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Edge City Collective
(Edge City Music)

Germany has the Kammerflimmer Kollektief, and now the United States is throwing down the gauntlet with Edge City Collective. While the German group founded by Thomas Weber has mostly titles of their releases in their native language, Edge City has also adopted this style, naming this (their second in a series of three "improvised music murals") release after a mythical post-industrial highway fabled to have been a free trade route for ideas running along the underbelly of conformist culture. It sounds like a bunch of heady ideas, but the fact remains that you could call it a bunch of friends getting together and playing music and it would still sound the same.

Comprised of 11 different people, one might think that the group would be a little overwhelming, but instead of functioning as one huge mass of sound, most of the time members hop in and out of different tracks, adding their part and letting everyone hop in and have some fun. Because of this, the album is also highly varied, with quiet introspective acoustic tracks, as well as ones that are on the border of complete freakout. Stretched out over 24 tracks that run almost 69 minutes long, it's also a release that never really sticks to one idea for very long.

The first four tracks are a perfect example of just what you're getting into with the group. The release opens up with the minute and a half long "Hammerschlag," which drives along with two different saxophones, a violin, an accordian, and a synth part that would be almost maddening if the track were any longer. From there, the group jumps into "Wolkenbrusch," which mixes saxophone and dark synth waves over the tribal sounding percussion of a doumbek. Then, it's onto the new-age-gone-bad sounds of "Jezihohana" before the group hits with one of the best songs on the disc. "Rencontre" again mixes some light tribal percussion in with beautiful violin and acoustic guitar for a soothing and captivating track.

From there, the disc is back into more of the same experiments in sound. "Phasengranze" sounds like a drunken street-corner band heard layered through reeling effects while the album-titled track "Komischstrasse" starts out with an answering machine message in German and turns into a silly, Parisian-sounding romp with accordians, upright bass, and saxophone. The group is still at their best when doing more traditional sounding tracks (like the excellent "Beledara"), but there are definitely shining moments in some of the experimental tracks as well.

In the end, how well you stomach the release will depend on your reaction to improvised music itself. While there is a backbone of tracks with rhythm and melody that sort of hold the release together, the majority of the nearly 70 minutes is comprised of more free-form styled stuff. 28 seconds of accordion skronks are even given their own track title of "Schnellflut," which should give you sort of an idea of what you're getting into. Some interesting stuff, but I'm left wondering what they'd sound like if they refined things a little more.

Rating: 6.25