The Muffins — Open City
(Cuneiform 55010, 1985/1994, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-08-01
For the uninitiated, The Muffins were a Washington DC based band who existed from about 1973 to '81. Despite that many years, they only released three regular albums during their career (although more material has been released posthumously on CD and tape, including the subject of this review). Their style is firmly rooted in the Canterbury styles of Soft Machine, Henry Cow, Elton Dean, and others — a jazz oriented rock style complete with two reedsmen on board, yet these comparisons really only tell part of the story. Their highly energized and experimental sound went far to define the new American progressive sound that emerged in the late 70s. This material on this collection has several origins, yet it all flows together seamlessly. The first seven tracks are from the band's last demo tape in 1980, consisting mostly of alternate versions of material from the <185> and Manna/Mirage albums, recorded "live" in the studio: the complexity of "Queenside,” the schizophrenic and moody "Antidote to Drydock,” the humorous adventure "Zoom Resume" and the out-and-out smoker "Hobart Got Burned" all offer evidence of The Muffins amazing level of musical sophistication. Most of the tracks are purely instrumental, but on the odd occasion when vocals are employed, they never take center stage or detract from their musical muscle. Two tracks "Vanity" and "Dancing in Sunrise" are out-takes from Fred Frith's Gravity album, a project which The Muffins participated in. "Blind Arch" is taken from a live concert in 1977, and "Expected Freedom" is a short outtake from the Manna/Mirage sessions. The remaining tracks were from Take One — a radio show on WGTB, Georgetown University; here they demonstrate their improvisational prowess on "In the Red" and offer a superb fourteen-minute composition in "Not Alone.” In all, this could be considered a good introduction to The Muffins' music, or an essential supplement to round out their regular albums.
SoundQuest Fest 2021 – SoundQuest Fest, first experienced as a live festival in Tucson Arizona in 2010 was created by ambient music pioneer Steve Roach. This 2021 event will unite a worldwide gathering of artists and audience members together for a 3-day online event unique in the realm of ambient music. From March 26-28th a continuous flow of streamed performances, audio-video wonder worlds and deep immersion zones will burn bright on Roach’s YouTube channel. » Read more
Chick Corea RIP – The sad news has reached us that Chick Corea has Returned to Forever, so to speak. The innovative keyboardist and composer died on February 9 at the age of 79. With a career that spanned from the 60s until shortly before his death, Corea touched many listeners with the incredible variety of music he produced in his lifetime. » Read more
Asia Minor Third Album on the Way – On January 29, AMS records will be releasing the long-awaited third album by classic Turkish-French band Asia Minor. Released last year in Japan, this will be the widespread debut of Points of Libration. The album features original members Setrak Bakirel (vocals, guitar) and Eril Tekeli (flute, guitar). » Read more
Harold Budd RIP – Harold Budd, one of pre-eminent American composers of avant-garde and minimalism, has died of complications from the coronavirus. Budd came to prominence in the 70s, championed by Brian Eno on his Obscure Records label, with music that blended academic minimalism with electric jazz and electronic music. Much of Budd's best known work was done in collaboration with other artists, including Eno, Daniel Lanois, Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge, John Foxx, Jah Wobble, and many others. » Read more