Matthew Lux’s Communication Arts Quartet, ‘Contra/Fact’

Posted by on October 25, 2017


Astral Spirits, 9.22.2017

Veteran Chicago jazz bassist Matthew Lux has released a warped vision he’s proud to call his own. Contra/Fact, his first release, is true to its name as a bevy of contradictions. In addition to Lux, the album features drummer Mikel Patrick Avery, cornetist Ben Lamar Gay, and reedist Jayve Montgomery, who jostle against each other like restless toddlers on a field trip, pretty much ensuring chaos across the album’s ten tracks.

The upbeat opener, “Camisa Sete,” pulls you in with a false sense of security that is repeatedly disrupted over the following hour. Immediately on the second track; a sort of ambient rinse of meandering wind instruments whose main function seems only to destabilize. This “sonic inebriation” is the album’s forte.

“Ninna Nanna” is a deranged take on the traditional Italian lullaby, Lux’s bass laying the groundwork before the other instruments weave in their tipsy variations. By the middle of the track, any semblance of the lullaby has been stripped away, and the band builds out the abstraction, eventually reverberating the cornet and flanging the drums. It’s a subtle touch that moves the song out of a traditional jazz sound and into a decidedly modern direction. But don’t worry — things will get weirder.

The ten-minute “C.G.L.W.” begins with a low-fidelity, off-kilter rhythm that could’ve been inspired by Mouse on Mars. The track is held together with some high-pitched bells and light brass punctuation. But make no mistake about it; the track ambles along, struggling to find its direction. This is far from a pejorative though. Instead, it speaks to the restraint the musicians are exerting upon themselves. Next, “Singlet,” a percussive sketch that runs just under a minute, functions as a rinse against the prior behemoth.

“Paw Paw” approaches an Ornette freakout with raucous drums feeding into horn blasts. This is juxtaposed with “Colonial Gysins,” a swirling, exotic melody that ends abruptly for “Israels’,” the closest the band gets to the driving start of the album. Lux lays down a funky bassline as the brass plays notes that feel more like sirens, each lasting for several measures. “Mercury Lights” is another minimally plodding entry, with synth blips and warbles emerging and receding of their own accord, all with an absent drumkit. The absurd “Gris/Bleu” is like a Louis Armstrong record pitched down and played back from inside a tin can. But the coda is somehow also the most straightforward, highlighting how bizarre the entire road trip has been.

Many musicians tend to rejigger their core sound, not veering substantially from their comfort zone. Contra/Fact is the bold opposite and is sure to excite the most adventurous jazz fans. With Contra/Fact, you never really know what’s coming next, and that’s its central appeal.