Metal Chaos Ensemble is Eric Zinman, Yuri Zbitnov, Steve Niemitz, Syd Smart, Joel Simches, and, PEK; in other words, it is the percussion section (with some modifications) of the wildly adventurous Leap of Faith Orchestra. Although this is a pared-down unit, Metal Chaos maintains the sonic immensity of the larger collective, in large part through deploying a truly impressive array of tools. Some — various reeds, drum kits, melodica, synth, samples from the PEK catalog, and tabula — are familiar enough. Others — metal, wood, belatrons, Brontosaurus and tank bells, [d]Ronin, Dan-Mo, and various sirens — less so. The result is an hour-long jam session of thoroughly trippy improvisational cacophony. It begins with a recorded lecture on the solar physics disrupted by a chime and rolling montage of percussive clack and sci-fi sounds. About ten minutes in, the musicians hit their groove, as the discrete rumblings well into a whirling psychedelic stew of depth, gravity, and ludicrousness befitting, well, the Luminiferous Ether it seeks to reflect. From this point, the album oscillates between low electro-percussive simmers and spacey synth-driven cacophony. Even so, it never reaches the blow-out or meltdown one might expect with such an adventurous configuration. The focus is on restrained dynamics, tension, and strange, churning ambience rather than explosive crescendo and shock.
There is a potential downside to being as prolific as PEK and his Leap of Faith collective, as releases can sound like works-in-progress, as steps along the way to some, yet unrealized end. That said, Sun Ra — a clear inspiration for this project — could shine some light on this. As with Ra — a man who performed, recorded, and released relentlessly, even posthumously — the process itself was the actual end, each step a realization of just a small piece of an opus sealed not by a definitive work, but by the sheer number and variety of creative releases. That same applies to this album. Although Luminiferous Ether stands on its own, consider it one more contribution to the Evil Clown collective's catalog, another unique brick in its wall, or maybe more appropriately, one long, colorful strip of fabric in its bizarrely calico circus tent. It glistens and rustles. It is weird. It draws one's ears. And, it is one small but important contribution to the broader evolving, luminiferous whole.
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