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What mischief can be made with just cornet, vibraphone and drums. Rob Mazurek has scaled back considerably since Stars Have Shapes, the 2010 record from his Exploding Star Orchestra. His new project, the curiously named Starlicker, is a mere trio, with Chicago vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and Tortoise drummer John Herndon. But this group emits more sound and energy than do some sextets.
Double Demon is Out to Lunch! for a new generation. Powered by Herndon’s hyperkinetic percussion and Adasiewicz’s four-mallet chords and arpeggios, Starlicker doesn’t let up. Mazurek’s blowing, however, varies widely over the course of these scant 38 minutes comprising six tunes. In the space of a few bars of the title track, his modest flutters turn into full-throttle staccato attacks. “Vodou Cinque” commences as bona fide free jazz—all chiming vibes, thwacked rims, scraped cymbals and bleating cornet—but graduates into a deliberately awkward 5/4 rhythm with a foreboding melodic vamp. Out of emptiness, “Triple Hex” builds and builds—note by note, beat by beat—into a punishing atonal assault and then, bizarrely, starts to swing before reaching its whacked-out conclusion nine minutes after it took off. The incongruity concludes with “Skull Cave,” which begins with a tropical, almost-calypso rhythm, a happy melody and sprightly playing by Mazurek. Of course, from there it spirals off, hurricane-like.