Led Bib – Bring Your Own – Cuneiform Records Rune

by | Mar 31, 2011 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Led Bib – Bring Your Own – Cuneiform Records Rune 314, 51:42 ***:

(Mark Holub – drums; Liran Donin – bass; Toby McLaren – Fender Rhodes; Pete Grogan & Chris Williams – alto saxophone)

British prog/jazz/fusion quintet Led Bib is a noisy outfit. Think progressive rock welded to John Zorn-ish skronk jazz and hard rock influences – the band’s moniker is an allusion to Led Zeppelin – mixed with an animated Ornette Coleman-esque post-bop. There are scarcely any delicate moments to be found on Bring Your Own, Led Bib’s fifth excursion – and second for the Cuneiform label – but there is plenty of decibel-shattering modern jazz-rock.

Drummer Mark Holub’s opening barrage, “Moth Dilemma,” is anything but subtle. Toby McLaren sets layered electronics and fuzzy keyboards beneath Chris Williams and Pete Grogan’s honking alto saxes while Holub and bassist Liran Donin push the beefy rhythmic drive to a nearly heavy metal fanfare a few rumbles thicker than Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House every accomplished. From there, Led Bib scrambles together a compressed, blazing 51-minute attack complete with forceful beats, swelling electric keyboards and aggressive and sometimes dueling alto saxophones. “Is That a Woodblock?” – interested parties should seek out the surrealist video online – has an arrangement similar to “Moth Dilemma,” with Fender Rhodes sodden in distortion, relentless power chords and splashed percussion. While there are some intricate sax interludes, overall the tune seems oversaturated and in need of dousing.

McLaren occasionally brings noteworthy dynamics to his performances. He can be a harmonically and exploratory improviser but too often his work is relegated to brashness rather than sympathetic support. For example, his soloing on the overwhelming “Little x” echoes Jan Hammer’s stronger 1970s efforts. But on other pieces McLaren’s science-fiction effects add negligible originality. On the other hand, Grogan and Williams are frequently at the forefront and provide vibrant solos which exhibit agility and attitude to burn. The doubled saxes furnish McLaren’s ominous “Service Stop Saviour” a nocturnal intimidation matched by jagged meters and Holub’s tense cymbals. Listening to this is like riding a toboggan down a hill in the dark with unseen stumps in the path.

Two numbers give some respite to the record’s brusque rush. Holub’s slowly eddying and far too brief “Hollow Ponds” is highlighted by Donin’s loping bass and Holub’s heightened cymbals. Unfortunately the cut fades out before the central narrative can be fully developed. Far better is the appropriately titled closer, “Winter,” where Donin starts with creditable bowed bass and Holub employs discreet brushes. The sensitive intro, however, is eventually replaced by much more attention-grabbing sax solos, squalling electronics and raucous riffing which negate the initial gracefulness.

Led Bib could be as good as Soft Machine, The Bad Plus or other groups which meld jazz, rock and other styles, but habitually the arrangements crash headlong without restraints and melodic themes are lost underneath the instrumental foment, while harmonics are recurrently buried below the chugging rhythm section. Bring Your Own is a steady primer for anyone not familiar with Led Bib but long-term fans have probably heard comparable material on previous releases and may not discover anything unique.

1. Moth Dilemma
2. Is That a Woodblock?
3. Little x
4. Hollow Ponds
5. Power Walking
6. Service Stop Saviour
7. Engine Room
8. Shapes & Sizes
9. Walnuts
10. Winter

— Doug Simpson

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