You cannot judge a book by its cover. Maybe, but music fans somehow know that expression doesn't lend itself to album covers (in this case, CD covers). Look at the Blue Note Records covers from the 1960 sixties, Miles Davis' On The Corner (Columbia, 1972), or The Clash's London Calling (Columbia, 1979), and tell me you don't have a very good idea what you'll hear on those records. Covers matter, and more importantly they reveal essential information about the music found inside. Since 2004, the Treader label has produced 18 discs, all with distinctive embossed covers that give each release the feel of small batch, artisanal affairs. Indeed, they are.
The sessions that give us the three discs known as The Founder Effects were recorded in a single session at Abbey Road Studio 2. Each one is a variation of sound and lineup. III is a duo between the acoustic piano of Pat Thomas and the drums of Steve Noble, and I and II feature the quartet of Thomas, Noble, saxophonist Alan Wilkinson, and John Coxon. Where The Founder Effect II finds Coxon on synthesizer, on I he sticks with electric guitar and Thomas wields the synthesizer.
I opens with a free jazz reference to Mick Jagger's crossfire hurricane. Not "Jumpin Jack Flash," but the actual intensity of a hurricane. Wilkinson, who gigged with Derek Bailey and has gone toe-to-toe with Peter Brotzmann, blasts overblown notes against the barrage of sound produced by Thomas, Coxon, and Noble. "Weight" draws as much from European free jazz as it does from Japanoise. Looping somewhat scary effects via synths and guitar drub the piece before the quartet settles into the quiet that precedes the inevitable coming storm. Thomas' synths conjure the space travels of Sun Ra and Coxon's quiet guitar shreds bad guys like a pulpy noir novel. The inspiration for the music here often comes from the collision of these four players. The ferocity of "Weight" gives way to the gentler probing of "Sharpen." It's textures are more nuanced and contemplative. Each instrument can be separated out, for listening, but it is the sum of the parts that shimmers here. (Mark Corotto, allaboutjazz)