Boomkat Product Review:
Glorious turns from ‘90s Chicago staple Rob Mazurek and the superstar Exploding Star Orchestra, revolving members of Tortoise in their stellar number.
For the stats fans, Mazurek has written more than 400 compositions and features on more than 70 recordings, including IARC’s first, and has co-lead or lead ensembles including Chicago Underground, Pharaoh and the Underground (feat. Pharoah Sanders) and São Paolo Underground; just in case you needed confirmation of his truly heavyweight status in the contemporary field. On ‘Dimensional Stardust’ he fronts the free spirited jazz murmurations of the Exploding Star Orchestra through swooning turns, fully making use of orchestral colour in the album’s 10 works, and allowing male room for improvisation which becomes integral to the set’s lush, maximalist tension and release.
“"Dimensional Stardust" showcases the intricacy and complexity of Mazurek’s compositions but in their most potent, most compacted forms. Opting to focus on tight ensemble orchestration over passages of open improvisation, Mazurek distills a maximal orchestra of explosive improvisers into a beautifully restrained, graceful group exercise in melodic minimalism. The album features almost no “soloist” moments, excepting Jeff Parker’s other-worldy guitar meltdown on “The Careening Prism Within,” and when Nicole Mitchell’s flute floats to the front of the barrage on “Sun Core Tet.” Mazurek himself is sparsely present as instrumentalist, only occasionally joining the ensemble with his piccolo trumpet (notably on “Parable 3000,” where he shares leads with Mitchell’s flute and Joel Ross’s vibraphone, and his trills and textures haunt ghostly around Jaimie Branch’s trumpet counterpoint). Even Damon Locks’s voice is employed more like an ensemble instrument than a lead vocalist. Locks’ distinctively dry, abstract narrative flow beams in intermittently – sounding almost like fragments of Deltron 3030 through an Orson Wells-style radio transmission – climaxing in the album-closing poetry of “Autumn Pleiades.” And all the way through, the electro-acoustic poly-rhythmic percussion section (Chad Taylor, Mikel Patrick Avery, and John Herndon) churns, thrusting the music forward as the harmonic instruments collectively bow between frenzied, futurist chromaticism and soaring, pan-humanist pentatonic anthems.”