The boundaries of genre can be most visible, or audible, when they are stepped on, and better yet when they are trounced entirely. Friends Records are presenting one such reshaping of fundamental ideas of both jazz and noise with the release of Microkingdom’s new record, Smooth Tendencies, and the premiere of a subsequent video series. The record, a six-song exploration of disquieting jazz themes, highlights agitated, and sometimes tremolo tenor saxophone over heavily effected, sometimes ambient, sometimes crunchy, but ever-present guitar tones, and chaotic percussion patterns. The trip their first single, “Chrome Dynasty”, takes you on is mind-expanding, confusing and hypnotic, beginning with marimba sounds and brush drumming, and flinging crazily wavering saxophone and hazy guitar harmonics and mandolin picking into the mix, all reverbed and delayed to create an aura of strange wonder.
The video series, titled “Cuttin’ it Close”, also premieres a live performance of another song off Smooth Tendencies, this one called “Zero to Negative Diggity”. It’s from a set at Old Bank Barbers in 2013, and it’s an obvious continuation of their destruction of genre convention. The camera appropriately goes in and out of focus as the trio howls out a shrill and disturbing composition of jittery loud sax playing that can make skin crawl, over a constant droning guitar feedback that numbs it over, and pinpointed wild drumming moves and shakes.
Microkingdom’s Smooth Tendencies will be available February 15. You can stream it now from their Bandcamp.