Syllabic (2009, Self-Released)
Byline: The Jackson Pollack of dub-heavy post-Jazz
For: Tortoise, Lymbyc Systym, Mouse on Mars
Most people's first reaction to Ornette Coleman and the concept of free jazz is to say something like "that's not music!", and it is safe to say most people at some point have seen a Jackson Pollack painting and said, "I could paint that". I once had an art teacher who would counter such critics by saying, "fine, do it". Since then that has been my pat answer in arguments about art vs. non-art. Why I Must Be Careful at first blush needs some defending. The first 30 seconds of the 18 minute long Syllabic are mostly improvised jazz scales and pounding drums that have no rhyme or reason. This, I believe, is simply a warning about what you are about to get into, you know, this is why you must be careful. Why I Must Be Careful is a Portland duo consisting of John Niekrasz on drums and Seth Browne on the Rhodes piano. Together they make some of the noisiest dub influenced post-rock (by way of Tortoise) this side of Chicago. What starts as collective improvisation leads to a highly structured foray into dub, free-jazz, John Cage inspired piano, and otherworldly Magma-like prog virtuosity. Each movement is spaced with liberal amounts of airy jamming and improvisation before moving into a tight dub groove or 8-bit Castlevanyia chord progressions. In all 18 minutes they remain relatable and listenable, which is a tough tight rope to walk in this genre. So, if at first listen you think, "I could do this", I would say, first, "no you couldn't" and then probably "try it", and then, well, you probably still couldn't. So, big props to Why I Must Be Careful.