Matthew Shipp Harmony and Abyss

Matt, it's time to step up your game. You're the artistic director of a label putting out some of the most challenging and inventive jazztronica today. However much you seem to encourage it, you seem to be losing ground each time out in your own recordings. The distinctiveness of your playing, which was such a great, doomy foil to David S. Ware's ferocious inventiveness, is slipping further into clichés. Since you decided to take up electronic keyboards, you’ve added a whole new range of unfortunate decisions about your music. Granted, making the leap from piano to electronic soundscapes is not easily accomplished in one album, but Harmony And Abyss is your fourth attempt and it still sounds like shit. There are a few positives: William Parker is mixed better than on any of your other discs, and the filter-y dipsy doodling of his parts reveals how he's adapted his textural mastery to a groove-influenced environment. Drummer Gerald Cleaver is typically inventive, though FLAM's editing and electronic processing makes his contribution seem more semi-digested than compelling. These rhythms are neither head nodding nor mind-expanding. Shipp is front and centre with corny sounds that would make George Duke blush, pointless, un-swinging riffs and boring, predictable melodic structures. This record would have been just fine as a duel between Parker and Cleaver with FLAM as the referee, but Shipp just sinks it. (Thirsty Ear)