The Planets). In "Castle Bravo," Segal coaxes evil sounding tones from his guitar, as the 50s sci-fi feel gives way to a horror soundtrack...from the 20s. I mean, I can almost see the grainy, jumpy, black and white film that this might accompany. Only, was the music this avant-garde? No, no, it's because the film was slightly warped, making the music, that was supposed to be eerie, all that more eerie. At 23-plus minutes, "Castle Bravo" is the longest piece, with the title track coming in second at 16-plus minutes.

The booklet's liner notes provide commentary from both members on the history of each track, providing "The Jugalbandi Improvisation Level Classification System." Maybe a bit pretentious, as what the system tells you is to what degree a piece is improvised. But it is system that is carried over to the other two releases. . Level 1 (IL1) means the duo truly improvised on the spot, IL2 is the equivalent of being given a situation or idea to dramatize (like charades), IL3 is a "piece based around a newly-composed riff or chord structure..." -- most of the tracks here are IL3 --. IL4 is a composed piece with room for improv and IL5, fully composed piece. There are no IL4 or IL5's on The View....

The reprise of "Erwin Park" (the namesake located in North Hollywood, CA) gives the piece a late 50s- early 60s feel, before Segal's decidedly 70s (and later) guitar stylings come in... a bit of Hendrix can heard here, a stylistic thing rather than Segal quoting directly. It's brief, though.

Most of my comments here mainly relate to the guitar, we must not overlook the drumming of Sosnow. He can be forceful, as in "Erwin Park" or subtle, as in "Rest Stop." His is a jazz style of playing utilizes all of his kit, and a big kit it is: 2 bass drums, 4 toms (of various sizes), 2 snares, various cymbals, and even a gong, all played with sticks and, in the case of "Kyoto," mallets. Segal's equipment includes a '67 Gibson SG and array of effects pedals - 12 in all ranging from a Korg Toneworks AX30G Multi-effects unit to Cry Baby Wah to Electro-Harmonix Small Clone Chorus. Just for you tech heads out there...

While overall I like The View..., I'll admit that I'm not moved to hyperbole. If find I like the material after the first track more so than the first track itself, though that would be excepting "Reciprocal Demonology" -- a little too dissonant for my tastes, though I appreciate that the atmosphere it is trying to create works. But, in general, maybe the reason I'm not overflowing with "wows" and "yowzas" is because I don't hear anything that makes me go "wow." Have I been jaded by French TV, Djam Karet? Part of it is because I sometimes find the shrill tone that Segal emits from his guitar too shrill, too grating. In the case of track like "The View..." it takes a while for the track to take some sort of form. The beginning section is certainly chaotic, and until the duo get into a groove... well, I do like the weirdly atmospheric section; like other material here, it reminds of a horror/sci-fi film soundtrack, even if it does seem a little chaotic. Looking at the album artwork... one can tell that this thought isn't far from the minds of Segal and Sosnow -- Segal did the artwork. "The View..." is a IL1 track.

The View Is Better From The Top Of The Food Chain (16:48) / Moving Towards Kyoto (3:52) / Erwin Park (2:52) / Rest Stop (8:25) / Erwin Park (Jam) (4:14) / Reciprocal Demonology (5:27) / The Toast Beckons (2:46) / Castle Bravo (23:07) / Erwin Park (Reprise) (5:44)

Greg Segal - guitars and effects
Hyam Sosnow - drums

Greg Segal - A Man Who Was Here (1985)
Greg Segal - Night Circus (1985)
Greg Segal - The Fourth Of Three (1986)
Greg Segal - Water From The Moon (1987)
Greg Segal - A Real Human Being (1991)
Greg Segal - Darkland Express (1993)
Jugalbandi: 1999 (1999)
Jugalbandi: 2009 - Deep Cuts (1999)
The View Is Better From The Top Of The Food Chain (2000)
The Yellow Star Mailing List (2000)
The Cram And Stuff Method (2000)
Greg Segal - Experimental Guitar Sampler (2000)
Greg Segal - Always Look On The Dark Side Of Life (2001)
Greg Segal - In Search Of The Fantastic (2002)
Night Crazy (2003)
Laydown Delivery (2003)
Bid For Legitmacy (2003)
Mount Pinatubo Sunsets (2003)
Hyam R. Sosnow - The Teller-Ulam Configuration (2003)
Greg Segal - An Awareness Of Frameworks (2004)
Greg Segal - The Eye That Shines In Darkness (2004)
Greg Segal - Standard (2004)
Greg Segal - The Hero As Pantry (2004)
Greg Segal - Planet Of Garbage (2004)
Greg Segal - Episode (2004)
Greg Segal - Adventures Of Forever And Nowhere (2004)
Greg Segal - River (2005)
Greg Segal - A Play Of Light And Shadow (2006)
Greg Segal - The Old Familiar Place (2006)
Greg Segal - Tales Of Today Will Be Tales Of Long Ago (2006)
Greg Segal - Phase Two (2006)
Greg Segal - Jugalbandi Classic (rec. 1993, rel. 2007)
Hyam R. Sosnow - Tickling The Dragon's Tail (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: September 8th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.jugalbandi-music.com
Hits: 689
Language: english


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