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The Muffins — Double Negative (2004)

 The Muffins — Double Negative (2004)

The Muffins — Double Negative
Name: In 1973, soon after the band, at the time unnamed, had moved into the large farmhouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a friend arrived with a tray of blueberry muffins as a housewarming gift and shouted "The muffins are here!" Sounding like they were being introduced, the band adopted the name "The Muffins".
Formed: 1970 in Washington
Location: Gaithersburg, Maryland
Genres: Progressive rock, avant-garde jazz, free improvisation
Album release: September 21, 2004
Record Label: Cuneiform Records
Duration:     78:15
01. The Highlands (Thomas Scott)  - 6:05
02. Writing Blind (Dave Newhouse)  - 5:55
03. Choombachang (Dave Newhouse)  - 2:46
04. The Ugly Buttling (Thomas Scott)  - 3:39
05. The Man In The Skin-Painted Suit (Dave Newhouse)  - 2:45
06. Childhood's End (Thomas Scott)  - 6:15
07. Exquisite Corpse (Dave Newhouse)  - 6:53
08. They Come On Unknown Nights (Dave Newhouse)  - 4:21
09. Cat's Game (Dave Newhouse)  - 3:52
10. Stethorus Punctum (Thomas Scott)  - 4:04
11. Dawning Star (Thomas Scott)  - 5:19
12. 5:00 Shadow (Dave Newhouse)  - 3:15
13. Metropolis (The Muffins)  - 3:34
14. Angel From Lebanon (Dave Newhouse)  - 6:55
15. Frozen Charlotte (Dave Newhouse)  - 2:53
16. Maya (Thomas Scott)  - 4:24
17. The Two Georges (Dave Newhouse)  - 5:18
•  Dave Newhouse
•  Paul Sears
•  Thomas Frasier Scott
•  Billy Swann
¤ Thomas Frasier Scott - alto & soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, keyboards, percussion, programming
¤ Dave Newhouse - ketboards, baritone & tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, flute, flarinette
¤ Billy Swann - bass, acoustic guitar
¤ Paul Sears - drums, electric guitar
¤ Marshall Allen - alto saxophone (12, 13)
¤ Knoel Scott - alto saxophone (03, 11-13), baritone saxophone (12)
¤ Doug Elliott - trombone (02, 03, 07, 12-15, 17)
¤ Amy Taylor - violin (04, 06-08, 11, 15)
¤ Kristin Snyder - viola (04, 06, 08, 11, 15)
¤ Laura Dent - cello (04, 06, 08, 11)
¤ Okorie Johnson - cello (04, 06, 08, 11, 15)
With Sun Ra Arkestra guests:
¤ Marshall Allen (alto sax on "5:00 Shadow," "Metrolpolis")
¤ Knoel Scott (alto sax on "Choombachang," "5:00 Shadow," "Metropolis," "Dawning Star," baritone sax on "5:00 Shadow")
¤ Doug Elliot (trombone on "Writing Blind," "Choombachang," "Exquisite Corpse," "5:00 ¤ Shadow," "Metropolis," "Angel From Lebanon," "Frozen Charlotte," "The Two Georges")
¤ Amy Taylor (violin on "The Ugly Buttling," "Childhood's End," "Exquisite Corpse," "They Come on Unknown Nights," "Dawning Star," "Frozen Charlotte")
¤ Kristin Snyder (viola on "The Ugly Buttling," "Childhood's End," "They Come on Unknown Nights," "Dawning Star," "Frozen Charlotte")
¤ Laura Dent (cello on "The Ugly Buttling," "Childhood's End," "They Come on Unknown Nights," "Dawning Star")
¤ Okorie Johnson (cello on "The Ugly Buttling," "Childhood's End," "They Come on Unknown Nights," "Dawning Star," "Frozen Charlotte")
¤ Janusch (Czech speaking voice on "Exquisite Corpse")
Website: http://www.themuffins.org/
Description from Cuneiform Records:
¤ It is an all-too-rare occurrence for a band, throughout its career, to create music that continually pushes the envelope and transforms the landscape. It is an even rarer occurrence for such a band to reunite after a long separation, and embark on a second musical career that proves as innovative as the first. For The Muffins, lightning has struck twice. In 1998, The Muffins reformed with all four members, and it proved to be the genuine article. Double Negative is The Muffins' second studio recording released since reforming and possibly the most ambitious work of their career. Featuring 75 minutes of music spread over 17 songs, Double Negative is The Muffins' most compositionally diverse work, featuring pieces that vary in style and tone greatly, but which are always theirs (although they might fool you for a bit here and there!). The Muffins have long been noted for the way they craft memorable themes with adventurous musical structures and this is no exception. In addition, it is the band's most instrumentally rich work, featuring an unprecedented number of musical guest appearances. Two principal members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott, play sax on several tracks, while longtime Muffins contributor, Doug Elliott, contributes excellent trombone parts to half the pieces and string players also contribute.
By JOHN KELMAN, Published: October 18, 2004 
¤ When the Muffins, with their own take on music influenced by the British Canterbury Scene and Rock In Opposition bands like Henry Cow, reformed after nearly twenty years and released Bandwidth (Cuneiform, '02), expectations were high. But in the truly progressive tradition, they proved you can't go home again, nor should you want to.
¤ Sure, the broad textures were there, thanks mainly to the multi-instrumental wizardry of Thomas Frasier Scott and Dave Newhouse, who both play a wide variety of woodwind instruments and keyboards, but gone was the more avant edge, replaced instead by a more approachable sound that was still no less challenging or complex. The reunited Muffins, also including founding member Billy Swann on bass and drummer Paul Sears who, while not an original member was part of the lineup that recorded their classic albums Manna/Mirage and <185>, may be less quirky, but their influences run as wide as ever on the captivating Double Negative.
¤ Over the course of seventeen compositions, the Muffins, augmented by guests including Sun Ra Arkestra members Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott on saxophones, as well as trombonist Doug Elliott and a string section that includes violinist Amy Taylor, violist Kristin Snyder and cellists Laura Dent and Okorie Johnson, create a sound that draws from Henry Cow on "Writing Blind," skewed soul on "Choombachang," Emerson, Lake and Palmer on "The Ugly Buttling" and Van Der Graaf Generator on the anthemic "The Man in the Skin Painted Suit," without being directly imitative. The Muffins lack the bombast and melodrama of some of the progressive groups that are their progenitors and favour a more relaxed approach.
¤ That's not to say there aren't moments of chaos and rapid shifts in time and feel. "Angel from Lebanon" starts lyrically enough, but soon segues into a section that revolves around a foreboding bass ostinato over which dissonant piano chords and outré horns build to a dark intensity before moving into a keyboard solo that hearkens back to Soft Machine and, to some extent, National Health.
¤ Tracks including "5:00 Shadow," featuring some fine improvisation by Allen, Scott and Elliott, show a looser improvisational approach, as does the free jazz of "Metropolis." "Dawning Star" feels like a more assertive play on Brian Eno's ambient music, while "They Come on Unknown Nights" represents a skewed chamber music.
¤ The question, after 78 minutes of varying moods, colours, rhythms and harmonies that range from the melodious to the oblique is this: does it hang together as a focused piece of music? The answer is an undeniable yes. Stylistically schizophrenic though the Muffins may be, they have devoted a significant amount of time sequencing the compositions, painting a broader picture; there's a clear arc here that, when taken as whole, tells its story through its very diversity. Double Negative lays waste to claims that progressive rock is inherently anachronistic. With a wealth of ideas executed with a large palette the Muffins show that it is not only alive, but moving forward.
Fortaken: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/
Review by William Tilland/Allmusic.com: ****½ (http://www.allmusic.com/)
• Secret Signals II (1975, privately distributed cassette)
• Manna/Mirage (1978, LP, Random Radar Records, U.S.)
• Air Fiction (1979, LP) – live and home studio recordings of improvisations
• <185> (1981, LP, Random Radar Records, U.S.)
• Open City (1985, LP, Cuneiform Records, U.S.) – a collection of unreleased tracks
• Chronometers (1993, CD, Cuneiform Records, U.S.) – studio and home demos recorded in 1975 and 1976
• Loveletter #1 (2001, CD, Contorted Records, U.S.) – outtakes and live performances (1999–2001)
• Bandwidth (2002, CD, Cuneiform Records, U.S.)
• Air Live (2002, CD)
• Double Negative (2004, CD, Cuneiform Records, U.S.)
• Loveletter #2 (2005, CD, Hobart Films & Records, U.S.) – outtakes and live performances

The Muffins — Double Negative (2004)



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