Bob James Trio - Explosions (1965), 8/10

Bob James had an interesting career trajectory, and this was its most interesting and successfully captivating tangential project. The recording uses a blend of space, raw noise, traditional free jazz, and tape to great effect, a mixture I wish we had more of during this rich and dense era of jazz. As with most experiments it is divisive, how much you enjoy each piece is purely a matter of taste, those who are looking for anything akin to pure tape music or pure jazz will be disappointed. The blending, however, is more fluid than the consensus reflects. James uses noise and tape to deconstruct and reassemble jagged pieces of jazz and noise that combine in a truly uneasy and nervous product, successfully capturing what I would label as obsessive disquietude. This isn’t a DJ mix, it isn’t meant to be smooth or easily palatable, the jarring transitions from Phillips’ bass and Pozar’s percussion to sharp tape noise is intentional and successfully distressing. All of that ambiguous argument aside, the instrumental performances are expectedly masterful and married with a distinct intensity that gives the record an individually engaging invitation to the uncommon ear. The closer is perhaps the most unhinged on the list, the rest meander between spacious almost indeterminate jazz and combinations of sparse playing with scattered samples, with some minor exceptions in theme and execution. The more manic and free playing is instantly engaging, these chaotic sections provide vital energy, infused at the right moments in a desert of spatial and atmospheric sounds. Another great release in the ESP catalogue and one of the most singular, especially considering its release in the mid-sixties. A relatively unknown experimental gem.