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Many Arms Add Sax Skronk to Jazz-Punk, Achieve Liftoff on ‘Suspended Definition’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Label: Tzadik

For the truly Ill-adelphia/NYC guitarorrists Many Arms, there may be no more apropos home than pioneering avant-gardist John Zorn’s Tzadik label for the trio’s firestorm of mangled, yet cutthroat precise, jazz-punk fury. After all, the famed Downtown maestro did his part in cementing the prototype for Many Arms’ brainiac aesthetic via the radical grindcore ear-bleeding in Painkiller and the surf/metal/country deconstruction of Naked City. That chunk of Zorn’s arc—along with Black Flag’s exercise in virtuosic instro-metal torture from 1985, The Process of Weeding Out, and the unfettered might of finger-hopping overlord Mick Barr—coursed through Many Arms’ 2012 self-titled Tzadik debut.

While six-string riffer Nick Millevoi, low end-monger Johnny DeBlase and powerhouse drummer Ricardo Lagomasino’s formula of dishing out a clusterfuck of mind-bending notes endures here, the threesome have added to their arsenal. On Suspended Definition—their second effort for Tzadik and fourth long player overall—Many Arms have dug even deeper into math-metal wizardry, bolstering their already imposing lineup with gale-force blowing guest saxophonist Colin Fisher, thus blasting their outré sonic blitz into a fire-breathing free jazz otherworld.

Like its predecessor’s opener, the steamrolling marathon of proggy licks “Beyond Territories,” Suspended Definition instantly shreds out of the gate with another 15-minute rip job. However, “Surface of Last Scattering” sheds some of the jarring repetition of “Beyond Territories” and journeys improbably into more cerebral and multifarious terrain. That sound-world—the wrecked-on-speed collision of DeBlase’s wad of thunderous bass riffs, Lagomasino’s swinging beats and Millevoi’s gnarly ax assault—sends “Surface of Last Scattering” toward the vistas of John Coltrane’s 1967 monumental life-changer, Interstellar Space, and the threesome have Fisher’s squealing storm to thank for ascending those heights.

Space is the place (thank you, Sun Ra) on Suspended Definition, and its alien jazz idiom is way out there and deep. That stratospheric theme is found in the creepy, minimalist, slow-burn build into utter frenzy heard on “Pathways to Space,” the bathed-in-skronk horn wallop of “Greater Mass,” and the dizzying time-signature-fest of 14-minute closer “Light Cones.” This Many Arms-Fisher combo amounts to a spiritual and violent jazz-punk beast, an unholy union made manifest on Suspended Definition‘s four cosmic epics.