Junk Magic: Compass Confusion

A very thoughtful, rewarding synthesis of jazz and contemporary popular genres


Junk Magic is keyboardist Craig Taborn’s jazz-EDM (electronic dance music) fusion project. The first Junk Magic album in 2004 was a solo project, but the same year Taborn formed a group with saxophonist Aaron Stewart, violist Mat Maneri and drummer Dave King. It’s now a quintet, expanded by effects and post-production. Chris Speed has taken the place of Aaron Stewart, with bassist Erik Fratzke added. Taborn is composer and producer, and plays piano, keyboards and synthesiser.

It’s a highly produced effort, with – as the publicity puts it – most of the album’s construction arising away from amps and mics. However, as Taborn explains in the album publicity, “To a large extent, what you hear is what people played in the order that they played it.” He adds that “I don’t cut up performances … but I’m doing other things that might trick you into thinking it’s looped.” The album appears on the adventurous Pyroclastic Records, founded by composer-pianist Kris Davis.

The tracks are a mix of driving polyrhythm and ambient soundscape. The opening track, Laser Beaming Hearts, becomes insistently polyrhythmic, with increasing intensity and complexity, making a collage of drones and hip-hop beats. Dream and Guess features mourning viola-playing by Mat Maneri, part of a dark, eerie soundscape of ambient tones. The textures of Compass Confusion/Little Love Gods recall prog rock’s icy synths, and again the polyrhythms become intense and complex. A very thoughtful, rewarding synthesis of jazz and contemporary popular genres.

Laser Beaming Hearts; Dream And Guess; Compass Confusion/Little Love Gods; The Science Of Why Devils Smell Like Sulfur; The Night Land; Sargasso; Sunsets Forever (50:39)
Craig Taborn (kyb); Chris Speed (ts, cl); Mat Maneri (vla); Erik Fratzke (b); David King (d). No recording details. 
Pyroclastic Records PR12